First Aid for Dog Groomers
First aid is an essential skill for all groomers, but it can feel a bit daunting. Working around animals with scissors, water, and electrical equipment on a daily basis means you have to know what to do when something goes wrong! Accidents can happen, even with the strictest safety protocols in place. So, it helps to be prepared. This means knowing in advance how to respond, and also having the equipment at hand to do so. Here’s all you need to know about dog grooming first aid!
Be Prepared for a Dog Grooming Injury
Attend a dog grooming first aid course.
There are many grooming first aid courses on offer, including some available online. It is important to keep your knowledge up to date, so refresher courses are important too. When choosing a course, look for nationally recognised providers. If you choose an online course, videos are key! First aid can be very hard to master without someone showing you how.
Have a first aid kit ready.
Having a well-stocked first aid kit to hand, alongside your dog groomer kit, is essential. Things to include in your dog groomer’s first aid kit:
- Bandages: some cohesive bandage (meaning it sticks to itself, such as Vet Wrap) and some open weave/conforming bandage;
- Sterile wound dressings and / or spray on plaster;
- Surgical tape;
- Haemostatic powder or pen (to stop bleeding);
- Disinfectant wipes;
- Saline pods or salt to make your own (mix one teaspoon of salt with a pint of water);
- Antibacterial spray or cream;
- Sterile eye wash;
- Cotton pads / swabs;
- Foil blanket;
- Instant cool pack;
- Curved round ended scissors;
- Latex or rubber gloves;
Have your vet’s phone number laminated and next to the phone.
And just as importantly, know when to use it. Remember, you are allowed to administer first aid to prevent further damage or pain, but only as a temporary measure whilst veterinary attention is sought. If you aren’t sure whether an injury is minor and can be treated at home, call your vet surgery for advice, or advise the owners to do so.
Possible Dog Grooming Injuries
With the greatest skill in the world, dogs and cats can be unpredictable. They do fidget and accidents can happen. The most important thing is to stay calm and assess the injury first. Keep your safety in mind, as scared or injured animals may well react out of character and snap or bite. It may be sensible in some situations to pop a muzzle on before attempting to administer first aid. If you cannot safely administer first aid, then don’t. Call your vet surgery for advice.
Clipper Cuts and Nicks.
Accidentally caught the dog or cat’s skin with your grooming clippers or scissors? Here’s what to do:
- If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure with a cotton swab or gauze for a few minutes. Resist the temptation to keep checking if it is still bleeding! Every time you move the gauze, the blood clot will be dislodged, and the bleeding will start again.
- If the wound is not bleeding or only bleeding a little, flush it with sterile saline or salt solution to remove any debris.
- Apply a non-sting antibacterial spray or cream to the wound. Sprays tend to be better tolerated!
- Place a bandage if the wound is in an area that allows this. First apply a sterile wound dressing, then a layer of conforming bandage and lastly a layer of cohesive bandage. The bandage needs to be tight enough that it won’t fall off, but not so tight that it stops blood flow. You should be able to slide two fingers between the skin and the bandage. If the bandage is low down on a limb, then include the foot in the bandage to prevent it from swelling up. Your dressing should never be left on for more than 24 hours, so make sure you relay this to the owner.
- If the wound is in an area that you cannot bandage, or is a small nick, then a spray on plaster may be a better option. This creates a barrier, protecting the wound from dirt and bacteria.
If it is a significant wound or there is a flap of skin, then seek veterinary care ASAP, or advise the owners to do so.
Bleeding Nail Quicks
It can be hard to assess nails, especially if they are black, and so you may occasionally cut them too short. Similarly, the dog may move, causing your nail clippers to slip. Bleeding quicks can be scary as they have a good blood supply! Stay calm and apply pressure until you can apply a haemostatic powder or pen. Try to reassure the dog; the bleeding will stop quicker if you can keep them calm and still.
Clipper Rash and Skin Reactions
Some animals have more sensitive skin than others, so close shaving or certain shampoos may elicit a reaction. Immediate first aid is aimed at soothing the skin and preventing infection. Cleaning the area with an antibacterial wash can help prevent bacteria getting in through the damaged skin barrier. Next, applying a cold pack can ease the discomfort. These skin rashes are very itchy, so preventing the dog or cat from scratching or licking is crucial. Otherwise the rash may turn into a nasty skin infection. Make sure you communicate this to the owner too.
Shampoo in the eye can cause a minor irritation with lots of blinking or a more pronounced red eye. Flush the eye with sterile saline or eye wash to prevent further irritation. Any accidental trauma to an eye should be assessed by a vet.
It is not impossible that an animal could jump or fall off the grooming table. Should this happen, watch for signs of discomfort such as limping or licking an area. Let the owner know if this happens, so they can seek veterinary advice and pain relief as needed. Keep the animal as still and rested as possible in the meantime.
Now, this is thankfully a rare one! In the unlikely event that an animal chews an electrical cable or receives a shock from wet grooming clippers, immediately remove them from the source of the shock. Remember your safety too! Always turn off the appliance before approaching, if you can safely do so. Otherwise use a wooden broom handle (or other non-conducting long object) to gently move the animal away. Wrap the animal in a foil blanket and seek immediate veterinary attention.
Of course, as with anything, preventing is better than treating! Review your safety protocols regularly. Of course accidents do happen to the best of us, so keep your first aid knowledge up to date too.