With spring in full swing, people's thoughts are turning to outdoor activities. If you are like me, you might be thinking about spring cattle working, long overdue fence fixing, trail rides and equine competitions of every type. It is a good idea to also be thinking about putting together a basic first aid kit for animals and keeping it in an easily accessible location in case it becomes necessary. First aid kits can be purchased at some farm supply stores and equine tack shops, but they are very limited as to what supplies are in them and typically very pricey.
Assembling a good first aid kit in advance of a situation can be the difference between a minor or major emergency. It really doesn't matter if you are designing a kit for horses or cattle the basics are still the same. In Table 1, you will see a list of the minimum basics you should have in an easy-to-carry box.
It is a good idea to go over the list of supplies with your veterinarian and to review any procedure you think you might want to try to perform on your own. Establishing a protocol of what should be done and when to do it with your veterinarian can help you know how to react in times of crisis, and it will help the vet know how serious the emergency is when you call him.
Also, if you are not sure how to take the vital signs of the animal (Table 2), ask your vet to demonstrate how to do this. The vital signs are the first indicator that your animal may not be doing well, if the problem is not trauma-induced. Additionally, you can report these to your veterinarian when you call so he has an indication of what is going on.
In general, a well-thought-out plan for an emergency is like having good insurance you hope you never have to use it, but, when you do, you are glad you have it.
*Table 2 is adapted from http://www.bayerequineconnection.com/Main/General_Care/emergency_care.cfm