What to Put in Your Pet First-Aid Kit and Why
When your dog suffers an illness, injury, or poisoning, knowing what first aid to do (and not do) can have a big impact on their recovery, safety, and comfort. It can also help your emotional stress because you'll have a plan of action to follow whenever a problem arises.
For these, and many other reasons, I always recommend that dog owners take a pet first-aid class. But that's not the end of the story.
Regardless of whether you've taken (or are planning to take) a first-aid class, you still need to have the supplies and "gear" handy to be able to administer first aid to your dog. And that's where having a good pet first-aid kit (or two) comes in.
Do you have a pet first-aid kit? If not, you really should — and this article will show you what you need in your dog's first-aid kit and why.
If you already have a first-aid kit, when was the last time you checked and updated it? Have your stocks run low? Are the medications expired? Does it truly have everything you might need? (Many pre-made pet first-aid kits don't!)
Read on to see what your dog's first-aid kit should have, and what each of the items is necessary for.
Have a cat? Check out this first aid shopping list for cats.
Make Your Own Pet First-Aid Kit
To make it easy for you to put together (or check) your pet first-aid kit, we have a shopping list (for mobile or printable) for you to take to your nearest pharmacy to grab your dog's first-aid supplies.
Want to make it even easier for yourself (and likely cheaper, too)? We've sourced and linked to good quality/value examples of each of the first-aid items below. Each item on this list has been vetted for you to ensure that you're getting the right products and brands that will be most effective, practical, and safe for inclusion in your dog's first-aid kit.
Hopefully, you'll never need to use your dog's first-aid kit. But, you never know, and well... Murphy's Law. So here's how to prepare...
What to Put in Your Dog's First-Aid Kit: Shopping List
Pet First-Aid Kits:
- Important to have and easy to put together.
- Put together two and keep one in your home and one in your car.
- Talk with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet’s first-aid kit is as complete as possible. Their breed and medical history, and your lifestyle may dictate the need for specific items.
Below is a list of items every dog owner should include in their pet’s home first-aid kit. And depending on your particular dog’s breed and medical history, you may need additional items, as well. So please check with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog’s individual first-aid kit is as complete as possible. You may even be able to get some of these first-aid kit supplies from your vet!
Speaking of "sourcing" your first-aid kit items... some of the items listed below are "multi-pack" or bulk packages, which is a common feature in cost-saving stores like Amazon, Costco, and others.
Fortunately, most of the items on this list are also useful for your own human first-aid kits, as well as for general healthcare around your home. Additionally, if you coordinate with your pet-owning neighbors, friends, and family, you can build multiple pet first-aid kits at even lower costs. So getting larger quantities of trusted products at a reduced rate can be a very good thing! However, if you want smaller quantities, we've made several alternative suggestions too.
Putting together a smaller, "travel" first-aid kit: This icon 🚗 is included next to items that are recommended for a smaller version of the first-aid kit for your car, and/or to take when hiking, camping, or traveling. Again, if you prefer, you can purchase a pre-made travel first-aid kit for dogs like this one.
Wound Care & Bandages
Blood clotting powder (e.g., ClotIt)
Use: To quickly and effectively stop bleeding from gashes, bites, and even "quicked" or torn toenails. Not only will this help to keep your car from getting blood-stained on the way to the vet, but it'll also help keep your first-aid bandages from becoming blood-soaked and, most importantly, can help prevent serious and dangerous blood loss in the event of major blood vessel damage. ClotIt is truly "magic" and important stuff to have in your dog's first-aid kit!
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a bottle
- 🐶 Only for dogs
A bottle of saline wound flush (like this wound wash)
- Use: For cleaning (irrigating) wounds
- Alternatives: A bottle of saline eye/contact lens flush or saline nasal spray can also be used for flushing a wound. See the Medications section below for a more detailed description and brand recommendation. You can also ask your vet to sell you a small bottle of either a chlorhexidine diacetate or povidone iodine solution to have on hand for cleaning and disinfecting your dog's wounds. You'll learn more about these items next on the list.
- Caution: Do NOT use Hydrogen Peroxide to clean a wound, as it can actually slow healing.
This product is also good for human use.
