Health & Family

Assemble a first-aid kit for your pets

Tibetan-terrier tourniquets? Heimlich maneuver on your Himalayan? We usually don't plan much for first aid for our animals, but a little forethought on your part can be the difference between life and death if your cat or dog finds itself in a medical emergency.

While first aid is no substitute for veterinary care, certified animal first-aid and CPR instructor Robyn Elman shares this statistic: An estimated 25 percent more pets would survive a health emergency if only one first-aid technique had been used on the way to the vet.

Here are some tips:

It's all about you: “If you get injured, you're not going to be able to help your pet,” Elman says. “Any pet that's in pain can and will bite.” For this reason, she recommends muzzling any injured cat or dog — no matter how lovable or tractable. (Caveat: Don't muzzle an animal that is unconscious or having difficulty breathing.) Buy a nylon muzzle and keep it with your first-aid kid. (Yes, they make muzzles for cats.)

Impromptu: In a pinch, you can use a scarf or shoestring to muzzle a dog. Make a loose loop, place around the muzzle, tighten until snug, then bring the ends under the ears and tie together behind the head. To wrangle a cat, try wrapping in a sweatshirt or towel to control slashing claws.

First-aid kit? What first-aid kit? Though kits specially designed for animals are available, Elman recommends assembling your own, so you know precisely what it contains and can procure the right sizes and doses. Among her must-haves: gauze pads for bleeding; a gauze roll; tweezers; antibiotic ointment; adhesive tape; scissors; a thermometer; activated charcoal to absorb poison; a triangular bandage; hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, premeasured to the right dose (one tablespoon for every 15 pounds); and a blister pack of Benadryl gel caps (write the dose for your dog on the package and also tape a safety pin on the back so you can pierce the gel cap and administer the antihistamine quickly).

Say cheese: A less obvious item for the kit is a photo of yourself with your animal. This will provide instant proof of ownership if your dog gets lost.

Crate expectations: Dogs and cats need to be accustomed to going into a carrier or crate in the event they need to be transported during an emergency. Take time to create a positive association with the crate by feeding your animal's meals in it daily.

Bag it! For unruly cats who won't see reason, consider an EvacSak (starting at $29.95). Used for years by humane societies and shelters, this sturdy mesh bag is an improvement on the old “pillow case” technique, and cinches shut and allows for ample ventilation. Visit or call 971-285-3121.

Know how to spot heat stroke: Excessive panting and salivation as well as vomiting are signs that your animal has been overcome by the heat. Elman offers this method to monitor capillary refill: Press the gum, and count how long it takes for the tissue to turn from white to pink again. If it is more than two seconds, you have a serious problem on your hands.

No ice, baby: Bathe the animal with cool but never frigid water, which constricts the capillaries and prevents cooling down.


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