Guest Blogger, Denise Fleck –

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Take Part in National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month

By Denise Fleck,

Although Sunny had been adopted into a loving home, her time as a stray left her with a compulsion to never pass up a free meal.  One morning her “mom” (that’s me) awoke to find the 80-pound Labrador with all four paws on the kitchen countertop and her snout in a no-longer-covered bowl of chocolate kisses.  Luckily this pet parent’s timing saved the day and only a few chocolate morsels were consumed by the mischievous canine.  The dog suffered only a disappointed look, but a much smaller dog might have experienced rapid heart beat, vomiting, seizures and even death.

Each year, thousands of pets needlessly suffer and many die from ingesting common household foods as well as from injuries and sudden illness.  Knowing what to do during those first few moments can truly make a difference between life and death for your pet.  According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), one out of four additional pets could be saved if just one Pet First-Aid technique was applied prior to getting veterinary help.

Pet First-Aid is the FIRST step (and often the most critical) in a line of treatments before complete medical attention can be administered.  The most accomplished Veterinarian will not be able to bring your dog or cat back to life once they have died, but by knowing Pet CPR, YOU can keep their heart and lungs working until professional medical help is available.  If you know how to treat your pet for Heat Stroke, you can prevent brain damage and death.  If you learn how to bandage a Wound, you can stop bleeding and prevent infection.  If you learn how to alleviate Choking, you can prevent your pet from losing consciousness, and…if you learn how to properly induce vomiting, you can expel poison and save your pet’s life!  Fortunately Sunny didn’t need such drastic measures due to the chocolate that day, but the incident made me want to be prepared in case Sunny, or any of the six canines who have since crossed our threshold, needed help, so I studied, practiced and keep on learning but developed the curriculum I have been teaching since 1999.

April is National Pet First-Aid Awareness Month, and although it is a topic pet parents should have on their minds year-round, this is a great time to make sure you get trained in these life-saving skills. Without warning, tragedy can strike your cat or dog.  Should this happen, YOU must know what to do.  Has your dog’s tail ever been accidentally closed in a door, or have you discovered ticks on your gorgeous long-haired cat?  Have you found a dog left in a parked car?  Learning to treat heat stroke is First-Aid 101.  Have you ever feared your cat would chase a Rattlesnake or been stung by a bee?  Has your puppy been given too many scraps under the dinner table and suffered an upset stomach, diarrhea or vomiting?    How about when you take your pet along for a car ride?  Although children are usually strapped safely into car seats, do your pets get the same attention?  When brakes are applied, an unrestrained cat or dog can become a projectile.  Pets too should be in seat belts or crates/carriers that are secured in the back – never the front passenger seat where a deployed air bag could prove deadly.

Statistics show that accidents are the leading cause of death among non-senior dogs and cats, and according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), one out of four additional pets could be saved if just one Pet First-Aid technique is applied.  Even if you have taken a human First-Aid & CPR course, realize that humans, canines & felines do not share anatomies, and although the concept is the same, the technique differs as does our ability to communicate with each other.  We can’t ask our cat, “Where does it hurt?” or our dog, “What did you eat?”  Therefore, pet-specific training is essential to being a responsible and caring pet mom, pet dad or animal care worker.  I think one student summed it up best when she said, “The last thing you want is to wish you HAD taken a Pet First-Aid & CPR Class.”

Don’t think it won’t happen to your furry best friend!  Until you can get yourself to a Pet First Aid & CPR Class, take your responsibilities as your dog or cat’s protector seriously, and follow these tips:

1).  Learn the shortest route to your nearest 24-hour Emergency Center.  Putting the address on the refrigerator isn’t good enough.  Actually drive there so that when you need them, you know where they are located.  If you frequently take your pet hiking or to a park, you should also learn where the nearest emergency center is to that location.  We can’t predict that our dog won’t be bitten by a snake, sprain or break a leg on treacherous terrain or encounter an aggressive animal.  Just in case…YOU must know what to do!

2).  ID your pet.  In addition to tags, it is important to get your pet micro-chipped (and keep the information up-to-date) so that he can be quickly identified in case tags are lost.  As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so carry one of your dog or cat with you at all times so that you’ll be prepared to make a flyer or show a photo of your precious pet.

3).  Observe your pet.  Knowing what is normal for your dog or cat will help you identify something abnormal.  Be aware of how many times a day you fill water bowls and let pets outside.  If suddenly your pet is asking you to perform these tasks more or less frequently than usual, they may need a check-up.  Notice how your pet sits and stands.  Are they suddenly leaning on one hip or seeming to labor getting up off the ground?  Periodically feel for lumps and bumps (a woman in class located cancerous tumors after going home from one of my classes and saved her dog’s life by doing so), and always check for fleas, ticks and foxtails when your animals come in from the yard or a hike.

4).  Always keep dogs on leash or in a fenced yard so that you can keep them safe from traffic (the #1 most preventable injury to animals), other animals, pesticides that might be on your neighbors lawn, poisons in garbage cans and more.

5).  Establish a good relationship with your veterinarian and take your pets for annual check-ups and special tests for seniors.  Brush their teeth regularly with toothpaste designed for pets (never human toothpaste which contains detergents) and check for “bubble-gum” pink gums, white teeth and no odor which are signs of good health.  Also have your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally twice annually.  If you are concerned about anesthesia, there are great anesthesia-free clinics – no excuses!

4 Paws Up for Pet Safety,
Denise Fleck, Instructor / Author
SUNNY-DOG INK: Pet First-Aid & CPCR Kits & Classes
AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR:  Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
ANIMAL CARE ROP Instructor / Burbank Unified School District
THE EMMA ZEN FOUNDATION / Safety Council, Team Pet 1st Aid
WOMEN IN THE PET INDUSTRY (WIPIN) / Solopreneur Finalist
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