Wound Disinfectant (e.g., Povidone iodine or Chlorhexidine diacetate)
- Use: You should have a bottle of Chlorhexidine diacetate* and/or Povidone iodine** around your home with pets. You can get the Povidone iodine on Amazon, but should probably ask your vet for the bottle of Chlorhexidine diacetate solution (see * below for the reasons why). To use either of these antiseptic solutions, either use some soaked gauze sponges to gently blot the area or if you've got a syringe in your pet's first-aid kit, you can also use that to spray the diluted solution onto the area under a bit of pressure (which can further help to dislodge any bacteria or debris that was missed in the previous "wound flushing" step).
- Cautions: You don't want to use either of these at "full strength" though, they both need to be diluted*** for safest use. Chlorhexidine diacetate should be diluted to a 0.05% solution, while the povidone iodine should be diluted to a 1% solution for safe and effective cleaning and disinfecting.
- *Caution about Chlorhexidine: Chlorhexidine is available as both a "scrub" and a "solution," when using it as an antiseptic for your pet's wounds you want to be sure to use the "solution," not the scrub. Chlorhexidine is also available as both the "diacetate" salt and the "gluconate" salt, again when using it as an antiseptic for your pet's wound care, use the "diacetate" salt and be sure to dilute to no more than a 0.05% solution. Concentrations of Chlorhexidine diacetate over 0.05% will, like hydrogen peroxide, damage skin cells. So it's best to get the Chlorhexidine diacetate solution from your vet to avoid confusion or getting the wrong product.
- **Caution about Povidone iodine: Dilute to a 1% solution. Also, note that some people can be allergic to povidone-iodine.
- ***Not sure how to do dilutions? Here's an easy-to-use dilution calculator to help you get it right. And, for safety sake when diluting, always add the chlorhexidine or iodine to the water, and not the other way around. Just in case of splashback, which can injure your eyes!
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a bottle
4 FL OZ bottle
Cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs (e.g., Q-tips, or these sturdier and conveniently packaged swabs from Dynarex)
- Use: For cleaning wounds, as well as for gently and more precisely cleaning in and around your dog's eyes, ears, and other sensitive areas.
- Caution: Never stick Q-tips or other cotton-tipped swabs into your dog's eyes or ears without first being shown how to do it safely by your veterinarian. If done incorrectly, you can cause serious damage to your dog's eyes or eardrums!
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a handful
Gauze pads ("sponges") (like these 4x4" non-woven gauze sponges)
- Use: Gauze sponges are useful both for cleaning wounds and also as the primary layer in a bandage where you don't need to worry about (or might actually want, like in a "wet-to-dry" bandage) the first covering sticking to the skin and wound below. These are not non-stick (unlike the "non-stick" pads next on the list).
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include 5–10 pads
Non-stick bandage pads (like these Curad ones)
- Use: Non-stick bandage pads are good to put as your first layer when covering and bandaging burns, cuts, and other wounds. While their gauze nature allows them to absorb blood and inflammatory fluid, their non-stick covering prevents them from sticking to and disrupting any clot or scab that has formed during the beginning of the healing process.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include 3 pads
Cotton "undercast" padding roll (like this cotton padding roll, available in both 3" and 4" width sizes)
- Use: This forms the "bulking" layer in bandages where bulking is necessary or desired. The best size/width of the rolls will depend on the size of your dog and where on their body you'll be putting the bandage. You don't want to make the bandage too tight, and having a roll that's too narrow for the place and purpose can result in the bandage being too tight.
- Alternatives: A diaper or sanitary pad can serve the same purpose as the "cotton roll" in a bind. You'd just cover it with layers of "gauze roll" (see next item in this list) to secure it in place, just as you would a proper cotton "undercast" padding roll.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Put 1–2 rolls in your kit depending on your dog's size
Gauze roll (individually packaged 2" wide gauze rolls for smaller dogs, or these 4" wide ones for larger dogs
- Use: Gauze roll is used either as a stand-alone dressing when bulking or a more specific primary layer is not necessary, or to cover and secure a specific primary or bulking layer (like "cotton roll" above).
