If your dog does get sick: First aid for dogs on the go.


What are the typical dog health problems I might face?

Dogs have many of the same medical problems as humans -- and, just like humans, they also get involved in accidents and fights.

While first aid may save a dog's life, it's not a substitute for care from a veterinarian.

There are plenty of good Web sites that go into dog first aid in detail. Two of our favorites are the Healthy Pets Web site and Dog First-Aid 101.

A few special considerations to keep in mind:

If your dog is in pain, he will rightfully become defensive -- even towards you. Be aware for changes in his demeanor. You may need to use a soft cloth to muzzle your dog. And, if he can't walk, use a board, a blanket or even a car floor mat to move him.

When is it an emergency?

In short, it's basically the same as with humans. If your dog is bleeding, in shock, disoriented, lame, has any major injury, or is bloated or showing signs of heat stroke, it's an emergency. And, if you have any doubt, play it safe and consider it an emergency. Remember, since dogs can't let us know early on when they're ill, initial signs and symptoms often go unnoticed. So, by the time your dog is ill enough for you to notice, he might already be very sick.

Check out the Dog Owner's Guide for complete signs and symptoms of a dog emergency

I've seen dog first-aid kits. Should I get one?

In general, we'd say, "no." First-aid kits can lull you into a false sense of security. And, the fact is, almost any emergency will require a visit to a vet. We think it's not worth the hassle, unless you're traveling somewhere that's far from a vet. Like, say, North Hillbilly, Arkansas. Or Grizzlyguts, Montana.

Actually, I am going to Grizzlyguts. What should I have in that first-aid kit?

Well, okay then. Here's what we recommend -- and why.

hydrogen peroxide 3% (USP) For cleaning cuts
Can of soft dog food Why not?
Nonstick bandages To help stop bleeding
Gauze and adhesive tape To keep bandages on cuts and wounds
Saline eye solution To flush contaminants

Rubber gloves

For you, not your dog, to protect you from infection.
Forceps To remove stingers, thorns, etc.
Muzzle To keep your dog from hurting when he's hurting
Pet carrier  


And don't forget to toss in any copies of relevant paperwork, including your dog's health record and emergency phone numbers. If you're traveling on an airline or going overseas, you'll also need copies of all health certificates -- which means a trip to the vet before you depart. So, plan ahead.


I don't have a week off to go buy all these items. Can I buy a decent dog first-aid kit?

Of course. Most good pet supply stores or mail order companies should have one available. Ruff Wear makes one that we like.