With spring just around the corner, it's the perfect time to start planning outdoor adventures with your furry friend. Hiking is a great way to explore the beauty of nature, but it's important to remember that unexpected accidents can happen. To ensure the safety and well-being of your dog, it's essential to have a well-stocked first aid kit with you on the trails.
Your dog can get stung by a bee, stumble over a rock and injure its paw, or cut its pad on a sharp branch. From basic essentials like bandages and antiseptics to emergency supplies, being prepared can make all the difference.
What First Aid Components Can Make a Good Kit for Dogs?
In any emergency, it's vital to have the right tools on hand to help your dog. Suppose you're looking for high-quality kit components that will last you through years of use; below are some you should consider.
- Gauze. Absorbent material for covering wounds.
- Adhesive tape. For securing dressings and bandages in place.
- Swabs. For cleaning and applying medication to wounds.
- Ice pack. It reduces swelling and pain.
- Scissors/ knife. Used for cutting bandages, gauze, or other materials.
- Gloves. It's crucial for protecting the handler and preventing infection.
- Alcohol wipes. It helps in sanitizing and disinfecting injuries.
- Saline. Useful for flushing out wounds or cleaning eyes.
- Tweezers. It helps in removing ticks or other debris from the skin.
- Splint. For immobilizing injured limbs or broken bones.
- Polysporin/ antibiotic ointment. This prevents infection and promotes healing.
- Water-proof bag. To protect the contents of the first aid kit from water damage.
How to Clean Wounds
You need to start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Also, make sure to wear protective gloves to prevent infection.
Suppose you have a towel or shirt you don't mind getting dirty; use it to help protect your dog's hair from coming into contact with the wound. Then, after applying pressure to stop any bleeding, gently wipe any dirt or debris from the wound. If there's any dried blood on top, gently rinse it off with warm water before drying it off with a clean towel.
Afterward, keep an eye on your dog's wounds because they may become infected if left untreated. If your pet has an open cut or gash on their skin, then they're at risk of developing further infection. Make sure to get them to a vet as soon as you can If the wound continues to bleed.
Steps to Stop and Protect Bleeding Wounds
This helps in preventing infections and promoting healing. Below is a simple procedure to stop bleeding and protect wounds.
1. Apply Pressure
Using a clean cloth, apply firm pressure to the wound to help stop the bleeding. Hold the cloth against the wound for at least 5-10 minutes to allow the blood to clot.
2. Elevate the Affected Area
Suppose the wound is on a limb; elevate the affected area above the heart to reduce blood flow and help stop bleeding.
3. Apply a Bandage
Once the bleeding has stopped, apply a sterile bandage to the wound to prevent further injury and keep it clean. Ensure the bandage isn't too tight - to allow blood flow.
4. Change the Bandage Regularly
Do it at least once a day to ensure the wound is clean and dry. Clean the wound by washing it with soap and water or using an antiseptic solution to prevent infection.
5. Avoid Picking at Scabs
When the injury is healing, avoid picking at scabs or removing them prematurely. This can reopen the wound and delay healing. Once you get home, you may even have to bring out the old cone of shame to help keep your pup from getting to the area.
How to Remove Slivers or Other Debris from Dog's Skin and Paws
The method of removing slivers depends on how deep it is and how close it is to the surface.
Suppose the slivers are close to the surface; use tweezers to pull them out. Ensure the tweezers are clean and sanitary.
To use tweezers;
First, put them in warm water, so they are sterilized.
Then gently slide them under the skin, so they are directly over the sliver. Squeeze tightly and pull out slowly until the entire length of the sliver has been removed from under your dog's skin.
If you see any bleeding, apply pressure by holding a washcloth until it stops bleeding.
If your dog is bitten by a snake, it's important to act quickly and seek medical attention immediately. Call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital as soon as possible, and inform them of the situation. In the meantime, keep your dog calm and still, and do not attempt to remove the venom yourself. This can cause the venom to spread more quickly throughout your dog's body.
If possible, try to identify the type of snake that bit your dog, as this can help your veterinarian determine the best course of treatment. Remember, time is of the essence in a snake bite emergency, so don't hesitate to seek professional help right away.
If you are out hiking with your dog and do not have any first aid supplies on hand, you can use whatever materials you have available to improvise a temporary solution. For example, you can wrap the injured nail with a clean cloth or bandana to help stop the bleeding.
