What should be in an emergency kit?
The nature of Roberta Baxter's job means she has plenty of medical equipment at her disposal to treat dogs suffering from all kinds of injury and illness at her surgery, but the average dog owner is not so lucky. There's a limit to how much we can take with us when out and about, so what does Roberta consider the essential items that we can carry on walks to ensure we're prepared for any incident or accident?
First aid box
"You can store your equipment in any type of small toolbox, backpack or bumbag. You may not want to carry it around with you while you walk, but you can always keep it in the car for use in an emergency. The specific benefits of a plastic first aid box are that it is tough and durable so you can be confident that nothing will be damaged inside it, while being lightweight. You should be able to pick one up from your vet or chemist."
"Three types of bandages should be used when treating wounds. After cleaning the wound and applying a Melolin dressing, use an elastic bandage, such as Knitfix, to secure it then a soft bandage, such as Sofban, for padding. You can then use another layer of elastic bandage to hold it all in place. A final layer of a surface bandage, such as Vetrap, will keep the dressing clean.
"A pressure bandage can be used if a dog is bleeding heavily. This involves repeating layers of padding and fairly tight elastic bandage to reduce blood loss. A pressure bandage should not be left on for long as it can cause tissue damage, but can be used while transporting an injured animal to a vet."
"A lead can be used to catch a stray dog or to control your own. You could even use one as a tourniquet if your dog is bleeding severely. Wrapping a soft lead around an upper limb can reduce blood flow to the lower limb. However, a tourniquet can reduce blood flow to the point where it causes tissue damage so should only be applied when a wound is pumping lots of blood, and for less than 20 minutes. A tourniquet can give you time to apply a pressure bandage (see'Bandages') or get to a vet."
"This can be soaked in water, sterile saline or dilute antiseptic and used to clean open wounds. Ideally you should clean wounds before dressing them. You should not use cotton wool in a dog's mouth and only use it with plain water if you need to wipe a dog's eye or ear - if you get antiseptic on the sensitive cells of the ear or eye you could cause damage or inflammation."
"Tweezers can remove things such as splinters and wasp stings. You could also potentially use them to remove debris from a wound, although normally you should just wash and dress the wound before going to the vet. Basic tweezers from any chemist are fine."
"This is for cleaning wounds, washing debris away and preventing contamination. If the dog is uncomfortable with you using cotton wool you can spray saline directly into a wound before dressing it. Prompt cleaning of wounds helps improve the chance of them healing quickly. You can buy saline from any good chemist."
"A light source is vital when walking at night. However, even in daytime a torch can help you examine areas that might have a foreign body embedded. You can also use it to check an unconscious dog's eyes for a reaction and to see if a dog is bleeding from the mouth or eyes. I would use a small pen-type torch because they are easy to operate, portable, have a powerful beam and a reasonably long battery life. They are also quite tough."
"You can use poo bags for just about anything - your dog could even drink out of one under your supervision. You could also use a poo bag to protect a bandaged paw from mud and dirt. The main purpose of poo bags is, of course, to pick up poo, and it is important to never go out with your dog without them."
"Carrying water means you can give your dog a drink if he is thirsty or needs cooling down. You could even sponge him with water if he is overheated. It could also be used to clean wounds (though sterile saline is best for this) and to wash off any dangerous substances your dog has walked through such as algae in a pond. A 500ml bottle of tap water should be fine for the average walk."
"Sterile dressings, such as Melolin, have a shiny, non-adherent side that can be applied to a wound. They are sterile when they come out of the packet. Regular plasters tend to be difficult to apply as they can get caught in fur and the pad in the middle is often too small to cover a wound properly. You can get these dressings from any good chemist."
"Tape holds bandages firmly in place. I use Micropore tape in the surgery as it is soft and gentle but any tape will suffice in an emergency. You could even use it to hold a wound together while you wait to get to a vet. You can buy suitable tape from any good chemist."
"Scissors can be used for many things such as disentangling your dog if he is caught up in something, cutting hair from around a wound or trimming bandages to the right size. "Use scissors with a half-curved rounded tip so you can cut with the points of the scissors curving away from your dog's skin, avoiding injuring him."
"A whistle can help prevent injuries from happening in the first place. For instance, you can use one to stop your own dog running off and getting into trouble, or to try to call a stray dog to you. Any whistle that your dog responds to will be fine."
"A magnifying glass is useful if a dog has a splinter or a thorn in his foot so you can look at it closely in order to remove it safely. It can also be used for inspecting wounds for damage and debris. As long as it magnifies slightly then any type of glass is good."
When dealing with injuries when out on walks always remember that first aid is not a replacement for a thorough check over by a vet - it simply improves your dog's chances of responding well to the veterinary treatment he will need.
Injured dogs can be dangerous. Never attempt first aid if it means putting yourself or any helpers at risk.