Coulda, woulda, shoulda — how many of us second guess ourselves, especially when it comes to the health of our pets? It’s bad enough to be confronted with an emergency situation that has an unfortunate outcome. It’s worse to think you could have done something to change it.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 25% more pets would survive injuries if only one first aid technique was applied.

This week’s Animal Cafe interview by Dr. Lorie Huston with Jillian Meyers brings that information home through a moving personal story.

The tragedy that spurred a solution

In 2007, Jillian Meyers took her dachshund, Diego, in for a routine teeth cleaning.  She had a bad feeling about his condition as soon as she saw him — he seemed more lethargic than the anesthesia warranted — but she took the vet tech’s word that everything was okay.

When she got home and her father saw Diego, he confirmed Jillian’s sense that something was wrong.

By the time Jillian got Diego back to the vet’s office, it was too late. The vet worked on him for an hour, but the dachsund didn’t make it.

The creation of Healthy Paws

Looking back now, Jillian realizes that Diego had been in shock. She just didn’t trust herself enough to insist on treatment before she left the vet’s office with him.

But instead of wallowing in her pain after Diego’s death and beating herself up as many — hand raised here — would be likely to do, Jillian decided to try to prevent others from experiencing the same pain as she did. As she puts it, “I don’t want him to have died in vain.”

That’s how the Los Angeles-based Healthy Paws was born.

PetSaver™ Pet CPR, First Aid and Care Certification Classes

Jillian had known about first-aid classes for pet owners. She had just never found the time to attend one. But, she contends, a lot of pet owners are not even aware that such classes exist, even though they are becoming more and more prevalent.

Using a combination of lectures and hands-on demonstrations with stuffed animals, Jillian teaches such basic skills as how to muzzle your animal. She explains, “Animals already operate at a higher frequency than we do, they can sense panic. It’s best to practice muzzling when both of you are in a calm situation.”

Other techniques she teaches are:

  • Choking management
  • CPR
  • Assessing vital signs
  • Poison prevention

But it’s not all about emergencies. According to Jillian, “The biggest walkaway skill we teach is the snout- to-tail assessment. We encourage people to do it once a week, to create a baseline with their pet. Then you can see changes and document them.”

The bottom line: The skills learned in these classes are not designed to take the place of veterinary care; they’re designed to help you get your pet to professional treatment safely.

Ok — here’s where I admit that, in spite of knowing about their importance, I haven’t taken a first-aid class. Have you?

Listen to the interview here.


6 thoughts on “First-Aid for Pets — and Empowerment for Caretakers”

  1. I used to take child and adult CPR every two years, and haven’t kept that up. Our lives are so busy, so hectic, so crazy… I think we all SHOULD do these things, but there are always time or financial constraints that make us delay what should be a priority. 🙁

    1. I hear you, Lori. That class is on my very long to-do list of stuff that I MUST do…as soon as I have time, money, etc.

  2. I have not taken a pet CPR class either but I would if I could find one nearby. It would be great if Red Cross added this to their education program along with addressing the shelter needs of people with pets. Of course they might, just not in my area.

    When Honey swallowed her notorious squeaker, I was nearby. She struggled to get it down and I tried to get it before she swallowed (thank heavens for Ian Dunbar’s instructions on teaching puppies bite inhibition). I thought about trying a Heimlich-type maneuver but wasn’t sure if I would hurt her more by forcing the sharp-edged, plastic squeaker (by the time she had chewed it) back up her throat or letting it pass (hopefully) harmlessly through her digestive tract.

    I don’t know if I guessed right or wrong. I do know that when the squeaker surfaced on xrays four months later she was a pretty sick little girl and and an expensive one too.

    I would have loved to have some knowledge before being faced with what is apparently a very common situation.

    1. I think the Red Cross does have some kind of program; when I was trying to find images for this story, I came across one related to the Red Cross classes for pets.

      I think I somehow missed the Honey/squeaker story — yikes. I think that’s a case where poison control hotlines can be helpful too, because they have vets on hand to give advice about all kinds of ingested items.

  3. My local Red Cross has a pet first aid class, and believe it or not, I’ve taken it. Only two problems: I took the class ten years ago, so remember very little AND since they use stuffed animals, the practice offered in the class bore only a rough approximation to the emergency situations I’ve confronted. But I still have the book, and that’s useful.

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