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Musts for the First Aid Kit

Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page M08

It's easy to lose your head in an emergency. But even though you can't prevent your dog or cat from choking on a chew toy or getting into a fight, you can at least be prepared for minor catastrophes with a well-stocked pet first aid kit. Here are a few items worth keeping on hand for everyday situations your four-legged friend might get into. The best part? Some are probably already in your medicine cabinet. (As always, be sure to call your vet or pet hospital before administering any treatment, especially medication.)

1 Antibiotic ointment

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The occasional tree-branch scrape isn't life-threatening, but infected cuts and burns can turn into dangerous abscesses. Ray Phillip, a veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, recommends an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to disinfect the area and help scrapes heal more quickly. Betadine, Bacitracin or an iodine prep solution will also work. If you prefer an animal-specific treatment, try Biocaine; it contains lidocaine to ease pain, and its bitter taste helps discourage pets from licking cuts, which delays healing.

2 Bandages

More serious injuries require more serious materials. Gauze pads, used for covering and cushioning wounds, are essential for bigger cuts and punctures (get four-inch squares, which can be cut down to the appropriate size). Secure the pad with an outside adhesive; a nonstick, cloth medical tape, such as Dermicel, will keep the gauze in place. Or, for a pet-proven solution, Lynne Bettinger, a certified pet first aid instructor from the Red Cross's Alexandria chapter, recommends Vet Wrap, a flexible Ace Bandage-like material that sticks to itself but not to your pet's fur.

3 Benadryl

Pets can get nasty allergic reactions from bee stings, insect bites or even just sniffing certain flowers. Benadryl can help with one of the most common symptoms of such reactions: swelling. Janice Baxter, a veterinarian at Alexandria Animal Hospital, suggests keeping tablets on hand. Just be sure to use plain Benadryl, without any additions like sinus medication. As it does with humans, Benadryl can cause drowsiness, interact with other medications and prove dangerous to animals with certain diseases, so be sure to ask your vet if it's appropriate before using it.

4 Purgatives

Swallowing one Tylenol caplet might not seem like a big deal to you, but it can be deadly to a cat. For this and other instances when your pet has swallowed something he shouldn't have, Phillip recommends keeping ipecac syrup or hydrogen peroxide on hand -- both induce vomiting. Administer orally with a dropper or spoon. Lauren Silva

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