First Aid Kit

By Kate Ash

As a veterinarian and caring dog owner, I carry a number of items with me on the road in a first aid kit.  Dal, my husband, jokes that I could do open heart surgery!!!  Well, perhaps my kit is a little overkill…..  However, I do believe that we should be prepared because our Border collie competitors are both treasured companions and valuable athletes.

A number that should be kept on-hand is the Pet Poison helpline 855-764-7661.  This is a non-profit center with a veterinary staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Another resource is the ASPCA at 888-426-4435, also available 24/7  365 days a year.  Both numbers work in Canada.

A first aid book that I recommend highly is Pet First Aid, by Bobbie Mammato, DVM, MPH.  The book was developed through the joint cooperation of the American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States.  It is available on-line through Amazon.  Pack it in your first aid kit.  There are lots of other books as well.  

It is important to learn what is normal for your dog.  Know your dog’s normal heart rate and respiration rate (general values are in the book, but you can learn these for YOUR dog).   The manual shows you how to find your dog’s heartbeat and pulse.  Practice before the emergency occurs.   The normal range for the rectal temperature for a dog is 100.5 – 102.5 °F.   Open your dog’s mouth and check the color of their gums.  Normally, they are pink, warm and moist.  If you press a finger against the gums, so they blanche white, color should return quickly (one to two seconds).  This is called the capillary refill time.   This is a quick assessment of your dog’s circulatory system.  

What items should be carried in your first aid kit?  The following is a general list.  You may want to pack specific materials for your dogs and specific problems encountered in areas where you trial. Use a small toolbox or storage box for your kit.  Check your kit frequently, as medications do have expiration dates.  Make sure that all items are in stock.

1. Information:

Inventory of items in the first aid kit.   Keep lists of emergency phone numbers including your dog’s veterinarian, an after-hours emergency hospital, Pet Poison helpline 855-764-7661 or ASPCA hotline at 888-426-4435.  Also keep a copy of your dog’s health/vaccination records and a list of dosages for your dog(s) for the medications that you carry in your kit (contact your veterinarian for these dosages).  Know your dog’s weight, normal heart rate, respiration rate, mucous membrane color and capillary refill time.  Carry a chart of these values in your kit.

2. Bandaging material etc.

Large and small gauze sponges, 2” roll gauze or kling, non-adherent sterile pads, Q-tips, adhesive tape (available at most pharmacies or your vet), “Vet Wrap” – a gauze wrap that clings and stretches (available from your vet, pet super stores, pet supply catalogs).  

3. Instruments, equipment

Mosquito forceps (available from you vet or some pet supply catalogs like Jeffers), scissors – especially a pair with blunt ends for removal of bandages, digital thermometer, 1cc, 5cc, 10cc, 20cc syringes, expired credit card (good to scrape away stingers), ear bulb syringe, penlight, nail clippers, cold/hot pack, latex/rubber gloves, muzzle, thermal blanket, clean towels, grooming clippers or safety razor, leash.

4. Medication etc.

3% hydrogen peroxide (USP), rubbing alcohol, sterile eye wash, sterile eye lubricant, water-based sterile lubricant, over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone cream, over-the-counter  diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Diphenhydramine is useful for allergic reactions, such as bee stings.  Hydrogen Peroxide is used to induce vomiting (talk to a vet before inducing vomiting and to know dosage)  Pepto-Bismol liquid can also be used in cases of diarrhea, but is also useful for mild vomiting.  Diarrhea  is a common occurrence:   products such as Pro-Pectalin or Endosorb can be useful for treating mild cases of diarrhea that occur on the road.  

Include the dosages of all medications  in a chart in your first aid kit.

A number of problems can be encountered on the trial field – ranging from mild diarrhea to life-threatening heat stroke or snakebite. Remember most emergencies situations have the potential to become worse if you don’t stop and think for a minute.  Keep yourself and your dog calm.   If you are prepared with a well-equipped first aid kit and a guide of what to do, you may be able to avoid tragedy.


Kate holds a PhD in Statistics, 1982, but always wanted to be a vet. She went on to vet school in 1989 and graduated in 1993. She spent part of her career in private veterinary practice and in the pharmaceutical industry, and has been herding since 1995!

Kate and her gang

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