By Mary Oquendo
In the 15 years I have been grooming, one thing I learned is that accidents can and do happen. We do not plan them, but we work with live animals. Being prepared to perform first aid promptly will reduce the pet’s pain and speed healing.
First aid is the prompt care of wounds prior to any necessary veterinary treatment. In a situation such as a grooming injury, first aid is not practicing veterinary medicine any more than addressing a scraped elbow is practicing medicine. But, as pets are considered property, you do need to have the owner’s permission to do so. A signed waiver to perform first aid as well as a veterinary release should be on file for all clients.
After an injury, the first step is to calm down and take a deep breath. When one is scared, adrenaline rushes to the brain, basically making it inoperable. Adrenaline is responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze syndrome necessary for survival during emergencies. You act on instinct rather than thinking through your options. Breathing in deeply helps to force oxygen back into your brain, dissipating adrenaline. Movement, as in retrieving your first aid kit once the pet is secure, also reduces adrenaline.
For bleeding injuries, you will need the following from your kit:
• Muzzle: This pet is likely in pain and may bite.
• Wound rinse: Clean injuries heal faster. Appropriate choices include sterile saline solution (eyewash), chlorohexidine wound rinse, or Vetericyn™. Rinsing with tap, sterile, or bottled water will disrupt the salt balance of cells slowing healing. Hydrogen peroxide can damage healthy tissue, which slows healing, and cats cannot metabolize it. Alcohol stings and will cause more pain to the pet.
• Nonstick and regular gauze: Apply nonstick gauze to the wound itself. Regular gauze can disturb the scab when changing bandages.
• Antibiotic cream: Triple antibiotic cream should not be used on cats. Although it is a rare allergy, it may be fatal.
• Surgical glue: If you have been instructed in its proper usage. Used incorrectly, it can trap dirt and bacteria in the wound. Krazy glue™ is not labeled for use on wounds and as such does not need to use medically safe ingredients.
• Cotton and gauze rolls
• Vet wrap
• Gauze tape
• Blood clotting agent: such as ice, tea bags, or Hemastop™. I do not recommend blood clotting powders, as they sting.
Three common areas for injuries are the ears, eyes, and pads.
• Rinse the wound and use a blood-clotting agent or surgical glue, if necessary.
• Place a piece of sterile non-stick gauze over the wound and apply slight pressure, as well as gently squeezing the base of the ear. This pressure may stop the bleeding.
• You can apply antibiotic cream on the gauze.
• Cushion the ears by placing several pieces of regular gauze to both sides of the ear.
• Position the ear along side of the head. With a roll of gauze or cotton roll, wrap the ear to the head. It should be rolled as the gauze roll rests on the head, so that it will not be too tight or too loose. The uninjured ear should stick out with gauze on either side, so that the wrapping does not slide off the head (Fig. 1).
• Secure the ear with vet wrap or a Happy Hoodie. You want to restrict movement of the ear. If they shake their head with an unrestricted ear, any clotting will be undone.
• Use an e collar to prevent this pet from scratching at his head.
• Transport to vet.
Injured eyes have a short shelf life for full recovery. A better utilization of your time is to get to your veterinarian ASAP. The three things you can do is:
• Flush the eyes with sterile eyewash.
• Put an e-collar on them to prevent further injury.
• Call the veterinarian to inform them of your impending arrival.
If the injury to the pad is due to an ingrown nail, use caution if you decide to remove it. It may bleed profusely and will be very painful. This pet may bite.
• Rinse the wound and use a blood-clotting agent or surgical glue if necessary.
• Apply non-stick sterile gauze to the wound and then cushion with several pieces of regular gauze. Apply gentle direct pressure, as well as press the soft spot behind the large pad on the paw. You can apply antibiotic cream to the gauze (Fig. 2).
• Wrap the foot with rolled gauze. As with the ear injury, roll the gauze as it rests on the foot (Fig. 3).
• Wrap cotton roll over the gauze. This also will cushion the sore pad (Fig. 4).
• Use vet wrap to secure the gauze in place and keep it dry (Fig 5).
• Keep the weight off of the injured paw and transport to vet.
Inform the owners of any injuries, no matter how minor they seem to you. I have never lost a client due to an injury, but have gained many new clients of groomers who did not tell them of the injury. Call the veterinarian before you transport to give them time to prepare for your arrival, as well as bring the pet’s file that includes a signed veterinarian release. Without a signed release, the veterinarian may not be able to treat.
While you can’t always prevent an accident, you can always be prepared.