Many of us love to travel with our pets. Whether it is a car trip to visit friends or a backpacking trip into the wilderness, it is important to always have a good travel pet first aid kit on hand.
While my at home first aid kit is a little extensive to travel with, there are a few items that I always like to have on hand. And the more things that can overlap between the human first aid kit and the pets’ first aid kit, the better.
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The Cuts and Abrasions Category
Glia and I have had a few instances of cut paw pads when we are out and about. The following first aid kit items have worked great for wrapping paws, but should also be useful for lacerations (cuts) in other areas.
Triple antibiotic ointment
The staple of all good first aid kits. If there is open skin, a basic triple antibiotic ointment picked up over the counter can work well to help slow down/prevent infection. Pets can mostly use the same triple antibiotic ointments people do, just take care to not let you pet lick off copious amounts of the ointment. It isn’t exactly toxic, but it may upset their stomachs.
Vetwrap (or other self-adhering bandage)
Honestly, for Glia and I, a self-adhesive wrap trumps a band-aid any day. There are many brands of “vetwrap” and similar material can be found at human pharmacies. Wikipedia has a list of brand names of self-adhering bandages. Although these wraps adhere to themselves most don’t adhere to the pet/human, so some tape may be needed to help keep these wraps in place.
If a wound is bleeding significantly, gauze can be helpful to absorb some of the bloodflow while keeping pressure on the wound.
For relatively hairless dogs and for humans, band-aids can work for smaller wounds in places that are not easily wrapped. Band-aids probably won’t stick to a husky, but they work on Glia’s abdomen or ear flaps.
For a dirty wound, cleaning it out before wrapping is important. Hydrogen peroxide can help with this. It can also help get blood out of clothing and fur.
Below is a cute picture of Glia with a bandaged paw after she cut it out on a walk.
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The My Dog Ate/Drank Something They Shouldn’t Category
Hydrogen peroxide makes a repeat appearance in this category, as it is the most reliable at home emetic agent (aka it is used to induce vomiting). However, Hydrogen peroxide should only be used orally under the direction of a veterinarian – so call your vet right away if you think your pet ate something that they shouldn’t have. Some materials are not safe to have your vet vomit back up, while other ingested items warrant speedy induction of vomiting. As a veterinarian, I don’t expect pet owners to always know the difference – so call if you are concerned. The other reason to call your veterinarian is to make sure that you use the right dose. Too little and your dog won’t vomit, too much and you can cause stomach bleeding. Also, cats probably shouldn’t be given hydrogen peroxide if it can be avoided. Read more about inducing emesis in pets at the ASPCA.
Famotidine (brand name Pepcid)
Maybe your pet didn’t eat something that needs to be vomited back up. Maybe they just got into some garbage and now have an upset stomach. Having an ant-acid on hand can be helpful. I typically carry Pepcid. Again, I recommend asking your veterinarian for dosing. They may recommend other classes of anti-acids, like omeprazole, but famotidine is the most commonly used.
+/- Probiotics and Bland Food
Depending on how long you are traveling for and whether or not you have enough space to pack it with, bring probiotics and bland food (either boiled hamburger/chicken and rice or a prescription gastrointestinal food) can be a great idea. That way if you are dealing with diarrhea, vomiting, or both, you have something on hand to help settle the stomach/intestines until you can get in to be seen by a veterinarian. For me, home cooking doesn’t mesh that well with travel, so I keep a couple cans of a prescription gastrointestinal food in Glia’s travel backpack (although a baggy of dry prescription gastrointestinal food would work also).
This is the classic antibiotic/antiparasitic prescribed to help clear up diarrhea. This is a prescription medication, but if you are going to be backcountry camping in areas with high risk of giardia or other possible infectious causes of diarrhea, it is medication to consider discussing with your vet ahead of time. Some veterinarians may be willing to prescribe this ahead of time (just like human doctors will give you ciprofloxacin when you travel to areas where the drinking water may cause diarrhea). However, since it is an antibiotic, it needs to be used with correct duration and frequency. If your veterinarian is not comfortable dispensing metronidazole, ask them about an over the counter anti-diarrheal. There are some over the counter alternatives to help reduce diarrhea (like pepto-bismol, etc).
