Pet First Aid Kits

By Mary Oquendo

We all have a couple of grooming clients we will remember forever. Some clients are reminisced with fondness, others not quite so affectionately. Casey falls somewhere in the middle. She was an adorable, well-behaved Golden Retriever who inspired my love of the breed. Casey would rest her head on my shoulder during grooming and just loved to give kisses. She was also my first grooming accident. Casey licked my scissors while I was trimming up her feet. Tongues bleed. A lot. My grooming manager pulled out the pet first aid kit and thankfully took over.

I learned two things that day: the importance of knowing where your scissors are in relation to the pet’s body and of having a pet first aid kit. My own pet first aid kit has evolved over the years and currently contains the following:

Activated charcoal is used to absorb ingested poisons. In my kit, any item that is intended for poisoning will NOT be used unless directed by a veterinarian. Protocols vary, and what will help in one instance can cause harm in another.

Antibiotic cream for wounds. I do not use triple antibiotic, as I groom cats. While it is rare, cats may have an allergy to such products. The combination of the three ingredients may cause a fatal reaction in some cats. I prefer to use all-natural products, but most contain essential oils and botanicals. I do not rely on manufacturer’s pet safe labeling. There is no regulatory agency that oversees such labeling. It is up to the manufacturer to determine its safety. Instead I look for complete disclosure on the label and research the individual ingredients.

Antihistamine and safety pin for minor allergic reactions. I specifically look for diphenhydramine gels with a liquid center. The safety pin is used to puncture the gel cap and squirt the liquid directly onto the tongue of the pet. It is the fastest way for an anaphylactic pet to absorb the antihistamine. Consult a veterinarian for proper dosing. Not all pets can safely use antihistamines, as it may interfere with other medications and medical conditions.

Baking soda to absorb topical poisons or chemicals.

Band-aids for myself. This is the one item that is replenished on a regular basis.

Bandanas have multiple uses. They replace triangular bandages and can be used as slings to take the weight off of an injured limb.

Expired gift cards are always saved. They are a perfect size to cushion pad injuries on larger pets. I place gauze on both sides of the card and securely wrap the cards and gauze to the paw with vet wrap. In addition, the cards can flick out bee stingers. Place the card at the base of the stinger where it meets the skin and lift up and out.

Eyewash serves double duty. It can be used to flush out both eyes and wounds.

Gauze comes in three varieties: gauze roll, gauze pads, and nonstick gauze pads. The gauze roll is wider and is good for larger wounds. The nonstick gauze is more expensive, but I will use it as the first pad on the wound and then place the cheaper gauze on top of it. The nonstick gauze will not remove the scab when it is time to replace the bandaging. Pawflex makes a nonstick bandage designed for dogs.

Honey packets for hypoglycemic pets. Stress, seizures, as well as an owner giving a pet too much insulin can result in low blood sugar. This is a serious condition that may result in the death of the pet. Signs include listlessness, staggering, tremors, muscle weakness, and seizures. Do not give the pet honey unless directed by a veterinarian.

Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in a dog. As this is used for poisoning, consult a veterinarian first. Dosage will vary. Vomiting is not a given for poisoning. If it is caustic, it will burn the throat on its way out. You cannot use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in cats. Cats cannot metabolize hydrogen peroxide.

Ice will constrict blood flow and slow bleeding. I do not keep ice in my pet first aid kit. Most people keep ice in a freezer, unless, of course, you are my husband. Ask me about that if you see me at a trade show.

Liquid bandage is an asset if you know how to use it properly. Used incorrectly, it can damage surrounding tissue, as well as trap bacteria in the wound. Your veterinarian can instruct you in proper usage. I do not use superglue. It is not manufactured for medical use, and as such, the manufacturer can change ingredients and formulation without consideration for safety on wounds.

Muzzles are a must. If you need to use your pet first aid kit, this pet is likely in pain. Any pet that is in pain is a bite risk.

Plastic baggies to collect a vomit or fecal sample. This may be necessary if the pet has been poisoned and you are unsure of what was ingested. When not in use, it can store smaller items for easy accessibility.

Rubber gloves to protect you from any zoonotic and also to collect vomit or fecal samples.

Sanitary napkins will absorb blood.

Squirt bottle to deliver hydrogen peroxide down the throat of a dog.

Styptic powder for use on nails only. It stings, and this pet is already in pain. In addition, styptic powder is not sterile, and you may introduce bacteria into the wound.

Tea bags contain tannic acid. It is effective in stopping bleeding. In Casey’s situation, we used sugar. While sugar is effective, I do not recommend it, because the pet may be diabetic.

Vet wrap is wonderful. It keeps the wound secure and dry. Vet wrap is also expensive. The human counterpart, which is the exact same thing, is a fraction of the cost.

Wound cleanser. You have several options. The first is sterile saline solution, also known as eyewash. The second is a chlorohexidine-based cleanser. This is easy to find. Almost any store that sells first aid items carries it.

The third is my personal choice. I use Vetericyn products. Do not use hydrogen peroxide, as it degrades surrounding tissue and cats cannot metabolize it. Do not use alcohol, as it stings. Do not use sterile, tap, or bottled water, as it disrupts the salt balance of the cells and slows healing.

Many of these items have expiration dates and should be checked periodically.

Because we treated Casey promptly, her wound healed quickly. As a result, Casey was in less pain. The hardest part was telling Casey’s mom what happened. Casey’s mom shrugged it off, telling us that it was an ongoing problem, as Casey loved to steal her sewing scissors. That brings me to the third thing I learned that day. When I ask the owner if there are any conditions I should be aware of and the owner cannot think of anything, I offer a couple of medical AND behavioral possibilities.

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