Ask the Expert: Pet First Aid

Having a pet injure themselves can be a scary event. From minor cuts and abrasions to stomach upset or just feeling that something is wrong, knowing what to do in a pet emergency can help you make the proper first aid decisions, or even seek veterinary care if necessary. 

To find out more about the do's and don'ts of pet first aid, we sat down with Jessica Waters, a certified vet tech at DoveLewis. Jessica answered our questions and provided a lot of great advice for our readers in preparation for their next pet emergency. 

Can you tell us why pet first aid is so important?

Knowledge of pet first aid is important because it can save valuable time in the event of an emergency. Your knowledge of pet first aid could even potentially lessen the severity of your pet's injury.

Why did you choose to teach others about first aid?

I teach pet first aid because I wanted to help educate owners and give them the tools to help their pets. When I hold a pet first aid class, I talk about not only what to have in your first aid kit but, how to use those items safely.  I also teach owners about how to recognize signs of pet injury or illness before a situation becomes worse.

What are the biggest misconceptions about pet first aid?

You can't really just find anything on a search engine. Lots of well-meaning pet owners can give bad advice online. Be careful with information on Google. 

The most important advice I can give: Never give human medications to pets unless directly instructed to by a veterinarian. Many human medications can be very harmful to pets. Pain medication is a great example of this -- it is very dangerous, potentially lethal, to give your pet Tylenol or other human-grade painkillers. 

If I could only choose one thing to prepare for a pet emergency, what would that be?

Have the closest veterinary clinic and emergency clinics number and address on hand. If you have any questions about an injury or symptom it is always better to be safe than sorry and sometimes you can get help with just a phone call. Know your vet's hours and call before arriving with a pet emergency.

What are your favorite common household products that can be used for pet first aid?

Towel(s) and hand towels. Hand towels are great for cleaning, wrapping, and applying pressure to a wound. And a large thick towel can be used for a lot of things, most importantly they can help you pick up or carry a scared or injured pet, as well as protect and cushion not only the pet but you as well. You may want to purchase cheap towels or keep them on hand so you don't ruin your luxury bath towels in case of emergency. 

A slip leash is important to have on hand too. Pets can easily slip out of their collar or harness and a slip leash can help get them out of harm’s way. They are also great for keeping some distance between animals, like if you've found an injured stray or lost pet.

Water based lubricant is also great to have on hand for wounds. It creates a protective barrier to keep the wound clean before having it evaluated and will keep the tissue moist and healthy in the event that the wound or laceration needs to be closed with sutures or staples.

What do people not know about pet first aid?

Most non-emergency common injuries can be treated at home with some basic knowledge of pet first aid. For example, even though a minor cut on the ear will bleed a lot, they're generally not serious enough for a vet visit.

Can I just buy a first aid kit or am I better off building my own?

Yes, you can purchase a pet first aid kit for your home. It’s a great way to have everything in one place if something happens. But, many of the items needed for pet first aid can be found around your home. You could save a little money by building your own pet first aid kit. You can also tailor your first aid kit to your pet and your comfort level.

Is there anything else that we should know?

During an emergency, please remember to take a deep breath and evaluate the situation. Keep yourself safe, because your pet needs you to help them.

What should I keep in my pet first aid kit?

  • Musher's Secret for paw protection
  • Small packets or tubes of water based lubricant
  • Slip leashes
  • Pet socks to be used as a bandage on hard to reach places on the feet and legs
  • Dawn dish soap or another gentle soap
  • Cotton gauze that doesn't fray or leave cotton behind as easily
  • Quick Stop or another brand of styptic powder for bleeding
  • Rolled cotton for bandaging
  • Vet wrap, if you know how to use it. If applied improperly, vet wrap can cause harm
  • Small bottle of sterile saline or eye flush
  • Pop up bowls
  • Information cards about injuries, techniques, and contact information for vets

We hope that this information has helped. You can learn more about Jessica and her first aid classes at