Saving man's best friend - Kitsap Humane Society and Red Cross offering pet first aid class.

Romeo, a mini pinscher, scans the Silverdale Dog Park last Friday afternoon. Joy Gum, of Silverdale, brought her dog out to the park to mingle with friends. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Romeo, a mini pinscher, scans the Silverdale Dog Park last Friday afternoon. Joy Gum, of Silverdale, brought her dog out to the park to mingle with friends.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Rabbits can’t vomit.

And unlike humans, dogs and cats tend not to vomit when CPR is performed on them, which is a good thing when a pet owner attempts to resuscitate a non-responsive furry friend.

“Not noticeably,” said Dr. Irene Choi of All Creatures Animal Hospital in Bremerton. “It’s a really rare occurrence.”

But in order to learn the right way to perform the life-saving technique on pets, the Kitsap Humane Society along with the West Sound Red Cross is holding a pet first aid class Saturday at the society’s training center in Silverdale. The class will include learning how to control bleeding, how to identify a pet’s normal heart rate and how to react if a pet goes into cardiac arrest.

And for the CPR section, dog and cat mannequins will be provided for practice.

It’s a skill some pet owners wish they knew. Like Joy Gum, who took her mini pinscher Romeo to the Silverdale Dog Park last Friday. For Gum, and many others, it’s not just a dog, it’s a member of her family.

“He’s my baby,” said Gum, 34. “I should know what to do. You never know what could happen.”

Performing CPR on pets isn’t a new idea. Choi has performed CPR on dogs, rabbits and birds at times when a pet is on the surgery table and stops breathing. As with humans, the sooner CPR is administered the better the chance it will help. She said if owners were educated ahead of time and knew how to respond to their animals that stop breathing, there is a better chance of saving them.

“It isn’t done very often because people don’t know, or because the situations are not occurring very often,” Choi said.

It would be preparing for a “what if” situation that some pet owners never think of, but pet CPR does work and has saved lives.

“At least you can attempt to save them, and it does work. I’ve seen it work,” Joyce Berry, a volunteer instructor with the Red Cross said last week. Berry has been teaching pet CPR since 2005, when she first took the class and later became a certified instructor.

When it works

When Berry was living in California in the 80s, she witnessed an acquaintance perform CPR on a dog after his pet suddenly collapsed at the beach in Santa Cruz. At the time, Berry knew very little about pet first aid.

The man reacted quickly, closed his dog’s mouth and began blowing air into his nose, which revived the pooch, she said.

“I had never heard of pet first aid down there. I don’t think it was common anywhere,” Berry said, adding that the West Sound Red Cross now teaches the pet first aid class on an as-requested basis only.

Different from human CPR where compressions are performed on the middle of a person’s chest, on dogs and cats they are done on the animals’ side, Berry said. The Red Cross has monthly adult and child CPR classes at its Bremerton facility.

And although Saturday’s class is for dog and cat first aid — registration ended Tuesday — pet CPR can be attempted on other animals. Owners may have to take caution though, especially with small birds.

“You have to be careful not to break their ribs,” said Choi, referring to giving chest compressions. Berry added that performing CPR on smaller animals is similar to the comparison of performing CPR on a grown adult versus a child.


Aside from the upcoming first aid class, the Humane Society will offer a four-week puppy preschool class beginning mid-May and a six-week basic manners class for dogs beginning in June.

“Most people that are really into their pets, they are part of the family. And you take care of them like they are a child because they can’t take care of themselves,” Berry said.

For Shellsi Geyer of Bremerton, her 4-month-old dog is like family — she’s practically her child.

“She’s more of my baby than anything,” Geyer, 20, said. “I come home to her every day. Buy her everything and anything. When I need someone, she’s there.”

Geyer said she buys Remi, her mix golden retriever and Chesapeake Bay retriever, five different bones a day. Although certified through the Red Cross in basic CPR, she does not know pet CPR and said that if Remi ever were to get sick, she would have to take her to the vet.

Marcela Drought, a veterinary assistant with the Humane Society, said she receives about three to five calls a day from distressed owners inquiring about what to do with an injured pet. Usually these are people who cannot afford to visit a veterinarian or received their pet from the Humane Society, she said, adding that common questions include what to do when a pet is burned from being under a car engine or bite marks from fights.

“We cannot tell them what to do, we’re not doctors,” Drought said. “For them, it’s good to be educated and better than just calling us and freaking out.”

But Drought doesn’t just encourage pet owners to know the basics in domestic animal care. The Humane Society hopes to make the pet first aid class a re-occurring class, she added.

“Just like if you see someone choking at a restaurant, you should know what to do,” Drought said. “If you see a stray, everyone should have some knowledge.”

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