A couple of years back, I was finishing up Charlie Bear, a rather large, thick-coated, well-behaved Golden Retriever. He is groomed every six weeks in a short puppy cut. In addition to skin issues, Charlie suffers from chronic ear infections.
I was trimming up his rear hocks when I noticed a drop of blood on my shoulder. I looked up. There was blood on the ceiling. I looked around. There was blood on the walls and blood on the floor. My mobile grooming van looked like an episode of CSI. After the initial shock wore off, I noticed I trimmed too close to the ear leather. Charlie was bleeding profusely and shaking his head, splattering blood everywhere. I assumed Charlie’s head shaking was because of his ear infection. Had I paid attention, my van might not have been quite so messy. My focus went from finishing the groom to applying first aid to Charlie.
First aid is the prompt care of wounds prior to any necessary veterinary treatment. This immediate intervention will speed healing and reduce pain for the pet. In a situation such as this, first aid is not practicing veterinary medicine any more than addressing a scraped knee 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.
The first step I needed to take was to calm down and take a deep breath. Adrenaline is responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze syndrome necessary for survival during catastrophic events. (I was most definitely traumatized.) You act on instinct rather than thinking through your options. Breathing in deeply helps to force oxygen back into your brain, dissipating adrenaline. Movement also reduces adrenaline.
After I ascertained that Charlie was secure, I retrieved my first aid kit, which hangs near the cab of the van. If I had needed to leave Charlie, I would have either taken him off the table or had someone stand next to him.
(I would like to thank my veterinarian, Dr. Andrew Pickerstein of VCA Northside Animal Hospital in Danbury, CT (www.northsidect.com), and Ricky for being such good sports.
(Photo 1) The supplies I need for Charlie’s wound includes wound rinse, antibiotic, gauze pads, gauze roll, and vet wrap.
I muzzled Charlie even though he is a good boy. He was in pain and may have instinctually bitten me, when I handled his painful ear. I rinsed the ear with a wound cleanser such as Vetericyn, Chlorohexidine-based wound rinse, or a sterile saline solution. Chlorohexidine wound rinses are commonly found in most first aid aisles of supermarkets and box stores. Read the active ingredient list on the label. (Note: Sterile saline solution, also known as eyewash, is a one-time use product. Once opened, it is no longer sterile.
Exercise caution with surgical glues. Krazy Glue is not surgical glue. There is a right and a wrong way to use them. Used improperly, glue can damage surrounding tissue and trap bacteria in the wound. If you plan on having surgical glue in your first aid kit, have your veterinarian show you the right way to use it.
DO NOT USE:
- Tap, sterile, or bottled water. Water disrupts the normal salt balance of cells, which slows down healing.
- Hydrogen peroxide. It damages surrounding healthy tissue, which slows down healing.
- Alcohol or styptic powder, because it hurts. The pet is already in pain.
Apply antibiotic cream to a non-stick gauze pad and place on the wound. Triple antibiotic is good for dogs but not cats. While it is a rare allergy for cats, allergies to triple antibiotics are fatal. I use more expensive non-stick gauze pads directly on the wound so that the scab is not disturbed when a veterinarian or owner removes the bandage.
Place the ear on top of the head to secure in place. Ear injuries are bothersome to the pet. They will shake their heads, causing the wound to open up and bleed if left unsecured.
(Photo 2) Cushion both sides of the ear with regular (cheap) gauze.
(Photo 3) Wrap the ear to the head using the gauze roll.
Notice the uninjured ear is sticking out. Wrap the gauze in front of and in back of that ear. It will help keep the gauze in place so it does not slip off if Charlie shakes his head.
(Photo 4) Cover the cotton roll with vet wrap for extra durability. Vet wrap labeling significantly increases the price. I use the people version for a fraction of the cost.
If I do not have either cotton roll or vet wrap, another option is to cover the ear with a Happy Hoodie to keep Charlie from scratching the wound and undoing all of my work. I could use other materials such as stockings or tube socks with an end cut off. Anything that will keep the ear secure to the top of the head will work.
(Photo 5) Since it was a significant wound, Charlie went to a veterinarian. The veterinarian also placed a cone around his head.
Was Charlie Bear’s mom happy that I cut his ear? No, but she was understanding. We work with live animals. Accidents happen. She was impressed with the way I handled his injury. I have never lost a client because of an injury, as I am always honest with the client. I have, however, acquired clients when their former groomer neglected to tell them or tried to hide an injury from them.”