Lifesaver in a box

dogs in truck box

Photo: Kim Arsenault. Courtesy of the MVMA Great Manitoba Dog Party photo contest.

If your pets regularly travel with your family, a first aid kit designed for companion animals can be a lifesaver if you’re confronted with a medical emergency away from home.

Commercial kits are available online and in pet stores, but building your own kit or adding to a pre-made kit will ensure that you meet your pet’s specific needs.

Here’s a list of supplies that should be included in a first aid kit for pets. And always remember that first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care: make sure to seek immediate veterinary attention for your sick or injured animals.

Box or case: Pack all of your supplies in a durable, water-resistant case. Make sure it’s easy to carry and compact enough to take on your travels.

Important phone numbers and your pet’s medical record: Include the phone numbers for your regular veterinarian and the nearest emergency clinic in your kit. Include contact information for animal control and the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.

Bandage material: Include gauze pads and rolls, 1” white medical tape and self-adhering flexible bandage wrap (for example, Vetrap) for bandaging. Non-stick bandage pads can be applied directly to a wound instead of a gauze pad that can stick and cause pain upon removal.

Scissors: One standard pair for freeing your animal from entanglements and a pair of bandage scissors specifically designed to remove bandages without harming your pet.

Sterile eye solution: Ideal for safely removing insects, dirt or other objects from your pet’s eyes.

Ear wash: Talk to your veterinarian about the best ear cleaning solution.

Tweezers for removing splinters and other foreign material from wounds.

Nail trimmers and styptic powder or gel: A fairly common injury for pets is a torn nail. Pack a pair of nail trimmers to clip damaged claws and styptic powder or gel to stop the bleeding.

Antiseptic wash or wipes to clean and disinfect wounds. Look for formulations that don’t sting and avoid rubbing alcohol.

Antibiotic ointment, such as Polysporin®,will help prevent infection and promote healing of small skin wounds.

Exam gloves

Digital rectal thermometer and water-based lubricant jelly: Normal body temperature for a dog or cat is 37.8 to 39.2°C. If you’re uncomfortable about taking a rectal temperature, place the thermometer in the pet’s armpit and just add 1°C to the measured value.

Muzzle and leash: Even the most well-trained animal may bite when they’re stressed, injured or afraid.

Towels, washcloths and a blanket: Towels have a variety of uses – cleaning wounds, drying, warming or cooling an animal. Use a blanket to keep your pet warm or to transport an immobile animal.

Pain relief medication: Talk to your veterinarian about an as-needed pain relief medication that you can include in your first aid kit. Do not use human drugs such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen): both drugs are toxic to animals.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): A useful medication to treat an allergic reaction or swelling from an insect bite or sting. Talk to your vet about the proper dosage for your pet.

3% hydrogen peroxide: Give 5 millilitres (or 1 teaspoon) per 10 pounds of body weight orally to induce vomiting in pets that may have ingested a toxic substance. Consult your vet or local poison control centre before inducing vomiting or treating an animal for poison.

Syringe or eye dropper for administering oral liquid medications or flushing wounds.

Insect sting relief pads: To relieve pain, itching and swelling associated with insect bites and stings.

Tick remover tool: If you’re living in or visiting a tick-infested area, a tick removal tool is a must. They’re sold through pet stores or camping supply retailers and are useful in many species — including humans. To prevent tick bites in the first place, ask your veterinarian about tick prevention medication before travelling.

Pet first aid manual: An easy-to-follow instruction booklet that includes information on how and when to use first aid supplies is a vital addition to your kit. Read through it in advance to better prepare for an emergency.

Taking a pet first aid course is another great idea. Visit to learn more about St. John’s Ambulance courses available in your area.

Robyn Thrasher of Edmonton, Alta., is a second-year WCVM veterinary student. Robyn produced stories about the veterinary college’s clinical services, research program and its researchers as part of her summer job in research communications.


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