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While you may take your cat or dog to the groomers from time to time, there's a good chance that you handle much of their nail trimming needs at home. But what happens if your pet pulls away as you're cutting their nails? If your cat or dog starts to bleed because you cut too much or a nail tears, you'll want to make sure you know how to provide first aid. In situations like these, having a container of styptic powder can really come in handy. But what is styptic powder, and how do you use it properly?
What Is Styptic Powder?
Styptic powder is an anti-hemorrhagic agent that stops light wounds from bleeding. Veterinarians, professional pet groomers and pet parents can use this powder on dogs, cats and even some birds.
Dr. Jim Carlson, owner of and holistic veterinarian at the Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center, says, "The most popular formula for styptic powder contains ferric subsulfate which works to help clot blood, along with bentonite clay and aluminum sulfate. Some products contain different ingredients like diatomaceous earth as well."
Styptic powder can also come in stick form, although Dr. Carlson reports that when applied, the stick may "sting."
How to Use Styptic Powder
When you're cutting your pet's nails, keep the styptic powder nearby. You'll want to use it at the first sign of bleeding. The great news is that putting styptic powder on is relatively easy:
- First and foremost, clean any blood off of your pet's paws.
- Then, pinch some of the powder between your fingers.
- Finally, apply it to the affected area using light pressure.
You may also dip your pet's nail into a shallow dish with the powder and then apply a light pressure to the nail. Using the powder stick mentioned above is another option to stop bleeding.
After applying the powder, the bleeding should stop, and you won't need to do anything further. However, if it does not stop, contact your vet. Skip the styptic powder completely for heavy bleeds and instead head straight to your local emergency pet health center.
Should Styptic Powder Be Removed?
If you've never used styptic powder before, you might wonder if you should wash it off after some time. There is no need to remove the powder once the bleeding has stopped, though. In fact, removing it may even cause the wound to bleed again.
"You should leave the powder on your pet's nail and let it fall off gradually," says Dr. Carlson. "Keeping your pet quiet for a bit to ensure the bleeding has stopped is important. Too much activity right after it's on and the pet will begin to bleed again."
Can Styptic Powder Be Harmful?
Dogs and cats are known for licking themselves quite often, so what happens if they lick the styptic powder while it's on? Most likely, they'll be just fine. Ingesting just a small amount of styptic powder won't hurt your pet at all.
However, Dr. Carlson advises that pet parents keep the container of styptic powder out of reach for their pets and even children. The powder contains active ingredients — such as ferrous sulfate — which can cause upset stomach and even constipation once ingested.
If your cat or dog gets into a container of styptic powder, be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and has written hundreds of articles about the health and behavior of dogs and cats. She believes there will always be more to learn about our furry friends.