If you don't have any styptic powder or cornstarch, you can use flour or baking soda as a substitute. Once you're back at your vehicle or home, make sure to clean and properly treat the injury as soon as possible. If you are unable to control the bleeding or if the injury appears to be severe, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
If your dog is stung by a bee, the first step is to remove the stinger as soon as possible. You can use a credit card or the edge of a knife to gently scrape the stinger out, being careful not to squeeze it as this can release more venom. Next, clean the area with soap and water and apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling.
If you can't get to a vet right away, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind if your dog is stung by a bee. Keep an eye on your dog for signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swelling in the face or throat. If these symptoms occur, seek emergency veterinary care immediately.
You can also give your dog a dose of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) to help relieve symptoms, but be sure to consult with your veterinarian first to determine the correct dosage for your dog's weight. Finally, monitor your dog's behavior and appetite closely in the days following the sting, as some dogs may experience a delayed reaction.
Ingested a Toxic Plant
If your dog has eaten a toxic plant while hiking, they may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite or refusal to eat
- Lethargy or weakness
- Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Seizures or tremors
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty breathing or respiratory distress
If you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxic plant, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately. Try to identify the plant that your dog has eaten, and bring a sample with you to the veterinarian if possible. This can help the veterinarian determine the best course of treatment for your dog. Remember, prevention is key, so make sure to keep a close eye on your dog and avoid letting them eat anything they find on the trail.
Watch Out for Foxtails!
Foxtails are a type of grass seed that can be dangerous for dogs during hikes and outdoor activities. The seeds can easily become lodged in a dog's fur, paws, or ears, and can cause a range of health problems, including infections and abscesses. Signs that your dog may have a foxtail lodged in their body include excessive licking or chewing, pawing at their ears, or shaking their head.
If you suspect that your dog has a foxtail, it's important to seek veterinary care immediately. To learn more about how to prevent and treat foxtails in dogs, check out our comprehensive guide to foxtails and dogs.
Dehydration is a serious concern for dogs, especially during outdoor activities like hiking. Dogs can become dehydrated when they lose more water and electrolytes than they take in, either through excessive sweating or panting. Signs of dehydration in dogs include dry mouth and gums, sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, and dark yellow or orange urine.
If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, offer them water and shade immediately. In severe cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary, so it's important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. To prevent dehydration, make sure to bring plenty of water for your dog on hikes and encourage them to take frequent breaks and rest in shaded areas.
To read more about dog dehydration and heatstroke, you can read here.
Things in Your Human First-Aid Kit That You CAN'T Share with Your Canine
Certain medications, such as pain relievers or allergy medications safe for humans, can be harmful to dogs.
Bug spray and sunscreen formulated for human use may contain ingredients toxic to dogs supposedly ingested or absorbed through the skin.
Creams or oils, for instance, muscle rubs or essential oils, may be harmful to dogs if they lick or ingest them.
How to Avoid Issues While on the Trail
Going on a hike can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's important to prepare to avoid any potential issues.
1. Plan Ahead
Do research about the area you will be hiking in and plan your route. Ensure you have a map, compass, and any necessary permits or reservations.
2. Check the Weather
Check the weather to prepare for any changes. Carry appropriate clothing and gear, such as rain jackets or extra layers.
3. Pack the Essentials
Ensure you carry plenty of water, snacks, and a first-aid kit. It's also a good idea to bring a whistle, a flashlight, and a multi-tool.
4. Leave No Trace
Exercise “leave no trace” principles by packing out trash and leaving the area as you found it. Respect wildlife and avoid disturbing their natural behavior.
5. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
Keep an eye out for potential hazards like steep drop-offs, loose rocks, or slippery surfaces.
6. Stay on Schedule
Ensure that you allow enough time to complete your hike before sunset. If you're hiking with a group, make sure everyone is keeping pace and taking breaks as needed. Share your schedule with loved ones at home so they can be watching the clock as well.
7. Charge your Fi collar
Before heading out on a hike with your dog, it's important to make sure that their Fi collar is fully charged. The Fi collar uses GPS technology to track your dog's location and activity, and a low battery can compromise its effectiveness.
8. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Know the location of the nearest hospital or emergency services. Make sure someone knows your route and expected return time.
Now you have a good idea of what your basic hiking dog first aid kit should consist of. You're one step closer to coming to the trails prepared. Remember, preparation is key before heading out into the unknown, and your dog deserves no less.
Although, if you are like me and would prefer to purchase a first aid kit for your dog, we suggest this one: Adventure Medical Kits Adventure Dog Series Trail Dog First Aid Kit for Dogs
Preparing for a hike before you hit the trail can mean the difference between your dog being safe or in danger.