As much as we love and care about our dogs, accidents can happen, and it’s essential to be prepared. Unfortunately, I’ve been in a few emergency situations with my dogs.
Knowing how to handle various medical emergencies, such as choking, poisoning, and injuries can make all the difference in the outcome. It’s also important to have a well-stocked first aid kit and to know when it’s time to seek professional medical attention.
Which is why we are going to learn how to make your own dog first-aid kit along with learning first aid tips from several veterinarians to help you with the most common dog injuries.
April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of knowing pet first aid and being prepared for any emergencies that may arise.
Table of contents
- DIY dog first-aid kit contents
- Dog emergency preparedness or survival kit
- The best dog first aid kit
- First aid tips for your dog from veterinarian
Dog first-aid kit
Depending on your needs you may want to make a simple dog first-aid kit, or a full dog survival/emergency preparedness kit.
TIP: Keep your first-aid kit somewhere in your home that can easily grab and go. In an emergency you are likely to be rushed and maybe even panicked, the last thing you need is to be searching for your dog’s first-aid kit when he is injured.
A DIY first-aid kit for when your dog gets injured at home or while traveling is great to have for those just-in-case scenarios. Hopefully, you will never need to use it, but with a dog first-aid kit, you will be ready and will help you stay calm during the moment of panic.
DIY dog first-aid kit contents
- Emergency Info Card (your phone number and address, vet phone number and address, dogs name, color, breed, any known allergies
- Adhesive tape, waterproof
- Alcohol wipes
- Antibiotic ointment, spray, or gel
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Disposable gloves
- Gauze pads
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Ice pack
- Oral syringe
- Scissors with a blunt end
- Self-Adhering bandage wraps
- Styptic powder
- Thermometer, Digital
I have created an Amazon dog first-aid and survival kit shopping list to help you find everything in one easy place.
Honestly, most of these items should be in your human first-aid kit, so why not build one for you and your dog at the same time!
If you prefer a natural remedies over chemical ridden products, check out my Natural Remedy Reference Guide.
I found this book, The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats that would be a great thing to have on hand. It is a comprehensive A-to-Z guide to more than 150 injuries and conditions.
Dog emergency preparedness or survival kit
Natural disasters can hit when we least expect them, so be ready by making a dog emergency preparedness/survival kit and ease your anxiety.
If you live in an area known for hurricanes or tornadoes, then having an emergency kit for your dog is part of being a good parent. Once a year check your kit to make sure there are no expired items.
A good dog survival kit should include all the items in your first-aid kit, PLUS:
- Calming product (Rescue Remedy, DAP collar, or CBD oil)
- Comforting items such as a blanket or toy
- Leash and collar
- Life vest if you live near water
- Liquid dish soap for bathing
- Poop bags
- Travel bowl
- Water bottles
The best dog first-aid kit
If you prefer to buy a complete dog first-aid kit, then this is the best one I found on the market. It seems to be the most thorough with just about everything you need in case of an emergency.
I found that purchasing everything separately can get expensive because you have to buy full boxes of things. Buying a pre-made first-aid kit could save you money. Then if necessary, you can buy the few dog items that aren’t included. You can also consider buying a human first-aid kit and adding your dogs’ items to that.
TOP PICK – BEST BUY
This dog first-aid kit is small enough to carry when traveling, hiking, or camping and includes 100 pieces, and is manufactured in FDA-approved facilities.
I wish the kit had a tube of antibiotic ointment instead of one small packet. And I wouldn’t use the collar, as its not reliable. Instead I opted to put in a cheap slip lead.
This kit includes: 10 alcohol pads, 10 sting relief pads, 1 antibiotic ointment, 5 antiseptic cleansing wipes, 5 tongue depresses, 10 safety pins, 3 dressings, 2 non-woven tapes, 1 sterile gauze swab, 1 pre-cut and shaped moleskin (14 pieces), 1 triangle bandage, 1 pair of scissors, 1 pet feeder, 20 adhesive bandages, 1 instant cold pack, 1 tweezer, 1 pair examination gloves, 6 PBT bandages, 1 self-adhesive bandage, 2 silicon tourniquets, 1 emergency collar, 1 tick remover, 1 digital thermometer, 1 emergency blanket, and 1 mini pouch.
There are hundreds of first-aid kit options. Depending on what your needs are you may find a different kit better for your situation.
First-aid tips for your dog from veterinarians
I reached out to several veterinarians to get their advice on how to handle the most common injuries and scenarios you may find your dog in.
- Cuts or open wounds
- What to do if a dog got bit by another dog or animal
- Broken nails
- Over-heated or heatstroke
- Limping or lameness
- Bee stings
IMPORTANT: If your dog is severely injured you should contact your vet right away.
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS suggests, “always call the emergency vet at the earliest opportunity – they’ll be able to give you personalized advice over the phone. If possible, get someone else to call and drive you to the vets whilst you continue first aid. Remember that dogs in pain can lash out unexpectedly, and even the most placid dog can be a risk”
According to PetMD, “The primary rule with burns of any kind is never put ointment, creams, butter, or margarine on them — it does not help.”
