Making a Pet First Aid Kit

Every pet owner should put together a pet first aid kit – a handy, easily created resource that will help a pet owner think and act quickly in the event of an emergency.

Pack the listed items in a clear container to facilitate finding them quickly. Include an emergency telephone list inside the kit, or you might even tape it to the outside of the container. Having these numbers on hand will allow the first response to an emergency to be a telephone call to the appropriate emergency information source. The telephone list should contain:

• Your veterinarian’s telephone number and address
• The telephone number and address of the closest veterinary emergency facility
• The number of your local animal ambulance or transportation service
• Animal Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435*

*The advice is well worth the Animal Poison Control user’s fee. If you call, be sure to record your case number and give it to your veterinarian who can contact them for additional consultations about your pet.

First aid kit items:

  1. Muzzle: Should be of the appropriate size for you pet. Injured pets are likely to bite even their owners due to pain or fear. Muzzling protects the person caring for them in an emergency.
  2. Tweezers: For splinter or tick removal
  3. Nail trimmer: Ask your veterinarian for the style of trimmer right for your pet. For cats, my personal favorite is the $1.29 one available at the checkout counter of your local drug store.
  4. Blunt-tipped scissors: Handy for hair clumps and trimming out foreign material like burdocks and plants.
  5. Pre-packaged povidone-iodine cleaning pads: Use to clean off cuts and wounds. Follow cleaning with a clean water rinse to remove the soap.
  6. Saline solution: Regular human contact lens saline solution can be used to flush out dirt, sand or other irritants – just squeeze the contents directly into the eye. The nozzle tip of these bottles makes it very useful to direct the saline into a cut or scrape to flush out sand and dirt.
  7. Triple antibiotic ointment: To place directly on a cut after it has been cleaned with povidone-iodine and water.
  8. Sterile petroleum jelly: Put ¼ inch in each eye to protect it from soap or povidone-iodine if cleaning a wound around your pet’s eyes. Works well if you’re bathing your pet, to prevent soap and water from getting in the eyes.
  9. Sterile nonstick pads: Sticky bandages and fur don’t mix. Wrap the wound with the pads before placing a bandage on your pet.
  10. Bandage material: Elastic bandages or gauze, which can be used to hold a nonstick pad in place.
  11. Peroxide: To only be used to induce vomiting when Animal Poison Control instructs you to do so. You should call Animal Poison Control when your dog or cat has consumed something from the pet toxins list. Peroxide should NOT to be used for cleaning wounds, as it slows healing.
  12. Leash: In case the accident happens when you don’t have one available. Use only if the pet is able to walk.
  13. Towel: A big, clean cotton towel to dry the pet off, to keep him/her warm, to cover a cut or to use when applying pressure to stop bleeding.

Home Care Options for Pets

Use the following remedies for no more than 2 days. If there is no improvement after 2 days, please see your veterinarian.

Warm compresses can do a world of good to keep a wound clean and decrease swelling. Saturate a clean washcloth with warm (not hot) water. Wring out the excess water and then apply the compress to the wound for 10 minutes. Repeat this process 3 times a day.

If the wound has smelly or green discharge, this treatment is not for your pet. Please see your veterinarian, as your pet may need to be treated with antibiotics.

Crusty or Runny Eyes
Eyelid scrubs can be used to treat crusty or goopy eyes. Use a tearless baby shampoo combined with 1 to 20 parts warm tap water. Scrub the eyelids twice daily, removing all crust or discharge on the lids. Be sure to rinse the soap off with clean, warm tap water.

If only 1 eye is affected or if the pet has redness in the eye, he/she may have a corneal ulcer and needs to be seen immediately by your veterinarian.

Foot Abrasions
Foot pad cuts are a common problem in dogs. Dogs tend to lick cuts avidly, preventing them from healing. If the cut is not bleeding, wash it with soap and water and then soak the foot in a bucket of warm water for 10 minutes, twice daily. Dry the foot well and then cover or wrap the foot to keep your dog from licking it. One way to accomplish this is by using a sock pulled over the foot and held in place by some duct tape, applied over the sock, and loosely placed above the wrist or hock. The hock is the pointy bone on the back leg above the ankle. Be sure to keep this foot dry.

