I was recently asked by a friend what medical issues they should be prepared for at home, and what they should include in their pet first aid kit.
Below I'll list some common medical issues that come up, and what items will come in handy for treating them. This list is by no means comprehensive, and you should always seek treatment from your veterinarian.
#1 - Insect Stings & Bites
One time when we were out hiking Toby sat on a ground wasp nest. He was stung many times all over his body. Soon, his face began to swell and he began biting himself because of the discomfort.
Once we were out of stinging distance, I sprayed him down with water to get rid of any wasps still hanging around. Then I gave him Benadryl, before jogging back to the car and bringing him to the vet.
He needed a large dose of steroids as well as several days worth of Benadryl to completely reduce the swelling from his anaphylactic reaction.
The dose for benadryl is 1mg per pound, although your vet may dose higher than that based on the severity of the reaction. Always seek medical attention if your dog experiences any facial swelling or difficulty breathing.
#2 - Lacerations
When we lived up in North Hero, we were right on the water, which was great for swimming. The big risk with swimming dogs in Lake Champlain (other than blue green algae toxicity) is sharp zebra mussel shells.
Toby was unfortunately the victim of a razor sharp shell, which made a deep laceration in his pad. I applied pressure to his wound while Kate ran inside to get some vet wrap and gauze. When she came back, I packed some gauze pads against the wound and wrapped his foot with vet wrap to continue pressure application on our trip to the vet.
The veterinarian had to put in several staples to close the wound and prescribed both pain medication and antibiotics. The staples came out a week later, and Toby was returned to tip top shape.
If the wound had been shallow, I would have cleaned it with antibacterial soap, dried it well and applied triple antibiotic ointment (make sure you don't buy the kind with pain relief added). Keep shallow wounds clean and dry, applying triple antibiotic ointment 2-3 times daily. Seek veterinary attention if redness, swelling or discharge are present or if your pet seems uncomfortable.
#3 - Broken Nails
When a dog breaks a nail, it exposes the quick. This causes bleeding and discomfort. It also leaves your pet vulnerable to infection.
Clip back the nail if you can. Sometimes your vet may need to remove part of the nail with hemostats. Apply styptic powder to stop the bleeding. If this doesn't work, apply gauze and vet wrap for pressure, removing the bandage in 1 hour.
Depending on the severity of the break, you may need to involve your veterinarian to cauterize the quick, remove broken nail fragments and prescribe antibiotics. Keep your dogs nails trimmed short to help prevent breaks.
#4 - Diarrhea
At some point in your time as a pet parent, you're going to have to deal with stomach upset. Diarrhea can have many causes from intestinal parasites to lymphoma. Here are some warning signs that you should seek veterinary attention:
• Black, tarry stool, or stool with copious amounts of fresh blood (bright red)
• Loss of appetite
• Marked lethargy
• Frequent vomiting
• Signs of abdominal pain (bloating, groaning, panting rapidly or avoidance response when belly is touched)
• Lasts longer than 48 hours (Since it can rapidly weaken puppies and geriatrics, or dogs with chronic diseases, they may need veterinary attention sooner.)
If your dog doesn't meet that criteria, it's safe to try treating at home. Fast your dog from it's usual food and feed only boiled white rice mixed with small amounts of boiled chicken or ground beef. You can also administer 1cc of pepto bismol for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily. As the diarrhea resolves, slowly reintroduce your dog's regular food.
#5 - Toxic Substance & Foreign Body Ingestion
There are a lot of things we eat that our pets shouldn't. To name a few:
As a vet tech I saw dogs come in to the clinic having eaten a wide variety of things including baby diapers, socks, rocks, tennis balls and jewelery. These foreign objects can cause intestinal obstructions requiring major surgery.
If your dog eats something it shouldn't, and you catch it within 20 minutes, you can induce vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide (3%). Give 1 cc per pound of body weight. Do not dose more than once, too much peroxide can cause gastric ulcers. Seek medical attention from your vet who has other ways to induce vomiting or neutralize a toxin.
DO NOT induce vomiting if your dog has ingested cooked bones, they can splinter and cause perforation. Feed your dog several pieces of white bread and monitor closely for vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty defecating, loss of appetite and discomfort. Seek medical attention if any of those symptoms occur.
Things to Remember:
If your pet's body temperature is above 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit that constitutes a fever. If it goes above 103.5, seek immediate medical attention.
All of the conditions mentioned above are painful. Pain can cause any animal, no matter how friendly under normal circumstances, to bite. Having a muzzle on hand is a must.
If you're taking your pet on vacation with you, have the number of the local emergency veterinary service at your disposal.
When in doubt, contact your veterinarian immediately. It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your pet's health.
First Aid Kit Must Haves:
Emily Lewis is a professional dog trainer and veterinary technician. She lives in Vermont with her three rescue dogs, tuxedo cat, corn snake, crested geckos and Russian tortoise.