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In honor of Pet First Aid Awareness Month, we’re sharing essential pet first aid information from pet care expert Dr. Debbie Mandell. She discusses some vital questions pet owners have about pet first aid, talks about the new Red Cross Cat and Dog First Aid online course, and shares some ways that can help you become better prepared and aware of when your pet needs help.

    1. Can you tell us a little about pet first aid, what it entails and why it’s important?

    The most important aspect of first aid is being prepared. It is important to know what is normal for your pet so that you can recognize when something is wrong. Pets can hide signs of illness or show subtle signs until a disease process is fairly advanced. If owners know how to check their pet’s vital signs (gum color, breathing rate and effort, heart and/or pulse rate, temperature), and know what is normal as far as appetite, energy level, urination habits, etc., this can be very helpful in emergency situations. This also applies to pet sitters, dog walkers, etc. Pet first aid involves skills that a person can do until they can get to a veterinary hospital. Pet first aid also entails having a pet first aid kit that has the items you would need in an emergency.

    1. What are some of the most common pet emergencies that knowing first aid can help with or even save your pet’s life?

    There are many situations where pet owners can make a big difference, even life or death difference if they can recognize that their pet is experiencing an emergency and take steps to help. Some of the most common pet emergencies that owners can help with include choking and bleeding. Pet owners should know the steps to take if their pet is choking to try to relieve the obstruction. If successful, they should still take their pet to their veterinarian because there can be sequelae that can occur. Knowing how to perform CPR is also very important.

    And again, the sooner a pet owner can recognize that their pet is sick or experiencing an emergency, the sooner a veterinarian can intervene, which can help with prognosis.

    1. Can you tell us a little about the new Red Cross course and what participants will learn?

    The Red Cross Dog and Cat First Aid online course can help owners determine whether or not their pet is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, and what care they can provide until they get the dog or cat to a veterinarian. Emergency planning is a component of the course as well. Other modules provide information on preventive care and first aid as well as step-by-step instructions—with visual aids—to help pets who are choking, bleeding, having a seizure or in need of CPR. Short quizzes help review important concepts at the end of each lesson. And upon successful completion of all the lessons and a concluding assessment, users can print out a certificate attesting to their new knowledge.

In addition to the Red Cross course, you can download the Pet First Aid App, which provides you with expert information on pet health and first aid help and planning.

  1. About Dr. Mandell and dog Deborah D. Mandell, VMD, DACVECC
  2. Fulfilling her lifelong dream to become a veterinarian, Dr. Mandell graduated from Cook College, Rutgers University in 1989 and then went to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School and graduated in 1993. Dr. Mandell completed an internship at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and then a residency in Emergency and Critical Care Medicine. After becoming board certified and moving to Maryland, she was a criticalist at VCA/Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, MD. In 2001, Dr. Mandell returned to the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she is currently a Professor in Emergency and Critical Care Medicine and works in the emergency room.As a pet safety advisor for the American Red Cross, she has provided expert review for Red Cross Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid Guides, the Pet First Aid App, and the Dog and Cat First Aid online course, conducted multiple interviews and live segments including The Weather Channel, Animal Radio and Fox News. Dr. Mandell is also a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.

Have a health question about your pet? Visit Ask The Vet to Get Free Advice.

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