Doggie injuries happen — and often they occur when you least expect it. One minute, you’re enjoying a daily walk with Rufus; the next, he steps on glass and you’re seeing blood. Having a well-appointed first aid kit ready at home will help you be prepared the next time your pet needs a little TLC.

But first a word of caution: Dog first aid shouldn’t be a substitute for veterinary care. First aid is meant to stabilize the pet until proper veterinary care can be administered.

According to Jennifer Jones Shults, DVM, owner of the Animal Emergency Clinic of Cary in North Carolina. Common pet injuries you can treat at home include:

  • minor lacerations
  • foreign object in paw (such as glass)
  • insect bites and bee stings
  • abrasions

Other injuries that need professional care include: torn nails, puncture wounds (often the result of a bite from another animal), trauma to the eye and ingestion of poisonous substances.

Pet First Aid Kit

The list below includes all of the items to stock in the large kit you’ll keep at home. 

  • Pet paperwork* (in a waterproof container or bag): proof of rabies-vaccination status; phone numbers for your veterinarian; the name of the nearest emergency-veterinary clinic (along with directions!); the number for a poison-control center or hotline. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a poison hotline available 24/7 at: 1-800-426-4435. 
  • Non-latex disposable gloves.*
  • Self-cling bandages*— the kind that stretches and sticks to itself but not to fur (available at pet stores and from pet-supply catalogs).
  • Absorbent, non-stick gauze pads for bandages.
  • Cotton balls* to absorb blood or apply medication.
  • Gauze rolls* for wrapping wounds or muzzling a pet. A normally calm dog can sometimes lash out when injured or bite at a wound, making it worse. (Note: Never muzzle a pet if it is vomiting, choking, coughing or having other breathing difficulties.
  • Scissors with blunt ends.
  • Antiseptic solution, like povidone iodine solution. This can be diluted with water and used to clean wounds.
  • Bottled water for dilution purposes.
  • Adhesive tape.*
  • Scissors with blunt ends.*
  • Sterile saline solution* to flush out minor cuts and abrasions.
  • Plastic eyedropper or turkey baster (for large dogs) to give oral treatment or flush wounds.
  • Foil emergency blanket* to keep him warm.
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) to induce vomiting when necessary. Only do this when directed by a veterinarian or a poison-control expert.
  • Rectal thermometer to check for a fever. (Oral thermometers cannot be used on pets.) Your pet's temperature should not rise above 103 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 99 degrees F.
  • Petroleum jelly (to lubricate the thermometer).
  • Rubbing alcohol (to clean thermometer afterward).
  • Tweezers* to remove ticks and stingers.
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for bee stings. Make sure your veterinarian approves for use with allergic reactions, and always get proper dosage information first.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Towel.*
  • Penlight or flashlight.*
  • Styptic powder or pencil. This is aluminum sulfate and can quickly stop bleeding and seal the skin

    * Create a smaller kit with these items to keep in your car or to take with you on family outings, such as a hike.

Prevention pointers

One way to help keep your pup safe is always try to consider the landscape from your dog’s perspective. For instance, when hiking in the woods, frequently scan the area for potential dangers that could be harmful such as broken wire, fencing and even branches. Low, unyielding branches can scratch your dog’s eyes causing a corneal ulcer that can be serious if left untreated.

Always supervise your dog when interacting with dogs you don’t know. “Dogs have really dirty mouths and their long teeth can cause deep, puncture wounds,” says Shults. “If your dog has been in a fight with another dog, don’t attempt to treat him yourself. Vets often prescribe an antibiotic following a bite wound to help ward off infection. So get your dog checked as soon as possible if he’s been bitten.”

Shults doesn’t recommend applying over-the-counter ointments to dog bites — unless it’s a very superficial abrasion. “Ointments coat a build up in a deep wound and actually interfere with healing,” she says.

Be sure regularly examine your pet’s body. Ticks, spiders and other insects that bite can be hard to see in thick or dark fur. Always check your pet carefully after being outside for extended periods — especially in areas where harmful buggers are likely to dwell. Tall, grassy fields are tick city.

According to the ASPCA, the following signs may signal that your pet needs emergency care:

  • pale gums
  • rapid breathing
  • weak or rapid pulse
  • change in body temperature
  • difficulty standing
  • apparent paralysis
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • excessive bleeding.

    Ann Matturro Gault is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in national magazines and many websites. She lives with her four kids, dog, cat and spouse in New Jersey. 

Ann Matturro Gault is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in national magazines and many websites. She lives with her four kids, dog, cat and spouse in New Jersey.