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Put 1–2 rolls in your kit depending on your dog's size
4" wide ones for larger dogs
Bandage tape (such as this 3M Medipore bandage tape)
- Use: To hold the different layers of a bandage in place while applying the subsequent bandage layers. Also used for "stirrups" when applying bandages to paws, tails, and other difficult-to-bandage places. (Check out this article to see how to apply a bandage, including stirrups, to a dog's leg.)
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a roll
Includes 2 rolls
Use: To cut and remove bandages safely. The extended, "leading blade" makes it easier to get the scissor under the bandage, while the blunted nature of the tip decreases the chances of cutting your dog's skin while you're doing so.
🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a pair of scissors
Heavier-duty shears needed to cut splint rolls (next on the list)
Splint(s) (these foam-covered, moldable, aluminum splint rolls are perfect for dog first-aid kits!)
- Use: Splints are great to have if you need to minimize movement in your dog's injured leg (like if they've broken a bone in their lower leg, or torn their cruciate ligament) while you transport them to the vet. (Note: You'll need to have a pair of sturdy scissors, like these trauma shears, to easily cut and tailor these rolled splints.)
- Alternatives: In a pinch, you can use a sturdy stick, wooden dowel, or cut-down broomstick.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include 1 roll
- Use: This is the outer layer for bandages to help keep your bandage in place and prevent it from unraveling. Because it sticks to itself, no tape is needed. You must be very careful not to put this layer on too tight, or else you'll interfere with the blood flow to the area under and around the bandage. To prevent applying it too tight, unwrap the amount you need from the roll and then loosely wrap it back around the roll before applying it.
- Alternatives: Duct tape, electrical tape, or Saran Wrap (or another plastic "cling film") can serve the same purpose in a bind. Again, don't apply too tightly.
Duct tape (like a colorful — i.e., easily found — option from Duck brand)
- Use: To secure a temporary bandage if you don't have a self-adhesive bandage cover, as discussed above.
- Caution: Never apply duct tape directly to your pet's fur or skin, as it will be difficult to get off and is likely to hurt them tremendously in the process!
VIDEO — HOW TO APPLY A BANDAGE: Check out this video from our friends at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center to see how to apply a bandage (with stirrups) to a dog's leg.
3% Hydrogen Peroxide (like this 3% Hydrogen Peroxide)
- Use: Can be used to induce vomiting in certain situations — never induce vomiting without first speaking with a veterinarian or animal poison control. It's also used for de-skunking (hydrogen peroxide is an ingredient).
- Cautions: (1) Make sure your hydrogen peroxide is 3% and NOT 35% or even 6%. Even "food grade" does NOT necessarily = safe! See Illinois Poison Center's important article/warning about the dangers of the "food grade" peroxide craze. (2) Do not use Hydrogen Peroxide to clean or disinfect wounds, as it can actually slow healing. Use a saline wound flush as recommended in the Wound Care & Bandages section above.
Includes 2 x 32 FL OZ (946 mL) bottles
- Use: Can help in certain poisonings and toxicities, and in certain situations. Not all poisons are adsorbed by activated charcoal, so it is not always necessary or appropriate to use.
- Caution: Never administer activated charcoal without first checking with a veterinarian or animal poison control. Dogs or cats, with pre-exiting Hypernatremia, should never receive this as treatment. And never, never attempt to administer activated charcoal to a pet that is vomiting, having seizures, is unconscious, or otherwise mentally altered (due to the risk of the charcoal getting in their lungs). Do not administer if the poison was ingested more than 2 hours prior — it is meant for acute poisoning. Once administered, it is important your cat gets plenty of fluids as it can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Antibiotic ointment (best to get them in individual use packs, like these triple antibiotic ointment packs)
- Use: For protection against bacterial infections on minor cuts, scrapes, and other injuries on your dog's skin. Apply to such wounds prior to placement of any bandages.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a few packs
25 individually-wrapped ointment packs
Eye flush (saline) (like this Akorn, Inc Opthamlic 98.3% Pure Eye Wash)
- Use: To flush your pet's eye(s) in the event of pollen, grass seed, or other object getting stuck in their eye ("ocular foreign body"). See note below re: treating with artificial tears after flushing. Can also play "double duty" for cleaning wounds if you don't have a bottle of wound flush handy.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include as both an eye flush and wound wash
4 FL OZ (118mL) bottle
Artificial Tears (like these Systane Ultra lubricating eye drops)
- Use: To restore lubrication to your pet's eye(s) and prevent discomfort or irritation after you've flushed their eye(s) out with a saline eye flush (see above).
