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Complete Guide To Building A Dog First-Aid Kit: 9 Essential Items

Pawd posing overlooking the Kinzua Dam.

Don’t you just adore those days when you’re trekking through the wilderness, the scent of pine filling the air, and your trusty four-legged explorer charging ahead with a happily wagging tail and a tongue flapping in the breeze?

But even the most perfect doggy day can take a rough turn. Your furry buddy gets a scrape, twist, or worse, and you’re miles away from help. That’s where a dog first-aid kit becomes your lifeline, ready to handle everything from a minor ouchie to a serious uh-oh.

Join us as we journey into the wild world of dog first-aid kits. We’ll guide you through assembling a kit tailored to your pup’s needs. Not so DIY-inclined? No worries! We’ll also round up the best premade kits out there. Ready? Let’s hit the trail!

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

9 Key Items For Your Dog First Aid Kit List

Robyn and Pawd at Arthur Lake. He needed a dog first-aid kit after this hike.

The University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center tells us that some of the most common injuries to athletic dogs include muscle/tendon strains, back injuries, and ligament strainsPaw injuries are also prevalent, especially in hiking dogs.

Regarding packing a dog first-aid kit, some essentials should be at the top of your list based on the most common dog injuries.

Here’s our rundown:

1. Antiseptic Wipes

First up on our list are antiseptic wipes. This is your first line of defense against minor cuts and scrapes. Use them to wipe your pet’s wound and clear away debris.

We have Vetnique Labs Dermabliss Medicated Skin Wipes in our dog first-aid kit. They’re antibacterial and anti-fungal to help fight off any nasty organisms that try to settle into your dog’s wound.

If you don’t have any antiseptic wipes, there are a few alternatives you can use to clean your dog’s wound:

  • Saline solution: use a syringe or squeezable bottle to flush out any debris in the wound. You can typically get a bottle of this at any drugstore or major retailer.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Using hydrogen peroxide continually on the wound is not recommended, but an initial dose to clean out the wound is acceptable.
  • Water: If all you have is water, it’s better than nothing. Use it to flush out your dog’s wound before applying antibacterial ointment.

Avoid using soap, shampoo, and rubbing alcohol. These may sting or even be slightly toxic to your dog if they lick the solution off.

2. Styptic Powder

Once the wound is cleansed and free of debris, inspect it closely. Is it bleeding, and if so, how much?

A pinch of styptic powder can help stop the bleeding quickly for minor cuts and scrapes. Keep a small container of Dogswell Styptic Powder with your other dog first aid supplies.

Don’t use styptic powder on large wounds, such as those requiring stitching or open cavities.

3. Antibacterial Ointment

Next up is an antibacterial ointment or wipes. Just like humans, dogs can get infections from open wounds. An antibacterial ointment or wipes are essential to keep cuts, scrapes and burns from festering.

We love Silver Biotics PET VET Antibacterial First Aid Wound Dressing. It’s a water-based antibacterial gel that can be applied directly to the wound and then covered with gauze and bandage.

Thankfully, we haven’t had to use this yet, but we’re glad it’s in our kit!

4. Bandages, Gauze, Scissors

Once you’ve cleaned the wound and applied an antibacterial ointment, it’s time to dress it. That’s where bandages and a non-stick sterile gauze pad come into play.

To place a bandage on your dog, apply a gauze piece first that is slightly larger than the size of the wound. If needed, apply adhesive tape to keep the gauze in place.

Then, gently wrap a bandage around the gauze and wound, being careful not to wrap it too tightly. Use scissors to cut the bandage to the proper length. As a rule of thumb, you should still be able to fit two fingers beneath the bandage after it’s wrapped.

Our go-to bandage is the Andover Healthcare CoFlex Bandage. It’s 4-inches wide and self-adhering. You can use any type you typically find in a drug store for gauze.

5. Tweezers/Tick Remover

Tweezers are an excellent tool to have in your dog first-aid kit. They can remove painful thorns from paws, debris from wounds, and items stuck in your dog’s mouth.

Ticks are the bane of every pet owner. A tick remover is another essential tool. Lyme disease is a serious problem for dogs, especially in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and mid-Atlantic states. 

We use the TickCheck Tick Remover. It’s simple to use and comes in three different sizes, depending on the tick’s size. It also comes with a tick ID card to help you identify what kind of tick is on your dog. And hey, these can be used on humans, too!

6. Antihistamine

Dogs suffer allergies just like humans, but that’s not why you should keep an antihistamine in your dog first-aid kit. These are specifically for insect bites and stings that your dog may have a reaction to.

PetArmor Antihistamine Medication contains diphenhydramine, the same active ingredient in Benadryl. If your pet is stung by a bee or bitten by an insect, this can help temporarily alleviate symptoms like itching, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Always read the directions on the label to understand how much to give your dog and how often.

