Red Cross teaching pet owners how to react in medical emergency
James Thiessen takes his 11-year-old dog, Max, everywhere.
So even though Max has never had a medical emergency, Thiessen wants to be prepared.
"He's getting older and since he really is man's best friend, if something would happen, I would like to be able to help him," Thiessen said. "Our pets are kind of like our family and we need to have the knowledge to care for them."
Pet owners like Thiessen have been participating in the American Red Cross' Pet First Aid class that was started last month. The five-hour class at the Yuma County American Red Cross office, 1265 S. 5th Ave., gives people general knowledge about pet health and medical emergencies.
Once they complete the class, participants receive a pet first aid guide and certificate. The class costs $25.
Denise Anderson, a volunteer instructor with the Red Cross, isn't aware of a similar class available for Yuma residents. The main point is to teach pet owners how to recognize emergency behavior in their cats and dogs.
"No one knows your pet as good as you do," she said. "You are going to know what is abnormal for them."
Through a video and series of demonstrations, Anderson showed pet owners how to react during an animal emergency. Class participants practiced the techniques on animal dummies. One of the most advanced techniques is making a homemade muzzle.
"Leave enough room around the mouth so that they can breath, but not enough that they can bite you," Anderson said during the demonstration.
Class participants were also encouraged to be creative. Anderson said ordinary household items, such as rolled up newspapers, can be used as splints for dogs. Rub corn syrup on a cat's gums when it goes into diabetic shock. Or make a paste of baking soda and water for insect bits.
"Accidents happen. Some pets are clumsy, but they are still cute," Anderson said.
Choking, one of the most common animal emergencies, was another aspect covered during the class. If the animal doesn't have a heartbeat and isn't breathing, people are advised to start CPR. For large dogs, they breathe into the nose, while for smaller dogs it's into the mouth.
Anderson also highlighted nose bleeds, burns and electrical accidents.
"I didn't know that dogs could get nose bleeds," Thiessen said.
With a focus on pets in Yuma, Anderson discussed the threat of heat exhaustion or dehydration. She advised people to never leave their animal in the car, even if the windows are cracked.
"And it happens so much here," Anderson said.
In the summer, Anderson recommended that people be careful walking their dogs.
"If it's too hot for you to be out on the pavement without shoes on, then it is too hot for your animal's paws," she said. "It's just too hard on their paws."
Metal water dishes need to be avoided.
"Not a good idea for Yuma," Anderson said. Plastic dishes in the shade are a smarter alternative.
Repeatedly, pet owners were told not to call 911 if their animal needs care.
Instead, pet owners should have a list of emergency contacts, including their veterinarian's office, animal poison control center and local chapter of the humane society. They should also have a packed bag with medication, extra food and chew toys in case of an emergency, like a fire.
The goal of the class is for people to be better prepared, said Red Cross training consultant Betty Connor.
"They also leave more aware of what could happen to their animal," she said.
Thiessen recommended the class to other pet owners.
"I learned quite a bite," he said, "CPR, how to find the pulse and determining your dog's normal behavior."
Michelle Kann can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6855.
IF YOU GO
THE AMERICAN RED CROSS WILL OFFER A PET FIRST AID CLASS SUNDAY. THE CLASS TOPICS WILL INCLUDE:
SYMPTOMS AND CARE FOR COMMON AILMENTS AND EMERGENCIES
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CREATING A PET
FIRST AID KIT
TIPS ON MAINTAINING YOUR PET'S HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT BETTY CONNOR AT 782-4289.
HOW TO MAKE A HOMEMADE MUZZLE
Start with a piece of material at least 18 inches long. Gauze works best, but a stocking, necktie, sock, soft rope or piece of cloth can be used.
Place a knot in the middle of the material. This acts as an anchor for the muzzle.
Make a loop large enough to drop over the animal's nose; keep enough distance between you and the animal's mouth so the dog or cat cannot turn around and bite you. Slip the loop over the nose from above and behind the animal's head. Always allow the animal to know where you are at all times.
Tighten the loop down on top of the nose, but not so tight that you interfere with the animal's breathing.
Pull an end of the material down each side of the face, criss-cross it under the chin and bring the ends back behind the ears.
Tie the loose ends in a bow behind the ears.