“Anyone with a fun-loving and active pet in the family knows that injuries are bound to happen, whether it’s just a minor boo boo or a situation requiring an urgent trip to the vet,” says Cindy Dunston Quirk, owner and founder of Scout & Zoes. “Having a few basic first aid supplies on hand, and knowing how to use them, is really a no-brainer. The worst thing you can do is wait until disaster strikes before realizing how important it is to have a first aid kit for your pet.”

First aid kits for dogs are available for sale from a number of different companies and online stores. But putting together a homemade kit by assembling a few necessary items works just as well.

Items to include in your basic home first aid kit include:

  • Scissors. You’ll use these to cut things stuck in the pet’s fur or to free her from entanglements.
  • Tweezers. For removing splinters or other foreign objects from the pet’s body, ears or between the toes.
  • Tick removal tool(s).  You’ll need the tools necessary to remove them and disinfect the area.
  • Ear wash. To keep the dog’s ears clean and free of infection or infestation.
  • Toenail trimmers. Even if you don’t routinely trim the pet’s toenails, these are necessary to trim away a torn nail. Consider keeping a styptic pencil as well to stop any bleeding.
  • Antibiotic ointment. The same kind that people use.
  • Sterile eye wash.
  • Antiseptic wash and/or wipes.
  • Medical tape and roll gauze.
  • Telfa pads or other bandages.
  • Thermometer (and water-based lubricating jelly for rectal thermometers).
  • Latex or plastic exam gloves.
  • Extra towels.
  • Ice and hot packs.
  • Muzzle and leash. Even the nicest pets can snap at their friends when injured.
  • List of emergency numbers, including your veterinarian and the local poison control center.

Some items of a more advanced nature to consider for your first aid kit:

  • Activated charcoal. Available in most drug stores, this substance can help prevent poison from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Vet-prescribed pain relievers.
  • Diphenhydramine (or Benadryl) to treat allergic reactions.
  • A cone collar to prevent her from licking or biting a wound.

While having supplies on hand is important, perhaps the most important thing to have in your home first aid kit is knowledge. Experts recommend taking a first aid course offered in your community. To find one, the best place to start is the local Red Cross.

Dr. Ben Ealing, medical director at VCA Northwood Animal Hospital in Anderson, Ind., says that while first aid kits are valuable, they are no substitute for the expert attention your dog will get from the veterinarian.

“A well-stocked first aid kit will allow the pet owner to provide immediate, and sometimes life-saving, nursing care for the pet until they can locate and transport their pet to a veterinary facility,” Ealing says. “Having the first aid kit is only one half of properly caring for your injured pet. The pet owner also needs to become familiar with the items and how they are properly used on a dog or cat. Just because it works on a person, does not mean that it will work in the same way on a pet. This is especially critical with ANY type of medication that an owner may have with them. Never give a medication to a pet without consulting with a veterinarian first.”