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How to Nurse an Ailing Dog

First-aid Kit for Dogs
Your dog needs a first-aid kit, too.
Your dog needs a first-aid kit, too.

Even if your dog isn't ailing, you should still have a first-aid kit available so you can treat him for basic medical problems at home. Ready-made first-aid kits are available at pet supply stores or through catalogs. However, you can also put one together yourself for less, using items from around the house.

Put the kit where you can find it easily and include your veterinarian's business card, along with the phone number for, and directions to, the nearest emergency clinic. You may also want to include the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center -- in North America, it's (888) 426-4435.

Check the kit every once in a while to make sure you aren't running low on any supplies and that everything is still usable -- some medications may expire or dry up over time.

The following items should be in a basic first-aid kit for dogs:

  • Activated charcoal (available at drugstores) for absorbing poisons
  • Adhesive tape to secure bandages
  • Antibacterial ointment or powder for cleaning wounds
  • Anti-diarrheal agent, such as Kaopectate
  • Blunt-tipped scissors to trim away hair from wounds and cut-bandaging material
  • Cotton balls and cotton swabs
  • Gauze pads and rolls to make bandages
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) to clean wounds
  • Laxative or antacid, such as milk of magnesia
  • Petroleum jelly to lubricate a thermometer or soothe sore paws
  • Needleless syringe for giving liquid medications
  • Plaster splint for broken limbs
  • Plastic eyedropper to administer liquid medications or eye drops
  • Latex gloves
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting
  • Tweezers

Other helpful items for your kit might be needle-nose pliers to remove porcupine quills or other items stuck in the mouth or throat, sanitary napkins to help stop heavy blood flow, and towels. For many of these items -- such as the anti-diarrheal agent, laxative or syrup of ipecac -- it's important to get advice from a vet before giving them to your dog. You may also want to include identifying and important medical information for your dog in case a petsitter needs to care for him.

No one likes to see their pet sick or injured, of course. But if you ever do find yourself with an ailing pooch on your hands, you'll know what to do.