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Tips on giving your pet first aid

A few years ago, Judy Chissell lost her pup when he choked on something. She wishes she had known more about pet first aid. She might have saved him. • Today, in addition to being a mother of five, an RN and a cat and a dog owner, Chissell teaches pet first aid classes for the American Red Cross. The classes are designed to help pet owners care for their pet in an emergency situation, when there's no time to call the vet. We checked out one of her classes on pet first aid and got some tips and strategies:

Poison Control

If your pet swallows something that might be poisonous, call the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center toll-free at 1-888-426-4435. Have any labels or packaging from the suspected poison on hand when you call.

"Poison control are the only ones who know the latest information about how to handle it when your pet swallows something poisonous," said Chissell.

Don't eat that!

Many foods that humans eat are bad for pets. In addition to chocolate and cocoa, here is a partial list of other foods the Red Cross recommends keeping away from your pet:

• Avocado

• Chives

• Coffee

• Garlic

• Milk

• Mushrooms

• Raisins

For a comprehensive list, consult your veterinarian.

Protect yourself

Even the gentlest pets can bite or scratch when they are hurt or frightened. The Red Cross stresses the importance of protecting yourself when dealing with an animal in an emergency situation. Use a muzzle or put a towel around the animal or your arm when interacting with it.

A pet lives here

In the event of an emergency, a sticker on your front door or window can alert others that a pet is in your home. You can order a free rescue sticker from the ASPCA at


Your pet might be choking on something if it acts frantic, stops breathing, is pawing at its mouth or is struggling or gasping for breath.

The most common causes of pet choking include an object stuck in throat, trauma to the neck, allergic reaction causing tongue swelling, or an ill animal choking on vomit.

Examine inside your pet's mouth for the object, and remove it, if possible. But it is important that you do not push the object farther down.

The Red Cross provides detailed instructions on performing abdominal thrusts or giving sharp blows between the animal's shoulder blades, similar to the Heimlich maneuver.

As a last resort, suspending a small pet by its hind legs can help to dislodge an object stuck in their throat. For a large pet, holding it wheelbarrow style might also help.


The Red Cross recommends using the ABCs of CPR (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) for animals that are not breathing and do not have a heartbeat or pulse. As with humans, the process starts with three critical steps.

Airway: Check the airway. Is the animal choking on something?

Breathing: Is the animal breathing?

Circulation: Is there a heartbeat or pulse?

Red Cross instructors even teach rescue breathing for small animals. Just a short breath does it — like blowing out a candle.

Be prepared

Have a pet first aid kit on hand with emergency supplies. It should include any medications your pet needs, three days' worth of food and water, and a comforting toy.


To learn more

For details about pet CPR or helping a choking pet, go to the Red Cross Web site at

Pet first aid classes

1-4 p.m. May 24 at the St. Petersburg Red Cross Office, 818 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg.

To register, call (813) 348-4820, ext. 850, or go to

Tips on giving your pet first aid 04/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 10:58am]
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