Basic First Aid for Your Pet
March 5, 2007
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Mandy Barth,

It's 7:00 on a Sunday evening and you walked into the kitchen just as Clyde, your retriever, finished off the bag of chocolate chips you had sitting on the counter. Isn't chocolate supposed to be poisonous for four-legged critters? What do you do? Who do you call? In your haste to help your pet, you are unable summon a rational thought. If only you'd taken the time to put together that first aid kit that your veterinarian had recommended, you could have all of the supplies and information you need at your fingertips.

So you don't have to experience the angst that accompanies the above scenario, Dr. Melissa Riensche, a small animal internal medicine resident at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Urbana, Ill., recommends a small bit of advance preparation to provide you with most of the tools you need to deal with any animal emergency before a visit to your veterinarian.

Any pet first aid kit should include a list of important phone numbers. You'll always want to check in with your animal health professional before taking matters into your own hands, and it is oftentimes reassuring to simply speak with a trained pet health professional. The two phone numbers at the top of your list should be that of your local veterinarian and the local emergency clinic. You should also include the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center's phone number: 1-888-426-4435.

You should also have your pet's medical records readily available. These records will help you answer questions about your pet's current medications and dosages, any adverse reactions, and its current vaccination record--all things that an animal health professional will ask about when you call.

Since poisoning is a pet health emergency that provides a great deal of uncertainty for most pet owners, it's always a good idea to keep a few things on hand to deal with any situations that may arise. Your first aid kit should include a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution, which will induce vomiting in your pet.

Dr. Riensche reminds, "You should always consult a veterinarian or the poison control hotline before inducing vomiting because some substances can cause more damage on their way back out. It is important to seek help as soon as possible after the ingestion takes place because the sooner we can start treatment, the better the outcome."

If you suspect that your pet has consumed a poisonous item, you should first try to identify that which was consumed, when, and how much. Your next step is to call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center, all the while keeping your pet warm, calm, and quiet. Should a trip to your veterinarian be advised, you should take along the container or label with you.

Cuts or lacerations are also common pet health emergencies. To control the bleeding that accompanies these injuries, your first aid kit should include non-stick bandages, such as ACE-brand bandages, gauze, bandaging-material, and adhesive tape for wrapping wounds. A pet will also often bleed if its nails are clipped too short. Dr. Riensche recommends keeping cornstarch on hand, which acts as an anti-coagulant for bleeding toe nails. She says, "It is important not to put anything into other types of wounds as this can lead to infection or further damage to tissues."

Your first-aid kit need not include small adhesive bandages, creams, or ointments; these are all items that your pet will instinctively want to remove and wilronze Tablet recipient. She went on to work at the weight management center of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and eventually formed her own business, Dawn Nutrition Strategies. She advises her clients on how to use food to optimize health and is author of The Flexitarian Diet. For nine years, Blatner was the national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and she still maintains a media presence, including being a blogger for USA Today and the Huffington Post and serving as a registered dietician for NBC News Chicago,, and Fitness Magazine, which named her one of the best dieticians in the country. She received the Lifetime Television "Remarkable Woman" award in 2011.

Holly Spangler is a 1998 agricultural communications graduate and received the Warren K. Wessels Achievement Award for the outstanding senior in the College of ACES. She joined Prairie Farmer as a student and is currently working as an associate and field editor. She brings real-world production agriculture experience to the topics she covers, including a range of production, management and issue-oriented stories. She also shares the trials and tribulations of young farmers through her monthly column, "My Generation." Spangler serves on the board of the American Agricultural Editors Association (AAEA). In 2005, AAEA named her a Master Writer and she has received several awards from the association for her photography. As a founding member of the Ag Communications Alumni Leadership Council, Spangler has worked closely with the council to support the program and engage alumni with students to better understand the field of agricultural communications.

Bradley Wolter received his bachelor's degree (1997), master's degree (1999), and Ph.D. (2002) in animal sciences and is an active member of the American Society of Animal Science, and the Illinois and National Pork Producers Associations. He has published more than 80 scientific articles, abstracts, and technical bulletins on swine nutrition, welfare, and production management and is a highly sought-after industry speaker. Wolter is the chief operating officer of The Maschhoffs, one of the nation's largest family-owned pork production networks. The Maschhoffs offer dynamic internship programs in the company for ACES undergraduates. Wolter also developed the ACES Master of Animal Science in Swine Production degree, aimed at students planning a career in production management in the swine industry. His services to ACES include being a member on the External Advisory Committee for Animal Sciences and giving lectures in Animal Sciences. Wolter and his wife support the Bradley and Kimberly Wolter Jonathan Baldwin Turner Scholarship, a significant commitment to ACES students.