This month we focus upon the items that you should have immediately on-hand to help your pet in an emergency situation — essentially your pet’s first aid kit. While pet first aid kits are commercially available, below is a short list of items that we recommend you purchase and organize in a separate satchel just for your pets.

If you travel or your pet is frequently with you away from home (such as playing in the park), you may want to consider creating two kits — keeping one in your car (particularly with temperature stable items).

Pet First Aid Kit

Regrettably, accidents and emergencies do happen, and the entire team at Kirkwood Animal Hospital is available to help you. But being prepared can provide peace of mind and the resources to help your pet at a critical time. As such, your pet first aid kit should contain the following:

Telephone Numbers
Often the best thing you can do to help your pet in an emergency is to call us. We can give you immediate advice. If the emergency happens after hours and we are not immediately available, please call United Emergency Animal Clinic.

Kirkwood Animal Hospital: 408-374-5850
United Emergency Animal Clinic: 408-371-6252
ASPCA Poison Control Center: 800-426-4435

Be sure to enter these numbers into your cell phones and the speed dial numbers of your home telephone.

Antiseptic Wipes/Spray and Cotton Balls/Swabs
To help clean the skin and areas around a sore or cut, it is helpful to use an antiseptic wipe to remove potential infectious agents. Antiseptic spray applied to cotton balls or swabs can also direct the disinfecting agent to a precise part of your pet’s skin. Be sure to keep all antiseptics away from your pet’s eyes, mouth and ears.

Sterile Absorbent Non-Stick Gauze Pads, Gauze Rolls and Adhesive Tape
In the event your pet experiences a deep laceration or worse, it’s vital to stop any bleeding. Pressure at the source can help reduce blood loss and keep your pet calm. Be careful of any compound injuries whereby bone extends through muscle and skin as applying pressure, while potentially life-saving, can be tremendously painful. Once blood flow has been controlled, you should wrap the area with new, absorbent pads and non-stick gauze to further minimize blood loss and keep the wound clean. Use adhesive tape to keep the dressing secure — but not excessively tight. If possible, avoid the use of gauze containing adhesives as removal may be more painful due to the pulling on your pet’s fur.

Happy Pets

Tweezers, Child-Safe Scissors and Pet Nail Clippers
Active pets often get thorns, splinters and other objects in their paws or on their bodies (including parasites such as ticks). Tweezers can be essential to help remove these items carefully and completely. Be sure to purchase a size appropriate for your pet — neither too large nor too small. Scissors with rounded tips can be essential to cut fur removing matts, sap, tar or similar discomforting agents. Importantly, scissors can also be used to remove woven collars, leashes, string or other items that may entangle your pet. To address a torn nail, clippers and a nail file can be invaluable tools relieving pain and restoring your pet’s comfort. It can also be extremely helpful to keep a charged flashlight and magnifying glass in your pet’s first aid kit to enhance your visual abilities.

Ear or Rectal Thermometer
Pets can overheat and feel uncomfortable when they become sick. When your cat or dog is not feeling well, it’s often helpful to take your pet’s temperature at several points over time. While ear thermometers often cause less discomfort, obtaining an accurate reading requires a steady hand and a cooperative pet. Rectal thermometers require disinfection with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) prior to use, lubrication via a dab of petroleum jelly and a calm pet. The average cat temperature is 101.5 degrees (ranging from 100.5 to 102.5) while the average dog temperature is 102 (ranging from 101.0 to 102.5). Temperatures vary by breed, size, age and other factors so we recommend taking and recording your pet’s baseline temperature with your selected thermometer when they are not hot, sick or have recently completed exercise.

Cotton Blanket or Pillow Case
A cotton blanket can not only keep your pet warm, it can also act as a stretcher or transport vehicle when you have two people. For dogs, the required size varies by pet but a new blanket for a twin bed is close to ideal. It can be folded and is not so large that it becomes unmanageable or twisted around your pet. Be sure the blanket is 100% cotton so it can also possess absorbent qualities. For cats, a new clean cotton pillow case can provide the same functionality but on a more appropriate scale. Including a towel in your first aid kit can also be used to increase the comfort of your pet.

Medium or Trial Sizes of the Following Items (some have expiration dates)

  • Petroleum Jelly — as a thermometer lubricant
  • Rubbing Alcohol (isopropyl) — to sterilize your hands and thermometers prior to use
  • Non-Prescription Antibiotic Ointment — to sterilize cuts or wounds
  • Benadryl — for allergic reactions
  • Styptic Powder or Pencil — to slow skin or nail bleeding (particularly after accidentally cutting your pet’s quick)
  • Cortizone 10 Cream — to help relieve itching from bug bites and hot spots

Pet First Aid Kit Contents

Additional Items
Many other items can be included within your pet’s first aid kit. However, the kit is intended for use only in an emergency. In such situations, emotions and panic often ensue — and it is best not to have items within your first aid kit that could be inappropriately applied causing harm to your pet.

Contact Us
Your first course of action should be to call us at 408-374-5850. We’re trained veterinarians and we know your pet’s history. But it is always good to be prepared to help comfort and protect the wellbeing of your beloved family member.


Kirkwood Veterinarians

Kirkwood Staff