Acute diarrhea can be treated by withholding food for 24 hours. After this time, offer your pet a bland diet of non-fat cottage cheese and boiled, chopped chicken with white rice. In addition, 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt will provide helpful bacteria to the intestines. If the diarrhea persists for more than 2 days, be sure to see your veterinarian and be sure to take a fecal sample with you. The sample will allow tests for intestinal parasites to be performed.

Acute vomiting can be managed by taking away your pet’s food and water. If no vomiting occurs for 12 hours then your pet can be given small amounts of water (1/4 cup to 1 cup of water, depending on the size of your pet) or several ice cubes in his/her water bowl. The water from the melting ice prevents your pet from drinking a large amount of water, which may cause more vomiting. If no vomiting occurs after 24 hours, then a small amount of a bland diet (see above) can be fed.

Helpful Tips
Keep a fully stocked emergency kit for your pet readily available. Be sure to check our next post in which we will give you a list of items to collect for your pet's first aid kit. Additionally, keep handy the animal poison control hotline number: (888) 426-4435.

For veterinary emergencies, The Animal Medical Center (AMC) provides care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. The AMC is located at 510 East 62nd Street in New York City and may be reached at (212) 838-8100.

Ask the Vet

Q: I recently took my cat, Cheddar, to be seen by his veterinarian because I thought he had a urinary tract infection. My vet recommended a change in his diet from dry to wet food. Can you explain how this will help?

A: In the course of evolution, felines evolved as carnivores. Cats have adapted to eating a meat-based diet which is high in protein and lower in carbohydrates. Just look at the fangs they have clearly not necessary for eating soybeans!!! Because of convenience and often the cat’s preference for the crunchy consistency, owners frequently choose to feed their cats dry food, which is higher in carbohydrates than canned food. When cats consume more carbohydrates than their body can use, they store the excess as fat. Cats consuming a dry diet may eat more carbohydrates than they need in order to obtain a sufficient amount of protein for their needs and they can become overweight quickly. Studies clearly show the portly feline can be at greater risk for diabetes, arthritis and feline bladder problems, like Cheddar.

So, losing weight is critical for Cheddar's long term health. My recommendation, and the recommendation of The AMC, is to switch him to mostly, if not exclusively, canned food. If he doesn't lose weight with the adult dry food as a component of his diet, then he should switch to a dry kitten food which contains more protein than the average dry cat food. Another option is to ask your veterinarian if prescription dry diabetes food would be appropriate for Cheddar. This food is formulated to contain more protein and less carbohydrates. If these changes in diets are solutions which don't work, then you may need to eliminate dry food completely from your Cheddar's diet.

For cats with bladder problems, increasing their water consumption will help prevent the recurrence of clinical signs. Therefore, switching to canned food with its increased water content will force the cat to consume more water than if it ate dry food.
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Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy in a Tough Economy

For nearly a century, serving our neighbors has been at the heart of The Animal Medical Center’s mission. We understand that during these tough economic times, cutting expenses is on all of our minds. Pet owners who may be looking for ways to cut costs could be tempted to scrimp on pet care to save money. But this strategy soon may turn out to be more expensive when a little problem becomes a big crisis. Maintaining your schedule of preventive healthcare with your family veterinarian is the best way to identify health issues early so that they remain treatable problems.

1. It is better to be proactive than reactive, so continue the routine examination schedule recommended by your veterinarian, and follow their recommendations for vaccination, heartworm, flea and tick preventative.

2. Be sure you feed your pet a complete and balanced diet for their age, but buy in bulk to save money.

3. Just because you buy food in bulk, don’t feed it in bulk. The porky pet is at greater risk of diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract disease and certain tumors.

