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A Dog’s Life, a Family’s Care
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Stuart Hales
October 3, 2007

Dog First Aid book
The instructions sound familiar—tilt the head back, pull the tongue between the teeth, and use your finger to check for and remove any foreign material or vomit from the mouth.

The warning, on the other hand, takes you by surprise—do not place your finger inside the mouth of a conscious victim or you may be bitten.

Bitten? Yes—if the victim is a dog.

Preparing for Health Emergencies

Like humans, dogs can choke on items and stop breathing. They also can suffer burns and cuts, inhale water while swimming in pools and lakes, succumb to frostbite or heat stroke, and experience heart attacks. These conditions, like those in humans, require immediate action and urgent medical attention.

Thanks to the Red Cross, America’s 44 million dog owners can now prepare themselves to respond to sudden injuries and illnesses in their pets. Dog First Aid, a 116-page book that provides instructions and guidance on topics ranging from performing CPR to taking pulse readings, is now available for purchase. The book includes a 30-minute DVD that provides step-by-step demonstrations of proper responses to foot and ear injuries, car accidents, choking, and a variety of other urgent care situations.

Dog First Aid also provides recommendations on preparing an emergency supplies kit for your dog in case sudden evacuation is necessary. All dog owners should prepare such a kit, especially those who live in areas prone to hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, or other disasters.

“Disasters can strike at any time, and dog owners need to be prepared to evacuate their pets as well as themselves and their family members,” says Deborah Mandell, a veterinarian and adjunct assistant professor at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “Assembling a kit ahead of time makes it much easier to evacuate quickly, avoid traffic, and ensure you have all the supplies you need.”

Spotting Changes Early

Dog First Aid is part of a comprehensive American Red Cross initiative, Be Red Cross Ready, designed to help every person prepare for emergencies and make their communities safer. Be Red Cross Ready encourages the public to take three simple actions to prepare themselves and their families for disasters and other emergencies:

  • Get a kit;
  • Make a plan; and
  • Be informed.

Because many dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family, the Red Cross developed Dog First Aid to help them prepare for, and respond to, health emergencies that can arise from sudden injury or illness. Dog First Aid is not, however, a substitute for veterinary care, nor does it teach dog owners how to diagnose medical conditions or recommend medications.

“As with most things in life, being prepared is more than half the battle when it comes to caring for your dog,” says Mandell, who provided expert review of Dog First Aid. “If you learn how to spot subtle changes early, your dog’s veterinarian will have a better chance of treating the problem.”

To order a copy of Dog First Aid, contact your local chapter or visit the Red Cross online store. Be sure to ask your chapter if it is providing a Dog First Aid presentation, a 2-1/2 hour session that covers the following topics:

  • Being prepared;
  • Recognizing a medical emergency;
  • Breathing and cardiac emergencies;
  • Injuries; and
  • Sudden illness.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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