While trips to the vet’s office are important and necessary, there may be a time when you have to take immediate action in order to help save the life of your pet. Taking your pet to an animal hospital at the first sign of an injury or illness is always the best way to ensure your pet’s safety, but in a situation where you cannot get your pet in to a hospital, there are actions you can take as a pet owner to help them in an emergency situation. There are also basic at-home care techniques you can use to keep your pet healthy for the long run and save your pocket book a lot of cash.  In the end, you’ll be happier, your pet will be healthier, and we will maximize as much cuddle time as possible with our furry family member.


We recommend identifying common first aid items you may already have in your home that could help mitigate any health issues your pet may experience. Below are five suggested first aid and at-home care tips for your pet:

 1.      Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.  If your dog eats something toxic, hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting at home if necessary. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian or call the Animal Poison Control Center, 1-888-426-4435, to ensure it’s the best option for your pet. If directed to induce vomiting, the dose of hydrogen peroxide needed is ½ to 1 cc per pound of body weight of your pet (to a maximum dosage of about 45cc’s/dog). For example, a dog that weighs 20 lbs would need 10-20 cc’s of hydrogen peroxide and can be fed through a syringe. If this doesn’t work, you can repeat the dose one more time, 15 minutes later.

 2.      Benadryl for stings. Benadryl can be used for swelling if a bee stings your pet. Each tablet is made up of 25 mg. The usual dose is 1 mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight of your pet. For example, for a dog weighing 25 pounds, one tablet is needed. However, if your pet’s weight falls in between these measurements, round down to the nearest half tablet. A dog that weighs 40 pounds would therefore need 1½ tablets (37.5 mg.). If swelling continues or your pet is showing any signs of weakness or respiratory difficulty, go immediately to the nearest animal hospital.

 3.      Invest in a hair clipper. For a localized skin infection or wound, use a good pair of hair clippers to shave all of the hair from around the area. The hair tends to trap bacteria and pus and keeps wounds and hot spots from healing. It’s very important to not use scissors to cut any hair; it’s unsafe and can hurt your pet. Once the hair is removed, clean the area with an antiseptic cleanser like betadine or chlorhexadine (found at your local drug store). A hair shaver can also be used to shave mats of hair, which can be painful for your pet.

 4.      Brush their teeth every day.  A professional tooth cleaning with dental X-rays should be done every two years, but tooth brushing should be done every single day. While this can be a challenge, it can save money and reduce the risks of more frequent dental procedures and rotten teeth in the future. First, make sure to use toothpaste specifically for dogs.  They come in great flavors like beef and seafood. Start by introducing them to the product by letting them taste it and let them think it’s a treat. Then with a toothbrush, start gently rubbing their gums and front teeth. Later move on to their back teeth. A small amount of brushing daily goes a long way.

 5.      Practice weight management. A way to save money in the long run and help your pet live longer is to keep them trim. Dogs at the ideal weight have been shown to live two to three years longer than those who are overweight, plus they require less trips to the vet, less medication, and have less arthritis.  What this will mean for your pet is a better quality of life as they age.  What this means for you is a happier, more active family member, and less money spent on vet bills, medications, and dog food!

Remember there is no substitution for professional help, but by being aware of what you can do for your pet at home will not only keep them healthier, it can also save their life. Also, instilling healthy practices in your pet’s routine can not only save money but also ensure your companion stays happy, healthy and lives a long, exciting life.

Dr. Brian Evans, DVM, is the founder of Coastal Animal Hospital in Encinitas, Calif. He earned his undergraduate and veterinary degrees from the University of California, Davis. Coastal Animal Hospital provides personalized care for pets from their first visit to their final moments. Learn more at www.sdcoastalanimal.com