Learn Pet First-Aid & CPCR for your Pet’s Sake!
By Denise Fleck, The Pet Safety Crusader™
Veterinarians are the experts, but most of us are not lucky enough to have a Vet velcroed to our hip 24/7, and even if you live with 5 people in your house, odds are that when the dog stops breathing or cuts his paw…you will be home alone and it will be after veterinary hours. Therefore, Pet Parents must know how to jump to the task to rescue Rover before professional medical help is available! In addition to knowing the life-saving skills of Pet First Aid and having the confidence to use them, anyone who spends time around pets must have a well-equipped tool kit (aka your Dog’s First Aid Kit) as precious time can be wasted looking for the right item once a pet has suffered sudden injury or illness. I always say that a kit is only as good as the human at the other end of the leash, meaning – if you use something up, replace it; if it expires, get another, and take special care of items that can go bad, especially if you keep your first aid kit in the car or other area subject to extreme temperature changes. Besides medications and creams, even the stickiness of various wraps and tapes can degrade due to heat, and Hydrogen Peroxide does not hold up if it gets warm, so be prepared to keep these items cool or change them out regularly.
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 learn animal life-saving skills. You can’t keep your four-legged best friend in a plastic bubble – without notice, illness and injury happen, so you must be PAWpared to help even before you can get veterinary assistance.
Has your pup’s tail ever been closed in a door, or have you discovered ticks on your gorgeous long-haired cat? What would you do if you find a dog left in a parked car or your pooch gets bitten by a rattlesnake or stung by a bee? Bandaging, removing parasites and treating heat stroke and stings are basic Pet First-Aid skills every pet parent should possess. Did Rover vomit from too many table scraps over the holidays? How about car rides…humans buckle up, but do your pets get the same attention? An unrestrained pet can be thrown from a vehicle when brakes are applied or cars collide, so dogs must be fastened with seat belts or ride in crates that are secured to the seat. Never let your pet sit in the front passenger seat where a deployed air bag could prove deadly, and never, ever leave your pet alone in a parked car!
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?” Also, in human first aid, you are not taught what to do should your patient bite you! In a Pet First-Aid Class, animal body language should be discussed as well as practice in muzzling, restraining, lifting and carrying a four-legged furry patient. I spend a lot of time teaching various bandaging techniques in my classes as dog ears and tails lend themselves to interesting solutions. The fact though that pack animals often try to hide injuries requires us to use detective skills, so 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 Denise Fleck’s Pet First-Aid & CPR Class.”
Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death among our pets, and according to the American Veterinary Association (AVMA) 9 out of 10 dogs and cats can expect to have an emergency during their lifetime. Would you know how to help? The good news is that 25% more animals can be saved if humans perform first aid BEFORE getting to their Vet (American Animal Hospital Association AAHA statistic). What this means is that the most competent Veterinarian cannot bring your pet back to life, but by knowing Pet First-Aid & CPR, you can keep your dog or cat alive until you reach professional medical help.
By knowing Pet First Aid, you can:
• Lower your pet’s body temperature if he suffers from Heat Stroke and prevent brain damage or death.
• Stop bleeding and prevent infection by properly bandaging a wound. Knowing where the critical arterial pressure points are on your pooch can truly be life-saving!
• Prevent your pet from losing consciousness by alleviating choking.
• Expel poison from your pet’s system by properly inducing vomiting
• Be the pump your pet’s heart can’t be until you can get him to professional medical help.
Pet First-Aid is by no means a replacement for veterinary care, but reacting at the moment injury occurs and then getting to professional medical help can make a difference. You and your Veterinarian must work together as a team for the well-being of your pet.
Even before you get into a Pet First-Aid & CPCR Class (yes, there is now a second “C” for “Cerebral” – see below), you should:
1. Know where your nearest Animal ER is & Keep up with annual Veterinary Visits.
Drive there before you need to, so that you know where to enter, what services are offered and how they accept payment. Don’t miss annual veterinary exams where professional eyes, hands, ears, stethoscope, blood test and urinalysis can diagnose problems at their earliest stages.
2. Do a weekly Head-to-Tail Check-up of your pet and notice changing habits.
Really get to know your pet, his body and his habits so that you can more quickly determine when something is not quite right. Feel for lumps and bumps, parasites and burrs, anything that should not be on him. Notice what your dog or cat looks like when he sits and stands. How often do you have to fill his water bowl and how often he needs to answer nature’s call? Changes may warrant a veterinary check-up.
3. Get Down on all Fours.
Look at your house and yard from your pet’s perspective. Anything on the floor is fair game and an animal’s amazing sense of smell can find hidden temptations behind cabinet doors. Cleaners and fertilizers not absorbed through paw pads will be ingested when your dog or cat grooms himself, so keep items out of paws reach and use pet friendly chemicals.
4. Read your pet’s food label.
The first 3-5 items listed on the ingredient label are the bulk of your pet’s diet. Make sure the first one is a high quality protein — the name of the animal in the food (ie: chicken, lamb, salmon, or venison). Limit or avoid wheat, corn and soy which results in allergic reactions in many pets. Can’t pronounce it? Your pet probably doesn’t need it. Feeding the right food (all dogs and cats won’t do well on the same brand) just may prevent illness. Educate yourself for your pet’s sake as food okay for humans may not be so for canines or felines.
5. Spend quality time together.
That’s why we have pets – to make them part of the family, so when you walk the dog, don’t talk on your cell phone or text. Tune in to kitty rather than mindlessly petting her. Be in the now and keep your eyes open to your pet’s environment to avoid disasters.
Denise Fleck is an award winning author and freelance writer who was recently named a “Woman of Influence” by Pet Age Magazine and a “Most Inspiring Story” by Voyage Atlanta Magazine! After extensive training, practice, more training and more practice, she developed her own Pet First-Aid & CPCR, Senior Pet Care and Pet Disaster Preparedness curriculum and has personally taught more than 15,000 humans animal life-saving skills plus millions more via television appearances including: CBS –TV’s “The Doctors,” Animal Planet’s “Pit Boss” and “Kirstie Alley’s Big Life.” Learn more at