Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
It’s a Sunday afternoon, you’re in an RV park walking your dog when suddenly he cries out and starts limping. You quickly look down and are startled to see blood dripping slowly from one of his back paws. What do you do next?
Let’s stop this scenario right here and take a poll:
If you had a First Aid Kit for your pet, you would likely have all the things needed to help in this situation. For those of you who don’t, here are some suggestions on what you can do.
You can either buy a kit or make one for your pet. Many of the items in your own first aid kit (you have one, right?) can be included in the one for your pet. But I suggest you put one together or buy a first aid kit designated just for Fido or Kitty.
I use a cute Snoopy lunch box to hold my dogs’ items. Other containers you can use include a tackle box, or a clear sewing storage box. Purchased kits will not have all the items listed below, so if you buy a kit, you will need to add to it.
• Write or type a list with important numbers and keep the list in your pet first aid kit: local emergency clinic (this must change as you travel), poison control, your veterinarian.
• Copies of your pet’s medical records.
• Pet first aid book. Here’s one that covers both dogs and cats.
• Digital thermometer and petroleum jelly, to take your pet’s temperature.
• Muzzle, size appropriate for your pet. There are special muzzles for cats. Do NOT muzzle your pet if it is vomiting. These are to be used if your pet has been hurt and is lashing out in pain, to protect his caregivers, including you and your family.
• Spare leash and collar, in case you’ve had to cut off his regular collar and/or can’t take the time to find the ones you usually use.
• Absorbent gauze pads, for wounds.
• Cotton gauze roll, for wrapping wounds, or can be used as a makeshift muzzle.
• Clean towels. Use hand towels for padding. Larger ones can be used as a cat or small dog restraint (you can wrap the pet burrito-style).
• Self-adhering tape, for bandages. These are sometimes called Vet wrap or Petwrap. They are stretchy, and you must be careful to not wrap them too tightly around legs, possibly cutting off circulation.
• White bandage tape, for securing bandages.
• Hydrogen peroxide, 3%, to induce vomiting, ONLY if instructed to do so by your veterinarian or the poison control center. Be aware that inducing vomiting is NOT always the right thing to do with some ingested substances.
• Milk of Magnesia or Activated Charcoal, to absorb some poisons. Again, do NOT administer either of these except on the advice of your veterinarian or poison control center.
• Saline solution, for cleansing wounds. The saline solution sold for contact lenses can be used for this.
• Tongue depressors, to stabilize limbs on small or young pets.
• Antibiotic ointment, for minor scrapes or wounds. The kind you use for yourself is fine for your pets, as is the generic form.
• Non-latex disposable gloves, to protect your hands and to help prevent wound contamination.
• Blunt scissors, for cutting gauze and non-adhesive tape.
• Tweezers, to help remove stickers, etc.
• Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), to be given ONLY if a veterinarian tells you to administer it.
• Pepto-Bismol can sometimes be helpful for some causes of diarrhea, but be aware that it also contains subsalicylate, a form of aspirin. It should NOT be given to cats, and should not be used except on the advice of a veterinarian.
• Corn syrup, for diabetic pets or those with low blood sugar.
• Penlight or small flashlight, to look in ears or throats.
• Styptic powder or sticks (Kwik Stop), to help stop nails from bleeding.
• Needle-nosed pliers, to remove porcupine needles or fish hooks.
Back to your dog with the cut paw: First, check to see what cut his foot. If it’s glass, try to keep him from putting his foot down in case there is a piece embedded in the pad. If you can see what has caused the cut, try to remove it with the tweezers. If you saw a nail that he stepped on, store that info in your head to tell the vet later. Whatever it was, try to determine what caused the cut.
If you can get him back to your RV quickly, do so. Otherwise (hopefully you have your phone with you), call your traveling companion, if you have one, for help. After you removed whatever it was that caused the cut, apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth for at least three minutes. Then check to see if the bleeding has stopped. If it has, you can apply antibiotic ointment and a light bandage. You will STILL need to take him for evaluation by a veterinarian, as medications, such as antibiotics, may also be needed.
Lastly, don’t try to be a hero and treat your dog if you don’t know what you are doing. If you are the least bit unsure, follow the first step (ab0ve) and contact a veterinarian.
Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (Tootie, Chiquita, BooBoo, and Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner.