Health Matters: Emergency First-Aid Essentials

Whether you are simply heading out for the day to a show near you or packing for a long drive and a week’s stay at a national specialty, there are some emergency items you should have on hand for your dog.

Most first-aid kits treat cuts and scrapes — common injuries for people, not dogs. Hair coats, even short, tight coats, protect dogs from many of those minor problems. Roll gauze gets used as a muzzle much more than a wound wrap, and Band-Aids tend to be useless for dogs. Gauze pads help cover wounds, and wraps like Vetrap are helpful for any injury. Still, the average show dog won’t typically experience these problems during a show circuit.

The following items are more useful for your show dog first-aid kit:

1. Cold pack. Dogs are more likely to pull a tendon or get a sprain than wound themselves at a show. Keep a couple of cold packs (packs that become cold compresses after you you break or crush them) on hand.

2. Liquid bandage. I prefer using a hose to run cold water over the tendon or joint injury for five minutes, but hoses aren’t always readily available. Instead, try a liquid bandage for an injured dog or a dog that wore off a pad. The liquid bandage may sting going on, but it provides excellent pain relief.

3. Hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide works very well for making most dogs throw up. If you suspect your dog just snagged a pill off the hotel carpet, for instance, make it throw up. Ask your veterinarian for a plastic syringe to safely deliver the peroxide. A teaspoon works for most small dogs; a larger dog may need a tablespoon or more. After giving the peroxide, walk your dog around to help stimulate vomiting. One major advantage peroxide has over ipecac is that with peroxide, the vomiting stops fairly quickly so your dog should be fine to show in a half hour or so. Check the expiration date on your bottle of peroxide and replace the bottle yearly.

4. Chlorhexidine or betadine. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide to flush out a wound; the peroxide will kill some of the healthy cells. Instead, use solutions of chlorhexidine or betadine.

5. Artificial tears. Artificial tears effectively flush out dust and pollen from your dog’s eyes. Artificial tears can also be used as an excellent solution to flush out a wound. Stick to plain artificial tears. Some of the additives such as “anti red eye” aren’t needed and may disguise a true eye ailment.

6. Tweezers, scissors and a magnifying glass. Keep a good set of tweezers on hand to remove splinters, thorns and insect stingers. (A small pair of scissors can be handy but you probably already have a set in your grooming box.) Use a small magnifying glass (available at toy stores) to find stingers or small thorns, pieces of cut glass and other debris.

7. A rectal or ear thermometer. Keep track of your dog’s temperature if it experiences heatstroke.

8. A tube of antibiotic ointment and a tube of steroid ointment. You can use these for you and your dog. Apply the antibiotic on a fresh wound and the steroid on a red, inflamed area like a bug bite or small hot spot.

9. Foot powder. Foot powder tends to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal, and it tastes bad. If your dog is licking its feet, sprinkle the powder between its toes for a short-term cure. You can also apply it to small hotspots.

10. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine or Benadryl. If a bee stings your dog, you may need to give it some antihistamine right away. Check with your veterinarian for the correct dose for your dog. Antihistamines treat other allergic reactions as well. If your dog is known to have severe bee allergies, ask your veterinarian about an epinephrine autoinjector for safe, immediate treatment.

11. Treatments for diarrhea. Canned plain pumpkin will help and is very safe to feed. Talk to your veterinarian about using medications such as Imodium, but be aware that multi-drug resistance (MDR 1) dogs may have problems with this. I keep metronidazole (Flagyl) in my first-aid kit. Discuss dosage with your veterinarian and ask her to dispense a small amount for your kit.

12. Antibiotics. Ask your veterinarian about dispensing an all-purpose antibiotic for travel. Use an antibiotic only as directed and touch base with your vet before you give it. Bringing antibiotics saves you the hassle of finding a local veterinarian and additional expense.

13. Medication for chronic conditions. If you experience recurring problems such as ear infections, keep extra meds with you in case of a flare-up. In addition, ask your veterinarian for a short medical history in case you need to visit a vet clinic far from home.

14. Drip set. If your state’s laws allow you to carry needles, consider a drip set, a couple of sterile needles and a bag of fluids such as Lacted Ringer’s solution. Fluids can help a dog that is in shock, dehydrated or overheated. Subcutaneous fluids will rarely exacerbate a condition. Your veterinarian can show you how to administer the fluids and tell you the proper dose for your dog.

Calming a Stressed Dog

Antihistamines can act to help calm a stressed dog. If your dog experiences anxiety during storms, get out a Thunder shirt and add some antihistamine medication to your dog’s “storm routine.” Melatonin may help as well. A number of aromatherapies, such as Canine Calm by Earth Heart, will also settle a dog.
Check out your personal first-aid supplies, and see what additions would make sense for you and your dog on your travels.

From the September 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the September 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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Dogs · Health and Care