7. Rescue Sling

Jarrod holding pawd in his rescue Fido Pro sling.

A dog rescue sling is used to carry your dog back to the car if injured on a hike. Here are a few instances where you would need a rescue sling:

There are a surprising number of dog rescue slings on the market. Our favorite is the Fido Pro Airlift. We pack it on every hike, no matter the distance. 

The great thing about the Fido Pro is that it packs into a small stuff sack that can easily fit into your day pack. Check out our guide on the best dog rescue slings to find one that fits you and your pup!

Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling view from the back

8. Cloth Muzzle

Have you ever gotten hurt and found yourself lashing out because of the pain? Maybe you yelled at someone you shouldn’t or pushed someone away who was trying to help.

Dogs can feel the same way when they are in pain. When a severe injury occurs, a cloth muzzle can help protect you while you give your dog first aid. Even the gentlest of dogs can lash out when they are in pain.

The Coastal Pet Products Adjustable Mesh Dog Muzzle is made of breathable mesh instead of the old hard plastic for a more comfortable fit. It comes in five different sizes, so be sure to choose the one that will fit your furbaby the best.

Muzzles should only be worn for a limited time and never be used as a punishment. Dog training with a muzzle will help your pal feel less stressed when wearing it, so consider training them before an injury.

9. First-Aid Instructions

Having first-aid gear is only the first step in protecting your canine companion from mishaps while out blazing the trails. You need to know how to use the gear in an emergency.

A first-aid booklet or guide is essential to any doggy toolkit. Kurgo has a wonderful, free PDF download with content that goes over pretty much everything you might encounter that would require first aid on your pup.

Tailoring Your Dog First-Aid Kit for Outdoor Adventures

We went over the basics of dog first aid kits, but there are some things you can add that make it specific to hiking and other outdoor escapades.

Paw protection

Hiking over rough terrain can be ‘ruff‘ on your dog’s paws. Packing booties or paw wax in your doggy kit can keep your pup’s paws protected while walking over sharp rocks or hot pavement.

Blanket

Keep a blanket in the car when you take your dog on a hike. Blankets are multi-purpose and can be used to wrap your dog up if they’re cold, keep them immobilized in the case of an injury, or even used as a makeshift sling in emergencies.

You can read about hiking with dogs in winter here for more information on keeping your furry pal safe in cold weather.

Slip Leash

There’s no worse feeling than the gut-wrenching pit in your stomach when your pet slips their collar or harness and runs off into the wilderness after a squirrel.

If your pet has slipped out of their harness or collar, a slip leash can be placed over their head and around their neck as a temporary hold until you can safely put their harness or collar back on.

The Water and Woods Rope Slip Leash is easy to use, packs down small, and effectively controls your excited dog.

Cooling vest

Pawd layin on his bed in his dog cooling vest.

A cooling vest is an excellent addition to any gear list for dogs that hike in hot weather. We use the Swamp Cooler from Ruffwear. It’s lightweight, breathable, and can be doused in water and placed on your pup to prevent overheating.

For a closer look at cooling vests, check out our guide on the best dog cooling vests!

High-Calorie treat

Like us, dogs may need extra calories while on long adventures. Consider bringing along high-calorie treats or food to keep their energy levels up. 

We love Natural Balance’s limited-ingredient made-in-USA treats! Their Crunchy Biscuits with Real Bison Dog Treats are the best.

Dog Health Information

Another essential item dog owners can put in their first-aid kit is their dog’s information. In a waterproof bag, consider putting critical information about your pet, such as:

  • A photo
  • Medical records
  • Poison control number (888-426-4435)
  • Local veterinary hospital numbers

This way, if an emergency occurs, you are well-prepared for any vet visit.

Know What’s Normal

Understanding your dog’s normal behavior is crucial to knowing when something is wrong. Every dog has different ‘normal’ behaviors, but some are standard across all canine breeds.

Here are some signs to look out for that may indicate your dog is heading toward an emergency, such as heat stress or an elevated heart rate:

SignNormalAbnormalWhat to Do
Temperature100℉-102.5℉104℉ or greater. 99℉ or lower.Take to vet immediately
Heart Rate60-120 beats per min160 or higher at restTake to vet immediately
Breaths per minute12-30 breaths per minGreater than 60 breaths per minTake to vet immediately
Hot weatherNormal behaviorExcessive panting and drooling, reddened gums, collapse, vomiting, confusion, bright red tongue Take to cool area immediately. Place a cooling vest on them. Spray them with cool water. Avoid using an ice pack or icy water.
Cold weatherNormal behaviorShivering, lack of movement, tail tucked, anxiety, dilated pupilsMinimize movement. Wrap them in a blanket. Turn the heat on in the car.
Choking hazardDog coughing or hacking. Dog will take a treat and swallowDog not breathing. Loss of consciousnessLook inside mouth and remove any foreign objects. Perform Heimlich manuever on your dog if no object is found. 
BehaviorSmooth hair. Mouth relaxed or slightly open. Ears erect or in neutral position. Tail wagging that moves the whole body, in a helicopter fashion, or is leaning to the right side. Eyes normal shape.Hair raised. Ears pinned back. Snarling or excessive panting. Tail tucked between legs or tail held stiff up in the air like a flag. Tail wagging that leans more to the left. Excessive yawning. Lip licking. Showing the whites of their eyesLook for a nearby stressor, such as a person or other dog. Remove your dog from any stressful situations. If dog displays abnormal behavior when someone is petting them, alert the person to stop petting and move away.