For minor burns from fire, hot objects, liquids, or electrical burns, PetMD recommends running cold water over the burn as quickly as possible. Apply a cold compress and then contact your vet.
For chemical burns, flush the area with cold water for 20 minutes, a mild shampoo or baking soda can be used.
Always contact your vet for help after a burn. Remember, a phone call is free and they can give you personalized instructions on how to best treat your dog.
Cuts or open wounds
It is easy for your dog to injure a paw pad, be cut by a stick or other sharp object while playing or hiking.
Here are 5 tips from Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed
- If the wound is bleeding, apply gentle pressure to try to stop the bleeding.
- Try to assess the depth of the wound. If it’s deep enough that you’d worry about it on yourself, or think it might need stitches on a human, you should see a veterinarian. More minor wounds and superficial grazes are often treatable at home. If in doubt, see a veterinarian.
- If minor, you can clean the wound with antiseptic cleaning fluid and apply topical Neosporin.
- To bandage the wound (either to keep it clean at home or to keep it clean while you’re en route to the vet), cover it with a non-adherent dressing, optionally fix the dressing in place by wrapping it with a thin layer of gauze, then cover with a bandage. We recommend stretchy, elastic bandage material that sticks to itself. (You can buy all of these from a normal human pharmacy.)
- Ensure you do NOT bandage too tight.
What to do if a dog got bit by another dog or animal
My biggest fear… my dogs being attacked by another dog or a wild animal in our backyard woods. If your dog has been bitten, clean the area with an antiseptic wound wash and call your vet. These can become infected and become much worse if left untreated.
Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS shared her thoughts on how to handle a dog that has bite wounds:
If your dog has been bitten, whether, by another dog or another animal, the first thing to do is get them away safely. Do not get between two animals fighting – it’s far safer to throw water over them or force a board between them.
Once your pet is safe, you should exchange details with the other owner, if there is one, just like you would for a car accident.
Next, check your dog over. Be aware they’re likely to be uncomfortable and may lash out. If their wounds are on their neck or face, chest, or are bleeding badly, you’ll need to take them straight to the nearest emergency vet.
If they are bleeding, you should treat them by applying pressure, but your goal is to get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Wounds on the trunk or legs that don’t break the skin are less concerning but should still be checked as soon as possible. With all that fur it can be easy to miss a deeper wound, so you should trust your vet to decide if they’re safe to go home or not.
Where the animal isn’t another dog, the risk of severe injuries is thankfully lower, although you should be cautious about the risk of rabies from wildlife and venomous snakes or spiders.
Damage to the eyes is common with cat-on-dog fights, so you should get your dog checked if they are showing any signs of pain such as squinting or discharge, even if you can’t see anything wrong.
Veterinarian, Dr. Corinne Wigfall, says torn nails are a common occurrence. They can be fully or partially torn.
A completely torn nail will bleed and can be very painful. To stop the bleeding, you can apply a small amount of styptic powder, cornstarch or place a light bandage before heading to the veterinarian for a full check-up and most importantly some pain relief.
A partially torn nail can be hard to identify and you may notice your pet limping before you see the split nail. Split nails are common in dogs who have overgrown nails so keeping your pet’s nails short is a key part of prevention.
If the nail has split below the quick or sensitive part of the nail, you can trim away the split nail with a pair of nail trimmers. Be careful when trimming nails as it’s very easy to accidentally cut into the sensitive part of the nail and make your pet bleed. This is also painful and reduces trust between you and your pet. Take very small amounts off at a time to avoid accidental damage. Asking a trained professional to teach you how to trim nails is time well spent.
If the split goes all the way to the base of the nail (where the fur begins) you need to seek veterinary help.
Recommended reading: Dog dewclaw removal – to remove or not remove?
Here are 3 tips from Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed
Nails that are broken or cut too short can seem to bleed a lot, but don’t panic, as it’s usually not as bad as it seems.
- If the nail is still bleeding, you can try putting a pea-sized amount of flour or cornstarch on a paper towel or cotton ball, then applying it to the bottom of the nail and holding it there for a few minutes. Make sure not to rub the flour in, as this disturbs the clotting process.
- You can repeat this a few times and often it’ll stop the bleeding on its own.
- If the bleeding doesn’t stop after five minutes, the cut nail is still dangling/attached and you can’t remove it, or your dog seems to be in pain, you should bring them to a veterinarian for help.
Over-heated or heatstroke
Heatstroke can happen to the healthiest dogs. Make sure to avoid the hot sun on extreme weather days. Make sure your dog has plenty of water and shade.
If your dog is showing excessive panting, drooling, red gums, vomiting, diarrhea, uncoordinated movement, or even loss of consciousness, move him into a cool room, give him water and call your vet right away.
Here are several tips from Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed
If your pet is mildly overheated (temperature between 102.5°F – 105°F, panting heavily, seems unwilling to exercise/play):
- Splash cool water or use cool towels on their body, particularly on their neck, belly, armpits, and paws. Do not use freezing cold or ice water, and do not submerge them in cold water in the bath, as this can cause their blood vessels to constrict and cause their body to go into shock.
