As a pet owner, you need to make sure to have basic first aid supplies for your pets in your household and what better time to do it than Responsible Dog Ownership Day? Carefully putting together a well-provisioned first aid kit will make you more ready to deal with a medical emergency if one confronts you for your dog, cat or other pet. Have this kit in the house and fully stocked with supplies at all times, next to the first aid kit for your family. Many of the items in a family first aid kit can be used for pets, too.

Below find a check list of items to include in your canine first aid kit*

  1. Phone numbers and your pet’s medical record(including medications and vaccination history)
    1. Veterinarian
    2. Emergency veterinary clinic
    3. Animal Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435)(there may be a fee for this call)

    You need to know these numbers before you need them. If you do not know the number of the emergency clinic in your area, ask your veterinarian or go to the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society Web site for a searchable list of emergency clinics by state.

  2. Gauze – For wrapping wounds or muzzling the injured animal
  3. Nonstick bandages, towels, or strips of clean cloth – To control bleeding or protect wounds
  4. Adhesive tape – For bandages. Do NOT use human adhesive bandages (eg, Band-Aids®) on pets For securing the gauze wrap or bandage
  5. Hydrogen peroxide (3%) – To induce vomiting. Always contact your veterinarian or local poison control center before inducing vomiting or treating an animal for poison
  6. Digital Thermometer – you will need a “fever” thermometer because the temperature scale of regular thermometers doesn’t go high enough for pets.  To check your pet’s temperature do not insert a thermometer in your pet’s mouth—the temperature must be taken rectally.
  7. Eye dropper (or large syringe without needle) – To give oral treatments or flush wounds
  8. Muzzle (in an emergency a rope, necktie, soft cloth, nylon stocking, small towel may be used) – To cover your pet’s head.  If your pet is vomiting, do not muzzle it!
  9. Leash –  To transport your pet (if your pet is capable of walking without further injury)

If you think your dog is choking, follow these steps**

  1. Open his mouth and sweep your finger inside to see if you can feel the object. If you can feel the object, pull his tongue forward and manually remove it (including if it’s vomit), paying careful attention not to push it further into his throat.
  2. If you cannot manually dislodge the object, the next step is to perform abdominal thrusts on the dog (similar to the human Heimlich maneuver). Wrap your arms around the dog, under his ribcage. Make a fist with one hand and place your other hand over the fist. Give five rapid abdominal thrusts, lifting your fist inward and upward with each thrust. If the dog is small enough, you can lift him up by the front legs and position him so that his spine is against your chest. Then, wrap your arms around him under the ribs with your hands in the position described above. Begin thrusting. If he is too large to lift, you can stand behind him or next to him. If you’re standing behind him, bend over, wrapping your arms around him, under the ribs, with your hands positioned as described above and thrust inward and upward under the ribs. If the dog is lying down, position his head and neck in a neutral position. Place the palms of your hands below his ribcage and give five rapid thrusts in an inward and upward motion.
  3. Check his mouth (you can use a small flashlight to help you see better) to see if the object has been dislodged. If possible, remove it.
  4. If the object is still lodged, move on to the next step. If you can lift the dog, hold him in the air by the hips, with his head hanging down towards the floor to try to dislodge the object. If he is too big to pick up, lift his hind legs in the air like a wheelbarrow, again so his head is hanging down towards the floor.
  5. Once again check his mouth and, if possible, remove the object.
  6. If the object is still lodged in the dog’s throat, use the palm of your hand to give him five sharp blows between his shoulder blades.
  7. Once again, check his mouth, sweeping it with your finger to dislodge the object if possible.
  8. If the item is still not dislodged and the dog has lost consciousness, you will need to begin giving him “rescue breaths” (mouth-to-nose or mouth-to-mouth breathing, depending on the dog’s size). To give rescue breaths to a dog less than 30 pounds, place your mouth over the dog’s entire snout (nose and mouth) and exhale until you see his chest rise. For dogs over 30 pounds, gently hold his muzzle (mouth) closed and place your mouth over his nose. Gently exhale until you see his chest rise. Give five rescue breaths followed by five quick abdominal thrusts. Note: DO NOT attempt giving rescue breaths on a conscious animal. You could get bitten!
  9. Once again, check the dog’s mouth and attempt to dislodge the object.
  10. Stop the abdominal thrusts once the object is dislodged.
  11. Perform CPR if necessary.
  12. Immediately take the dog to your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic.

Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until it receives veterinary treatment.Safety First!

*Checklist courtesy of American Veterinary Medical Association. 
**Source: American Red Cross Dog First Aid, Safety Series Vol. 2