Knowing what is and isn’t normal can help you quickly identify when your dog is stressed and needs first aid. It can also indicate whether you must take your dog to the vet.

Pre-Built Dog First-Aid Kits: Are They Worth It?

First aid kits for dogs are standard nowadays. There are various options, sizes, and items available.

It’s tempting to buy a pre-built dog first-aid kit because they have all the essentials packed into a compact bag that’s easily placed in your hiking pack.

So, is it better to pack your own or use a premade one?

The Pros Of A Pre-Built Dog First-Aid Kit

  • Small case: Pre-built kits typically come with a soft case easily stuffed into a backpack. Some are even made waterproof to protect all the tools inside.
  • Convenience: Pre-built kits are designed to address most wounds sustained in the outdoors and are typically put together by experts.
  • Many options: Dog kits are becoming increasingly popular, and many options are out there, depending on your activity.
  • First-aid instructions: Many pre-built kits include a booklet or instructions to perform first-aid on your dog.

The Cons Of A Pre-Built Dog First-Aid Kit

  • Cost: Pre-built dog kits are typically more expensive than putting together your own kit.
  • Customization: Every dog is different, and with a pre-built first-aid kit, you cannot tailor it to your dog’s specific needs.

Should You Buy A Pre-Built Dog First Aid Kit?

Now that we have the pros and cons of a pre-built dog first-aid kit, it’s time to decide if you want to create your own or buy a premade kit.

The good thing is that there’s no wrong answer. Whether you go with a pre-built or customize your own kit, having something to help your dog in an emergency is better than nothing!

The Best Pre-Built Dog First-Aid Kits

If you decide to go with a pre-built kit, we have a few that we highly recommend:

  • Adventure Medical Kits Dog Series Me & My Dog First Aid Kit: This is the best of the best. It includes two first-aid kits – one for you and one for your dog – wrapped in two waterproof bags and a small cloth bag. It weighs 1.47 pounds and measures 7.5″ x 3.5″ x 5.3″.
  • Kurgo First Aid Kit for Dogs & Cats: This kit includes 50 pieces of first-aid essentials and can be used for a variety of pets and humans as well. It weighs 1 pound and measures 9″ x 5″ x 3.5″.
  • Pet Evac Pak First Dog & Cat First Aid Kit: For the more casual hiker or just for a walk around the block, the Pet Evac kit has fewer emergency items but comes with all the basic essentials. It weighs 9.28 ounces, making it very light and packable.
  • Labra Pet First Aid Kit: The 28-piece Labra first-aid kit is perfect for taking on vacations or car camping trips. It’s not the greatest for long hikes or back-country camping trips. It weighs 6.77 ounces and measures 7.5″ x 6″ x 2″.

Remember, the best dog first aid kit is the one that you bring with you everywhere you go with your furry pal. 

Post-Injury Quick Tips

After an injury, there are a few things you can do to help your dog toward a speedy recovery.

  1. Firstly, follow all directions given to you by your vet. This includes medications such as pain meds, antibiotic ointments, and steroids for swelling.
    • Return to your vet for concerns such as additional bleeding or torn stitches.
  2. Keep your dog calm at home. It’s essential not to excite them if they are healing a wound.
    • Keep them busy with mentally stimulating games like a puzzle or gentle training. Give them a view out the window or turn on some dog TV.
  3. Avoid heavy physical activities, dog sports, or running while your dog is recovering from an injury. It might be challenging, but the best thing for your dog post-injury is rest and lots of TLC.

Trail’s End: Concluding Thoughts on Your Canine Companion’s First-Aid Kit

Dog care is essential for any pet owner. Our four-legged pals are our family, and we want them to be safe, healthy, and happy, whether we’re sitting at home on the couch or standing atop a mountain peak.

A dog first-aid kit is your first defense against injuries sustained while hiking the great outdoors with your canine companion. 

Whether you build a custom kit or buy a pre-built kit, having essential first aid items keeps you prepared for any situation, not to mention peace of mind.

Let us know which dog first-aid kit you carry in the comments below! We’d love to hear about your favorites and any tales you can share about your adventures with your tail-wagging pal!

By the way, if you’re wondering what other gear your dog needs besides a first-aid kit, check out our hiking gear list for dogs!

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