Includes 2 x 0.14 FL OZ (4 mL) bottles
Benadryl (generic = diphenhydramine) (like these generic 25mg diphenhydramine tablets)
- Use: Diphenhydramine can be useful in bee and wasp stings and other allergic reactions. While diphenhydramine is safe for most pets in these situations, you should check with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet can be given diphenhydramine. See this article for more about using Benadry/diphenhydramine, including a handy calculator to help you determine your pet's dose.
- Cautions: (1) Make sure that the medication you buy only has diphenhydramine as the active ingredient (i.e., don't use a combo cold + flu, or other combination medication). (2) Make sure that you pay attention to the concentration of diphenhydramine in the pills or liquid when calculating the dose you are giving your dog. (3) Make sure that the formulation of diphenhydramine you get for your dog does NOT contain xylitol, a common sweetener that is fine for people but highly toxic to dogs!
- Tip: Pre-calculate your dog's dose (see our pet antihistamine calculator for a Benadryl dosing calculator for dogs) and then write it on the side of the box or bottle (see inset photo). It'll help you remember their dosage and save you a step in a "pinch."
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a small bottle or box
Supply of your pet’s chronic medications (if any)
- Note: Make sure to keep them up-to-date and check the expiration date before use.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Bring enough to cover the length of your trip, plus one extra week.
Battery-powered beard trimmer (like this AA battery-powered Wahl trimmer)
- Use: For trimming mats and "sticky stuff" (e.g., gum, glue, sap, etc.) from fur and for trimming fur around wounds.
- Note: Using a beard trimmer for these purposes, rather than a pair of scissors, greatly decreases the chances that you'll inadvertently cut your pet's skin (which can be painful and very bloody). Since this is for a first-aid kit and you won't always be near an electrical outlet when it's needed, we suggest going with a battery-powered trimmer (rather than a corded, or even cordless rechargeable option). The Whal trimmer we recommend is perfect for pet first-aid kits. It's battery-powered, trims even dense fur, and is made by a reputable company with experience making professional trimmers for groomers and veterinary practices.
Digital thermometer (like this 10 second digital thermometer)
- Use: To check your pet's temperature whenever heat stroke/exhaustion is suspected or you're concerned they might have a fever or low body temperature. Note that the normal temperature range for cats and dogs is higher than for people. Normal body temperature for cats and dogs is between 100—102.50F (37.8—39.20C). The most reliable way to get your pet's temperature is rectally; see how to do it for a dog and a cat.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include
- Use: To facilitate taking your pet's rectal temperature. Lubrication is important both for your pet's comfort and to minimize the risks of creating a tear in the lining of the rectum.
- Note: You can use a petroleum-based lube, like Vaseline, to lubricate the thermometer, too. The advantage of getting these individual, sterile, latex-free, water-based lube packs is that you can also then use the lube to keep your dog's fur out of their wounds when clipping the fur from around the wound (you put the sterile lube in the wound, use your beard trimmers to clip the fur from around the wound, and then use your saline wound flush to clear away all of the clipped fur and lube).
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include a few packets
- Use: For keeping your pet warm when they've sustained an injury outside in the cold and/or rain.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include>
Instant-cold packs (like these SuperBand Instant Cold Packs)
- Use: For applying a cold compress to decrease swelling and inflammation after a bee or wasp sting, sprain and strain, bruising, or other minor injury.
- Cautions: (1) Don't let your dog chew on or eat these packs, as toxicity may occur. (2) Don't apply the cold pack directly to your dog's skin, make sure there's fur or a towel between the pack and your dog's skin to avoid cold-induced skin damage. (3) Don't use cold packs to cool down an over-heated dog, as this can constrict skin blood vessels and actually slow core cooling. See this article to learn how to safely cool and treat a dog suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include 1 pack
Muzzle (Basket-type muzzles, like the Baskerville muzzle, are often the easiest to apply and least distressful for a dog in pain, as they let the dog pant normally. But basket muzzles aren't practical for every dog or every situation, so a cloth muzzle (like this adjustable set) might be best for your dog).
