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Planning for Pet Emergencies

A pet emergency kit is a great thing to have around when the unthinkable happens. There are many items which can be helpful, and it is a challenge to come up with a list that is better than the average medicine cabinet but shy of a fully stocked veterinary hospital. Depending on your situation, a separate storage box or bag can keep your supplies clean and orderly for when or if you need to use them.

The first items are generally needed for all species. At the end of this list is a separate one for particular species such as horses and birds.

Scale - If your pet is small enough to weigh, a scale can be a great adjunct to keeping it healthy. Horses, not so easy, but a weight tape is a great way to document weight gain or loss and are often available for free from feed manufacturers. All pet owners should have a visual idea of their pet at a healthy weight, but some long haired pets, birds, and exotics are hard to "eyeball" a weight on. A scale is the most accurate way to assess weight changes, and can give us a head start in knowing that a pet is ill. Many exotic pets don't show signs of illness outwardly until they are very sick, so a drop in weight more than 2-3 days in a row can indicate a problem.

Bandage material - gauze squares, roll gauze, Vet Wrap or CoBan, and white tape. Remember to never apply a wrap tightly - this can cause loss of blood supply and swelling below the bandage. If it needs to be bandaged, it needs to be seen by your vet.

Scissors - bandage type

Ointments - antibacterial ointments to dress a cut, like Neosporin, are fine. hydrocortisone or benadryl ointments for allergic rashes to prevent scratching.

Thermometer - a non-breakable digital thermometer is nice. A rectal temperature can be obtained by using a bit of ointment or vaseline on the thermometer and inserting it approximately 1-2 inches into a small animal, 3 inches in a larger dog, and all the way in a horse. A rectal temperature is really the most accurate if your doctor needs you to monitor this - not the dry nose/wet nose method. Normal in the dog and cat is 100.5-102.5. The horse is 99-100

Saline - Contact saline can be used to flush debris out of eyes or to rinse a wound.

Styptic Powder or Silver Nitrate stick - to help control bleeding, especially from a broken nail. For something more major, remember to apply pressure.

Bird Warning - Silver nitrate is toxic if ingested by birds - be extra careful that your bird does not grab it from you with its beak.

Oral Medications - Keep Benadryl on hand for hives and other allergic problems.
Benadryl and Dramamine can be useful for travel or to calm your pet (fireworks on the 4th of July)

Benadryl - 1 mg per pound or 1 caplet per 25 lbs, 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds, given up to three times daily

Dramamine - 4-8mg per pet three time daily
Pepto Bismol and Kaopectate can be used in cases of vomiting or diarrhea

Pepto liquid (pets don't chew the tablets), give 1/2 to 1ml per lbs or 1 tablespoon per 15-30lb pet.
- Aspirin can be used in dogs only, and you should call your vet for a dose and to be sure it is appropriate for the case.


Cats are very sensitive to any NSAID, Tylenol, or Aspirin and should not receive them.
We don't suggest Tylenol in dogs because it can be toxic at inappropriate doses.

BIRDS - Hemostats - Birds have special problems with bleeding "blood feathers". These feathers are newly grown in feathers that are still encased in a transucent material that protects them while they are still growing. If one of these feathers is broken or accidentally cut while wing trimming, it will bleed and will tend to not stop even with pressure. Treatment consists of firmly grabbing the feather with a hemostat clip or a plier, grasping the wing at the base of the feather firmly, and slowly pulling the feather straight away - increasing pressure until the feather slides out. The bleeding left will be slight and will respond to pressure. It takes a bit of a strong pull in a larger bird, but doing it gradually is best as a sharp pull could injure your bird's wing. You will need someone to hold the bird's head to prevent biting, as this is uncomfortable but necessary to stop the bleeding.

HORSES - Leg wraps - Horses have a tendancy to have cut legs. Having proper leg wraps goes a long way to healing these injuries. With the advent of "Vetwrap", some owners apply a few pieces of gauze to a cut and hold them in place with the Vetwrap. A wrap like this, with no significant padding, can bind tendons and cause problems. It is far better for the wound and the leg to have a non-stick or guaze with ointment applied to the wound, a light gauze roll wrap (under no pressure) a couple of times to hold it in place, a quilted cotton leg wrap (most are about 12X17 or so and will go around the leg a couple times), and top it with either a track or polo wrap or a roll of vetwrap. This last layer can be applied a bit snuggly since there is padding underneath to spread the pressure evenly. Once you get to your veterinarian, they can advise you of how to adjust your technique if needed. Some areas are much harder or trickier to bandage than others.


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Ridgefield Animal Hospital


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