A pet first aid kit is not an optional item. You will use it, even if it’s on yourself. They do evolve over time as new products make their way to the market. This is a suggested list, as well as how to use each item.
My own pet first aid kit has evolved over the years and currently contains the following.
- Activated charcoal is used to absorb ingested poisons. Any item in a kit that is intended for poisoning should 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. 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. If you use natural products, ensure there are no essential oils if you groom cats as well. The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists have put out new guidelines that state essential oils should not be used in any form around cats.
- 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 to 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.
- Two apps for smart phones. The first is Pet Poison Helpline or pet Poison Hotline. There is a cost, but 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. They are usually free. As mobile groomers are all over the place, 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 pad on the wound and then place the cheaper gauze on top on it. The nonstick gauze will remove the scab when it is time to replace the bandaging.
- 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. If you are mobile, your clients freezer would be your go to.
- 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. 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 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.
Treating injuries quickly result in faster healing with less pain. It may also reduce veterinary costs. Win –win for all.