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No Pet First Aid Kit? No Problem! Use These Mutt-gyver Tricks

By Arden Moore, Pet Health and Safety Coach

As pet professionals, you count on the valuable items inside a pet first aid kit. You can reach with confidence for the tick-removal comb to pluck out this parasite on a dog’s back, antibiotic ointment to tend to a minor wound, as well as splints and triangular bandages to stabilize a sprained or broken leg.

But the reality is that a fully stocked pet first aid kit is not always available when a pet gets injured. Or the kit inside the boarding facility is missing must-have items that were not replaced. That’s why it is paramount to get creative when a dog or cat under your care gets injured, so you can stabilize him for transport to the nearest veterinary clinic for medical care.

A fully stocked pet first aid kit is rarely available on a neighborhood walk, during a visit to a dog-friendly beach, at a dog park, a camping trip, or at a pet event. And, unfortunately, pets do not live in protective bubbles – accidents and injuries do occur.

And that’s why I created the “Mutt-gyver” program. As a master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor and founder of Pet First Aid 4U, I travel the country with my dog-cat teaching team of Kona and Casey to teach hands-on, veterinarian-approved pet first aid to pet professionals and pet parents. My mission is to help you know what to do and use in a pet emergency when minutes count.

Just like the hero in the 1980s original MacGyver television show (and the new one now airing on CBS), the goal of being a Mutt-gyver for pets centers on using everyday items in creative but effective ways as pet first aid tools.

Here is a rundown of some items you can use when a pet first aid kit is not handy:

  • Unused doggie plastic poop bags. These “deposit-collectors” offer a multitude of uses. You can roll a bag lengthwise and use it as a temporary muzzle on an injured small dog. You can shape it into a bowl and use it as a makeshift water bowl or paw dipper to cool down a hot dog on a long walk on hot days. If you are wearing a baseball cap, consider using it as a water bowl.
  • Shoelaces and socks. And hair ties. Yep, these clothing items do have other purposes. Shoelaces can double as temporary restraint muzzles on small dogs, to hold a splint or wound wrap on a paw in place. Your sock can serve as a makeshift wound wrap for a bloody or cut paw held in place – you guessed it – with a shoelace or a hair tie.
  • Bottled water. Chances are good that you carry a water bottle with you or one is within reach inside your boarding facility or home. The full, unopened water bottle can act as a temporary splint on a leg sprain or break (tied into place with shoelaces or the stringy tie from a hooded sweatshirt). You can also use the water from the bottle to rinse a cut or abrasion. Paint stir sticks and emery boards also make for effective temporary leg splints. Use a rolled-up magazine or folded newspaper sections as cushions for leg splints.
  • Credit care or driver’s license. If you spot the stinger of a wasp or bee in a pet’s skin, resist using tweezers or your finger nails to attempt to remove it. You risk rupturing the venom sac and spreading the toxins in the pet’s body. A safer and more effective removal method calls for taking the edge of a credit care or driver’s license and scrapping it like a spatula to lift out the stinger. A dab of moistened baking soda on a minor sting can take out the ouchy.
  • Hand-size seashells. Dog-friendly beaches can harbor jellyfish in the waters. If your dog gets stung, avoid getting stung yourself. Scrape off the jellyfish tentacles from the dog’s skin using a credit card or a medium-sized seashell you can cup in your hand. Always rinse the jellyfish sting site using salt water and never fresh water.
  • Aloe plant. Aloe vera can be your pet first aid “pal-o” on hikes or in the house if you have this plant. The gel from the leaves can be applied to ease minor burns and insect stings. However, never use the white sap (latex) from the aloe plant on a dog or cat because that sap is toxic to your pets.
  • Ikea blue shopping bags. If there is an Ikea store in your area, buy a couple of the blue plastic shopping bags. Keep one in your vehicle and one in your home. They fold up into a small size. These durable bags cost about $1 apiece and work as makeshift gurneys to transport a large injured dog. Simply cut off the front and back ends of the bag. The plastic lined bag does not rip and easily glides on all surfaces, especially carpet and rugs. This is far better than large bath towels that tend to drag on carpeted surfaces.
  • Bath towels and laundry baskets. If you need to take an injured but angry cat to the veterinarian, you can wrap him in a thick bath towel and place him in the top side of a pet carrier (far easier than trying to coax him into the front door of the carrier). If you don’t have a pet carrier handy, you can place a rectangular or circular empty laundry basket over the cat. Slide a thin board or thick cardboard underneath, gently turn over the laundry basket and you have created a Mutt-gyver cat carrier.

Do you have a Mutt-gyver tip? Please share! The main tip is to remain calm during a pet emergency. Focus on the present moment and pay attention to your surroundings as you are the most important being to keep safe. Enrolling in a pet first aid/CPR class is one of the best ways to truly be a health ally for your pets and those under your care.

Arden Moore is the Pet Health and Safety Coach. She is the founder of Pet First Aid 4U, the creator of the instructors’ program for Pro Pet Hero, the host of the award-winning Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio, and the author of 26 dog and cat books. She happily shares her Dallas home with dogs Kona, Bujeau, and Cleo, and cats Casey and Mikey. Learn more at

..AND Arden presented at the Sixth Annual IBPSA Pet Care Services Educational Conference & Trade Show!  Ready to go to the 2022 FLOW Conference? Get the details at