4. Brush your pet’s teeth daily to remove plaque and prevent tartar build up. You can use a soft human toothbrush or a special “finger puppet” toothbrush made for pets. Don’t use human toothpaste as it can be harmful to pets. Just plain tap water or a pet approved toothpaste is best for your pet.

5. Take a daily walk with your dog. It’s great exercise for both of you and doesn’t cost a thing! Download our exercise posters for dogs and cats.

6. Purchase pet insurance, particularly while your pet is young and rates are lower. For any aged pet, owners buying pet insurance should investigate exclusions related to specific breeds carefully so your pet has optimal protection.

7. Be sure to ask your pet groomer, boarder and doggie day care facility if they are providing discounts on their services, as they often do during the holiday season to promote their services.

8. If you notice a problem, don’t hope it will go away – visit your veterinarian!

The AMC is a world-renowned nonprofit veterinary hospital and teaching institution. Through our wide range of specialty services, we provide the highest quality care available to companion animals. In fact, The AMC was founded in 1910 specifically to care for the pets of New York’s less fortunate citizens. We continue that tradition through our compassionate community funds, which have provided free and subsidized care to thousands of animals in need.

For more information about The Animal Medical Center and our charitable funds, please visit our website at:

Selecting the First Pooch…and the First Vet

The selection of the First Family-elect’s new canine addition has created much excitement and media buzz. Reporters and bloggers speculate daily on the type of dog the Obamas may choose when they move into their new abode in January.  In the days ahead, the President-elect’s abilities as statesman will surely be tested as he makes tough decisions about the economy, healthcare, and conflicts abroad.  But what will require an equal amount of detente is the final decision about which new puppy his family will select.  Like anyone making an important choice, discussion and compromise will surely be required. First daughter-elect Malia has expressed her opinion in favor of a Goldendoodle (a hybrid of the Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle), while President-elect Obama is leaning toward “a mutt like me.”  We at The Animal Medical Center are aware that choosing the perfect dog is only the beginning. Equally as important as their choice of pedigree will be the selection of their new pet’s veterinarian. Even though the Obamas may need to compromise on which dog they choose, they should not compromise on their new pet’s veterinary care.  The Obamas are no different than any American family in this regard. Because our pets are members of our families, keeping them healthy is a priority. Veterinarians can be our partners in helping each of us keep our pets in top physical condition — leading to longer, better quality lives both for the animals and for us.  The Animal Medical Center recommends that every dog or cat owner consider these important tips when selecting a veterinarian:

  • Identify your veterinarian before you get your pet. Your new puppy or kitten should see a veterinarian as soon as possible, preferably within the first few days after arriving in its new home. 
  • Do your homework. Talk to your friends about the veterinarians they use. Check out the Web sites of several different veterinary clinics. This will give you information about hours and services to help you determine if you will be able to schedule routine appointments conveniently. Web sites usually give information about access to emergency services, which need to be readily accessible. 
  • Choose a vet in a convenient location. If you are lucky, you can find a high-quality veterinarian in your neighborhood. Like babies, new puppies or kittens need frequent veterinarian visits until they are about 1 year of age.  
  • Listen for good communication skills. Although the comforting presence of a gray-haired family physician (à la Marcus Welby, MD) has its appeal, there is more than just experience to be considered when choosing a veterinarian — such as his or her ability to explain your pet’s diagnosis or an upcoming procedure.  
  • Referral to specialists. A good veterinarian knows his or her limits and when to refer a problem to a specialist. Find out how your veterinarian makes referrals to a specialist and for what conditions. 
  • Talk to your children about what to expect on a visit to the veterinarian.  If you plan on bringing your children with you when you take your pet to the vet, spend some time preparing them. Puppies can be stubborn and determined to have their own way. Puppy-style tantrums occur during nail-trimming, dental examinations, and the taking of body temperature. Squealing, yelping, and howling by the puppy are common during routine vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases, and may upset unprepared children. After a visit to a veterinary clinic, puppies are typically very tired and should be allowed to rest for a few hours. 
  • Get a book. Head for the library and check out some of the many wonderful books written about caring for a new pet.