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The Allergic Reaction Category
Diphenydramine (brand name Benedryl)
Don’t travel without it. Seriously, allergic reactions can be scary and it is nice to have a tablet or two on hand when you need it. If you have a small dog/cat, you may need the liquid version. Check with your veterinarian for the correct dosing for your individual pet. Of course, some allergic reactions are too severe to control with just benedryl, so as per almost all of my pet first aid advice, consult with your veterinarian if swelling continues to worsen.
Below is a picture of Glia’s puffy face/eyelids after having an allergic reaction to bug bites.
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The Pain Management Category
+/- Buffered aspirin or prescription pain medication
This whole category is a plus or minus. I like to have a pain medication on hand in case of emergencies. However, not all dogs can take all pain medications. Certain illnesses/organ disease can be worsened by the administration of aspirin. Additionally, aspirin if given too frequently or on a regular basis can result in stomach ulcers. However, since aspirin is the only over the counter pain medication that is relatively safe for pets (never give ibuprofen or acetominophen- especially to cats!), it is used somewhat frequently in companion animals. I recommend getting the buffered variety to help reduce risk of stomach ulcers. And if you have a reason to suspect that your pet will need pain medications, talk to your veterinarian in advance to obtain a prescription pain medication.
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The Miscellaneous Category
Thick shoelace/ thin leash for an emergency muzzle
In emergency situations, when dogs are scared and painful, even normally friendly, sweet dogs can bite. Learn how to tie a shoe string muzzle and carry an extra shoe-string with. Shoestrings are light and take up almost no extra space. Just make sure your shoestring isn’t so thin that it can cut into the skin if tied tightly. If you don’t want to carry an extra shoestring, a leash can also be easily used to tie a muzzle. Here is a link to a nice video on how to tie an emergency muzzle by Gone to the Dogs.
Again, if you have the space, a thermometer is a helpful piece of equipment to carry along in your first aid kit. If you are worried about how sick your pet is, knowing whether they have a fever or low temperature, can help aid the decision of how quickly you need to seek veterinary care. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is between 99.5 to 102.5 degrees F. Also, I recommend lubricating prior to using rectally.
Gloves can be useful for keeping hands clean when taking a temperature or dressing a wound.
Travel Pet First Aid Kit: The Identification Category
Copy of pertinent vet records
I highly recommend traveling with a copy of your pets medical records (at least the last visit, vaccine records, and a list of current medications). You don’t have to carry this into the backcountry, but have a copy in your car. This is helpful if you need to see an emergency veterinarian in a location that is not familiar with your pet.
Speaking of emergency veterinarians, keep the phone number for your veterinarian (or a local emergency clinic) handy.
+/- Health Certificate
Depending on where you are traveling, you may want to consider adding a health certificate to your folder.
Traveling with the above items will leave you prepared for most of the common maladies that below our beloved pets. When I travel by car, I use a larger tupperware container to hold my items. I place this in Glia’s backpack which also contains her food, toys, treats, extra leashes, etc. For car trips, we bring the following:
- Triple Antitiobic Ointment
- Hydrogen Peroxide (often not in the full bottle – we use travel sized containers)
- Metronidazole (for long trips and if we are going to be hiking)
- Probiotics and 2 cans of a prescription gastrointestinal food
- A few doses of a prescription pain medication
- Emergency muzzle
- Copy of veterinary records (these are in a folder that is not in the tupperware 🙂 )
When we backcountry camp, we shrink this list down to the following that fit in a ziplock bag. The rest of the items will stay in the car. That being said, Glia and I are just starting to backpack together and only plan trips that last for 1 or 2 nights at this point. If you are planning longer trips, you may want to pack a few more of the items from above.
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Emergency muzzle
What are your must haves for a good travel pet first aid kit?