Bob Burnell (right) instructs participants in a pet first aid class.
Insert Below: Arden Moore demonstrates how to apply a safety muzzle.
By Arden Moore
There is no doubt our pets love us. They listen to us and greet us like rock stars when we enter the front door. They adore us even on bad-hair days. And they depend on us to keep them safe. So, let me ask you:
If your dog started choking, would you know what to do — and what not to do?
If your cat suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing, would you know how to perform kitty CPR?
I pose these tough questions on purpose. One important way to be our pet’s best health ally is to know pet first aid/CPR and safety. It can be frightening to witness your pet in pain, but learning pet first aid can replace that crippling panic with can-do knowledge.
April is designated at Pet First Aid and Safety Awareness Month, but pet safety needs to be practiced 24/7. In Palm Beach County, we are fortunate to have one of the most knowledgeable pet first aid experts — Bob Burnell. A master certified instructor with Pet Tech and a certified professional dog trainer with Sit Means Sit, Burnell is dedicated to training people how to keep their pets safe and well-mannered. That’s a great combination.
His inspiration to learn pet first aid and teach pet first aid came a few years ago when his former police dog, Sabre, collapsed. Burnell held his dog in the back seat while his wife, Ellen, drove to the veterinary clinic. Sabre died before they could reach the clinic.
“The veterinarian diagnosed it as a heart tumor,” recalls Burnell. “He went quickly and I was with him. I remember thinking that I don’t want to go through this again, feeling powerless, and that I wanted to help other people. That’s when I took a Pet Tech class and found it so amazing, that I studied to become an instructor.”
Burnell offers pet first aid classes in Palm Beach County and throughout the United States.
These day-long classes provide hands-on training for people on how to perform CPR, stop bleeding, address choking, treat bee stings and insect bites, plus dozens of other pet first aid skills.
In January, new guidelines for CPR, bleeding and choking management and other pet first aid topics were issued by a panel of critical care and emergency veterinarians. Burnell and others in the Pet Tech program teach the new standards.
“It is important to keep up with the latest in pet first aid training,” says Burnell.
His classes also focus on dental, nutritional and preventive care. One of Burnell’s favorite class activities is showing his students how to perform a snout-to-tail wellness assessment on their demo dogs. This knowledge gives them the ability to know what is healthy and normal in their own pets so that they may be able to detect any health changes and alert their veterinarians for prompt treatment.
Burnell offers these tips:
n Know your pet’s heat tolerance. Bulldogs, pugs and other breeds with pushed-in faces cannot cope with high temperatures very well. But neither can breeds built low to the ground, such as corgis and dachshunds, because cool air cannot circulate easily under their bellies.
n Test your pet for early signs of dehydration. You should be able to grab the fur on your pet’s back, lift it up and watch the fur bounce quickly back in place. If it doesn’t, that is a sign of dehydration. “Find your pet shade and cool water, but not ice water,” says Burnell. “Ice water can shock his system. You can also wrap him in a cool, wet towel to gradually bring his body temperature down.”
n Monitor your pet’s health by checking the health of his gums. A healthy dog or cat will display bubblegum pink gums. Using your thumb, gently press for a couple seconds against your pet’s gum just above the canine tooth. Then release. The pink color should restore in less than two seconds. Overheated pets will often display bright red gums; pets in shock often have pale gums and pets suffering from liver problems will have yellowish gums.
Like Burnell, I’ve become a master certified pet first aid instructor and believe knowing what to do in a pet emergency — when minutes count — is one of the best ways I can show my love for my furry fab four: dogs Chipper and Cleo and cats Murphy and Zeki. I hope you take the time to learn pet first aid for your pet’s sake. It can be a real life-saving gift.
Arden Moore, founder of FourLeggedLife.com, is an animal behavior consultant, editor, author, professional speaker and master certified pet first aid master instructor. She happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her Oh Behave! show on PetLifeRadio.com and learn more by visiting www.fourleggedlife.com.