- Use: To prevent a dog in pain and distress from biting you or anyone else helping you while transporting or administering first aid. Dogs in distress and pain are more likely to bite — even their owner, and even if they normally wouldn't.
- 🐶 Only for dogs
- Use: For removing an embedded tick from your dog's skin. Take care not to crush the tick body when removing the tick and put the tick in a jar or other container after removal to bring to your vet for ID and see if any additional monitoring or treatment might be necessary. Ticks can carry and transmit to dogs: Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other diseases.
- Alternatives: You can also use tweezers (these Uncle Bill's tweezers are perfect for a first-aid kit), or a locking, curved-tip hemostat.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include
Syringes (like these Ezy-Dose syringes)
- Use: Syringes are used both for administering hydrogen peroxide to get your dog to vomit after they've eaten something they shouldn't have (so long as it's safe to do so and has been OK'd by a vet; see note above in Hydrogen Peroxide uses). Syringes can also be used to clean and flush wounds.
Pack of 2
Old credit card
- Use: To remove bee and wasp stingers! Tweezers are actually not the best way to remove a bee/wasp stinger, as they can squeeze the venom sack in the process and worsen the reaction and resulting pain. To see how to use an old credit card (or driver's license) check out this video. (And check out this article to see what to do for a bee or wasp sting after you've removed the stinger!)
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include
DE-SKUNKING HOW-TO: Speaking of wildlife run-ins, "skunking" can be a pretty unpleasant thing for both your dog and anybody else around. Check out this article to learn how to safely and effectively get the skunk smell off your dog. (Hint: tomato juice is NOT the answer!)
Miscellaneous (but important!)
First-aid manual — always good to have close at hand when needing to administer first aid for your pup.
Recommended pet first-aid manuals:
Extra leash (a slip leash is great and easy to pack)
- Use: For helping to restrain your dog and lead them to safety. Can also be used for a makeshift muzzle, if necessary. Check out this video to see how to make a muzzle out of your dog's leash.
Exam gloves (like these nitrile (latex-free) gloves)
- Use: Exam gloves don't just keep your hands from getting blood and other "stuff" on them, they also protect your dog's wound from becoming contaminated by bacteria from your hands. (Hey, we all have bacteria on our hands and it's not always possible or practical to wash our hands before administering first aid. And some of us even have nasty, antibiotic-resistant bacteria on our hands without even knowing it! Gloves help prevent infections.)
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include 1–2 pairs
- Use: A reliable light source is imperative for when injuries happen at night, as well as for looking closely in between toes and paw pads, or into your dog's mouth, ears, or nostrils.
- Caution: If you need to look into your dog's eye(s), don't use a bright light such as the Maglites or headlamps. Rather, use a less-bright medical "penlight," such as these LED nurse's penlights from Opoway.
Towels & rags
Collapsible water bowl (like this BPA-Free option from Silipet)
- Use: Not just for providing your dog with water when they are thirsty, but these collapsible bowls can also be used to mix a disinfectant (like chlorhexidine or povidone iodine, see above in Wound Care & Bandages section) and water to clean a wound. If you use the bowl for diluting a disinfectant solution, just make sure not to use the bowl for drinking water afterward, until it's been cleaned properly.
- 🚗 Travel First-Aid Kit: Include
100% BPA free
Includes clip to attach to belt, water bottle, or leash
Holds 2–5 cups of water
Tool or tackle box (like this great toolbox set you can prepare for at home and for the car)
- Use: You need somewhere to store all of your dog's first-aid supplies! A large tool or fishing tackle box is great for this purpose. Of course, you should also have a dog first-aid kit for any hiking, fieldwork, or any travel you do with your dog. A large toolbox isn't practical for that, and you don't need all of the gear listed here for your dog's travel first-aid kit. You can put together a pared-down, travel first-aid kit for your dog by including just the items listed above indicated by this icon 🚗, or you can purchase a pre-made travel first-aid kit for dogs like this one.
I hope that this article and list has helped you prepare, or double-check, your pet first-aid kit. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your first-aid kit, but it truly is better to be over-prepared than under. Stay safe out there.