As we are pet professionals, pet first aid kits are not optional. You will use it, even if it’s on yourself. Pre-packaged kits are a good starting point, but they may not contain what you really need. I found that out when I was hoping my brand new, still in cellophane wrap, 100-count pet first aid kit had a Band-Aid in it as I just sliced my finger. And while it did (75 of them to be precise), it was sorely lacking in other items.
My own pet first aid kit has evolved over the years and currently contains the following in alphabetical order:
- Activated charcoal is used to absorb ingested poisons. This is usually found in pill form. Any item in a kit that is intended for poisoning should NOT be used unless directed by a veterinarian.
- Antibiotic cream for wounds. Do not use triple antibiotic if you groom cats. While it is rare, cats may have an allergy to the combination of the three ingredients. If the cat has such an allergy, it is fatal.
- Antihistamine and safety pin for minor allergic reactions. Look specifically 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 or gums 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.
- Apps for smart phones. The first is Pet Poison Helpline or Pet Poison Hotline. There is a cost, but it will dial the number for you. As minutes matter in a poisoning, this is invaluable if you cannot reach a local veterinarian for instructions. The second is a veterinarian locator which are usually free. For mobile groomer, being able to locate a veterinarian quickly can be a lifesaver.
- Baking soda to absorb topical poisons or chemicals.
- Band-Aids for you. This will probably be your most replenished item.
- 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. They are a perfect size to cushion pad injuries on larger pets. 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 gauze pad on the wound and then place the cheaper gauze on top on it. The nonstick gauze will not remove the scab when it is time to replace the bandaging.
- Honey packets for hypoglycemic pets. Stress, seizures or 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 as the symptoms for hypoglycemia and ketone acidious (KA) can be similar. Giving honey to pet in KA can be fatal.
- Hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in a dog. As this is used for poisoning, consult a veterinarian first. Dosage will vary. If the substance is caustic, do not induce vomiting as it will burn the throat on its way out. You cannot use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in cats as they cannot metabolize it.
- Ice will constrict blood flow and slow bleeding. I do not keep ice in my pet first aid kit. Your client’s freezer or shop refrigerator would be your best bet.
- 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 on proper usage. In many states, using liquid bandage without veterinarian guidance is considered practicing veterinary medicine.
- Muzzles are a must. If you need to use your pet first aid kit, the pet is likely in pain, and 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, they can store smaller items for easy accessibility.
- Rubber gloves to protect you from any zoonotic diseases and also to collect vomit or fecal samples.
- SAM splints. These are good for any injury you want to keep immobile. They are also moldable and you can cut them to size.
- Sanitary napkins will absorb blood.
- Squirt bottle to deliver hydrogen peroxide down the throat of a dog.
- Styptic powder for use on nails only since it can sting when it touches a wound. In addition, styptic powder is not sterile and you may introduce bacteria into the wound.
- Tea bags containing tannic acid. This is effective in stopping bleeding. While sugar is effective, I do not recommend it because the pet may be pre/or 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. Vet wrap needs to be removed on a daily basis as it self-tightens and cuts off blood supply.
- Wound cleanser. You have several options. The first is sterile saline solution, also known as eyewash. The second is a Chlorohexidine-based cleanser which is easy to find. My personal choice is 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 and it disrupts the salt balance of the cells and slows healing.
Many of these items have expiration dates and should be checked periodically. If you still want to go with a pre-packaged pet first aid kit, my recommendation is to go to www.Curicyn.com and order one of theirs. PawsEd20 will get you 20% off.
Treating injuries quickly results in faster healing with less pain. It may also reduce veterinary costs, a win-win for everyone involved. ✂️