All in the Family

A growing number of pet owners, closer to their furry family members than ever before, are learning CPR for their pets from the American Red cross

Gucci doggie collars. Afternoons spent in the pet pool at the doggy daycare. The occasional visit to the pet psychiatrist. Too much never seems like too much for today’s pet owner.

But even in this era of over-the-top doting on pets, how many pet owners take a few minutes, or even a few dollars, to worry about emergency care for your pooch or kitty?

Not just get-in-your-car-and-drive-like-hell to the doggy ER planning. We’re talking drop-to-the-floor life-saving stuff here.

Sure, high-end pet health insurance plans are an increasingly-popular option for dedicated pet lovers and they take much of the stress out of any trip to the vet. And health-conscious foods, habitual trips to the dog park and the occasional spa day mean your pooch is probably healthier than most of the humans you spot at the gym.

Still, if Bandit stops breathing suddenly? Or if Poofy appears unconscious? What then? Even that fancy vet is still a car ride away — at least until Animal Ambulance becomes a reality, which is probably not too far off — and those minutes could be crucial to saving your furry loved one’s life.

That’s where pet CPR comes in. The American Red Cross is now offering an online class for $20 that takes about 30 minutes to complete and leaves owners ready to spot signs of distress in their cats and dogs and, in the worst cases, step in to render aid.

The Red Cross’s regular CPR classes have long been popular among young people hoping to land a babysitting job, expecting parents and pretty much anyone else who would like to have a minimum level of life-saving skills. Nigel Holderby, a spokeswoman for the agency in Colorado and Wyoming, says the organization has been offering similar classes for pets for years but earlier this year expanded that to the online realm.

“We are providing that to a broader audience,” she says.

The classes are an outcropping of today’s pet-owning culture, one where cats or dogs are seen more like just another member of the family — like Uncle Jimbo but with more hair and less mooching.

Holderby says that people who view their pets as their “fur babies” want to make sure they are providing a level of care on par with the care they would provide for a human loved one.

“I know the people that I talk to a lot have that attitude: I would do this for my human child, now I have a responsibility to make sure that I am taking care of my fur kids, my fur family members,” she says.

Holderby says she knows this feeling personally. Her kids are grown now and have moved away, but she still has two of those fur babies to worry about: a dachshund named Annie and an energetic pooch named Louie who is a mix of Chihuahua and Italian Greyhound.

Here’s the answer to what we know you’re thinking. Yes, you hold the animal’s muzzle closed and breath into its nose. The idea of doing chest compressions is the same as with human CPR, but clearly the anatomy is different, hence the idea that some training and instruction is wise before you try this.

Annie recently gave Holderby a scare when the pooch seemed a little under the weather, forcing Holderby to tackle that grueling choice many pet owners face: To vet or not to vet?

But Holderby said she relied on her training from the class, checked Annie’s vitals and realized she could at least let the pooch sleep for a night before she made the call. The next day, Annie was fine.

“I knew what to look for and that made me feel so much better about waiting,” she said.

PET CPR

1 Check for breathing and a heartbeat…

Check to see if the pet is breathing and check for a heartbeat. If you do not see your pet’s chest moving and cannot find a heartbeat, begin CPR with chest compressions.

2 Give chest compressions…

Place your hands on your pet as follows:

For cats and small dogs, place the heel of one of your hands directly over the pet’s heart and place your other hand directly over the first hand.

For deep chested dogs, place the heel of one hand over the widest part of the chest and place your other hand directly over the first hand.

For barrel chested dogs, place the dog on its back, place one hand over the widest part of the sternum, and place your other hand directly over the first hand.

Lock your elbows and make sure your shoulders are directly above your hands.

Then, push hard and push fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 the width of your pet’s chest. Make sure the chest comes back fully (recoils) before compressing again.

Perform 30 chest compressions

3 Then give rescue breaths…

To give rescue breaths, gently close the pet’s mouth and extend the pet’s neck to open the airway. Cover your pet’s nose with your mouth and exhale until you see the pet’s chest rise. Give a second rescue breath.

4 Continue CPR…

Continue giving CPR with a cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until your dog or cat begins breathing again on its own.

5 Check again for breathing and a heartbeat…

Briefly check for breathing and a heartbeat every 2 minutes.

6 Get help…

Continue CPR until you reach a veterinary hospital.

The American Red Cross