- Bring your pet into a room with air-conditioning or position a fan near them to help with slow cooling. You can also use cooling treats like ice cubes or a frozen Kong toy.
- Continue to check their temperature until it returns to normal (101-102.5°F). If it remains elevated, take them to the veterinarian ASAP for treatment.
If you think your pet could be suffering from heatstroke (temperature above 105°F, hyperventilating, dry red gums, thick salivation, rapid pulse, confused and weak):
- Place cool wet towels on their body to cool them gradually
- Take them to the nearest emergency vet immediately.
Limping or lameness
If your dog won’t put weight on one or more legs, inspect his paws for any injuries. Then move upward on the leg, touching to see if he has any sensitivities.
Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed tells us limping/lameness can be caused by a number of reasons, and it’s always best to get it checked out by a vet as soon as possible.
If you know or suspect that the lameness is due to an injury or there’s a potential for broken bones, you should try to secure the limb to restrict movement and prevent your pet from bearing weight on it until they’ve been assessed by the vet:
- You can make a makeshift splint for a pet’s limb using a magazine. Wrap the magazine around the limb and secure it with bandages.
- If possible, lay your pet down on a blanket and use it as a makeshift stretcher to transport them to the vet.
- Bear in mind that even the friendliest of animals can lash out in fear if they’re in extreme pain. It may help some pets to feel calm by placing a towel over their head.
If you know your dog has ingested something poisonous, call your vet right away. You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/
Here are 3 tips from Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed
- If you suspect your pet has ingested something poisonous, you should contact your vet for further advice ASAP. Depending on the type of poison, amount ingested and time since ingestion, the treatment may be different. (For example, sometimes your vet’s first course of action will be to try to induce vomiting, but they may not do this if the poison was ingested too long ago or if it could potentially be corrosive to the esophagus if it came back up.)
- Alternatively, you can also call the Pet Poison Helpline for advice 24/7 at (855) 764-7661 (note that they charge a fee).
- You should always take your pet to the nearest emergency vet ASAP in cases of poisoning. If possible, take the packaging of whatever they’ve ingested with you to provide as much information as possible.
Many years ago I had a dog that was allergic to bee stings. The poor puppy’s face swelled up like a beach ball.
Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed gave us these tips:
If you know or suspect your dog has been stung by a bee, the most important thing to do is to monitor them for any concerning signs, including signs of an allergic reaction and/or an airway blockage (frequent coughing, gagging, wheezing, or excessively drooling).
Symptoms typically occur within 30-60 minutes after the sting, however in rare situations they can occur hours afterward, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your pet all day.
If you notice any concerning signs, if they were stung on the mouth or muzzle, if they were stung multiple times, or if they’ve ever had a bad reaction to a string previously, you should take them to the vet ASAP.
If your pet received a single sting somewhere on the body other than their mouth or muzzle and is not displaying any concerning signs, it’s often safe to monitor and care for their symptoms at home:
- If the stinger is stuck, try to gently remove it by scraping against it with your fingernail or something rigid like a credit card. Don’t use tweezers as they may squeeze out more poison into your pet.
- An ice pack or cold compress may help to minimize swelling and lessen some discomfort. You should also prevent your dog from scratching at the sting site; an e-collar (cone) might be useful.
- Your veterinarian may recommend giving a dose of antihistamine at home to help prevent and reduce swelling. You should call your vet to discuss whether this is suitable for your dog, and get specific advice on the correct dosage for them.
- If your vet gives the ok for you to administer an antihistamine like Benadryl at home, ensure that this is simply Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and NOT ‘Benadryl-D’ which contains a decongestant that may be toxic to some dogs.
It’s a fact, dogs like to chew and put things in their mouth. Make sure to take away any bones or toys that are small enough to swallow. If you have human children, make sure their toys are out of reach from your puppy.
Recommended reading: Puppy Proofing Checklist
Here are 4 tips from Dr. Jamie Richardson, BVetMed if your dog is choking:
Choking is thankfully fairly rare in pets, but it can happen on occasion.
- Do a ‘finger sweep’ in their mouth. Take your finger and sweep it as far down their throat as you can, to try to dislodge any object.
- If that doesn’t work, you can pick up a small dog, with their back to your belly, place your hands under their ribcage and do the Heimlich maneuver just as you would do in humans.
- For large dogs you cannot pick up, lay them on their side and apply pressure under their ribcage in a similar way.
- If your dog begins to lose consciousness or you cannot clear the blockage, get them to the vet ASAP.
Make sure you bookmark this page or pin it to your Pinterest board. I pray you never need to use a first-aid kit for your dog but being prepared is the best way to avoid fear and panic in the moment of the emergency.
Conditioning your dog to being touched, held, poked and prodded is good practice for every dog owner. If a dog is comfortable having his paws touched, ears looked in, legs lifted, etc. it will make life much easier if and when an emergency does happen. Plus, your vet will thank you!
If you prefer a natural remedies over chemical ridden products, check out my Natural Remedy Reference Guide.
I’d love for you to share below in the comments if you have any additional tips.
Don’t forget to check out my Amazon dog first-aid and survival kit shopping list.