Monday, June 27, 2011

First Aid Kits

Now that we've talked a bit about disaster preparation, let's talk about first aid kits.  The following are just guidelines and the best resource for being prepared for first aid is going to be your own veterinarian.  If they do not see emergencies, particularly after hours, know who to call if something happens and how to get there will likely be as valuable, if not more so, than using precious time when the more critical thing is to get the dog seen as soon as possible for the best outcome.  Especially if you are performing a community service (i.e.-police K-9s or SAR groups), it will likely be worth your time to inquire at the nearest emergency facility what they recommend for your precise needs.  While I have not personally taken one of the Red Cross first aid courses, they may also be a good resource and information on them can be found here:

Like human first aid kits, first aid kits for dogs will vary considerably depending on who is carrying them.  Some handlers may never have taken a first aid course in their life while others work in the medical or veterinary medical field.  It doesn't help to carry what you haven't been trained on how to use as you don't want to waste time on trying things you have not been trained to do.  In addition, the smaller the pack, the more likely you are to have it in your car or near you when it's needed.  The needs of working and performance dogs are also going to be different.  For example, a SAR dog searching the rubble pile or in the field will have a different likihood of injury than huskies in sprint races.  Flyball dogs will be subjected to different stresses on their bodies than field trial dogs.  That being said, there are a few common things that will be helpful to have in any first aid kit.  While you can purchase a dog first aid kit in specialty stores and online, you can also put your own basic first aid kit out of supplies you can get at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or certain pet/farm supply stores for under $30.

-Vet Wrap:  2"
-Gauze squares (3" x 3" or 4" x 4")
-Medical/athletic tape

-exam gloves (I prefer nitrile/latex free)
-triple antibiotic ointment:  generic Neosporin.  Do not use on puncture wounds or extensive/draining wounds. 
-sterile saline:   for wound flush.  These now come in these neat spray bottles.  They are a bit pricey and run out quickly though
-muzzle:  no first aid kit should be without one!  I prefer the basket muzzles, but the cloth ones are easy to store)
-slip leash:  invaluable if you see a dog on the side of the road kind of thing (note:  don't put yourself or other drivers in harms way to catch a loose dog!).  Slip leashes also can double for muzzles
-the phone numbers of the nearest vet hospital and/or emergency clinic taped to the inside lid of the kit.  ALL trials should have the club secretary or other designated person call around to see who is open and what their hours are for weekend trials.  You may be able to save money by not shipping them to a more expensive emergency clinic if you call ahead to local clinics, who also appreciate the heads up on what's coming in.

All these can be stored in a small Rubbermaid-type or desk organizer type box that can fit in anyone's car or at the registration table at an event.  Small toolboxes are another way to store these.  I also recommend keeping a few items that dogs may not necessarily need, but would come in handy for the humans in your training group.  For example, I had a Benedryl "pen" last year in my first aid kit that came in very handy when a little boy at our July PSA trial was stung by a wasp.  I've also had decoys cut themselves and need a quick wound cleaning.  Other "human" items that are good to have:

-Band-aids, lots of 'em.  :-)
-Hand sanitizer
-Anti-histamine topical: often has Benedryl/generic diphenhydramine for insect stings
-Instant cold packs:  good for injuries, heat exhaustion, and insect stings.  These don't get quite as cold as reusable cold packs, but work fairly well

You can also keep a larger, more "advanced" kit if you feel comfortable doing so.  I often have people ask about suturing or stapling cuts or lacerations, particularly if they are out hunting or are doing SAR fairly far from "civilization."  You essentially have six hours as the "golden time" to suture up a wound for optimum results.  Suturing or stapling a wound also does very little good if the bleeding below the surface has not stopped.  Pressure using gauze is best while getting the animal shipped out.  Some other items to consider:

-duct tape:  ALWAYS useful.  :-)
-several paint stir sticks:  for splinting limbs, often free from paint or hardware stores
-oral Benedryl:  ask your vet for the dose for insect stings
-large beach towel or blanket to use for either a stretcher or to prevent shock
-jumbo cotton balls
-small bottle of dog shampoo or Dawn dish detergent
-rectal thermometer
-lubricating jelly
-kotex feminine pads:  for heavy bleeding
-eye irrigation solution
-booties for injured paws:  depending on the paw size, an infant or child's sock can also work in a pinch
-bandage scissors

Some working dog handlers, such as narcotics detection handlers, may also want to ask their vet about carrying reversal agents for accidentally ingested narcotics, if available.  I hope this list gives you a few things to think about.  Keep in mind it is not exhaustive and you may need different items based on the needs of your dogs (and the humans training with them!).

1 comment:

  1. A bit of an addendum: I was down in Tennessee this weekend for a PSA/Schutzhund trial and brought my first aid kid. Sure enough, as usual, didn't need anything for any of the dogs really, but gave out a band-aid for a cut and a wasp stung someone in the face, so I had Benedryl cream to help with the swelling. So like I said, lots of band-aids and Benedryl is the way to go apparently!