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Dr. Kittsen McCumber has seen it happen - an owner trying to help their pet out of a hairy situation, only to make it worse, or even fatal.
A Tylenol tablet for an aching cat or waiting too long to get the chocolate-eating dog to the vet are sure death sentences for the four-legged member of the family, the emergency veterinarian said.
But an informed pet owner, Dr. McCumber added, can be Fluffy or Fido's best chance at making it through alive.
Handling a choking pet, responding to seizures, and recognizing a pet emergency when it's happening are just some of the skills to be taught at a Pet First Aid class offered at Owens Community College on June 11. The course is designed and run by the American Red Cross, which began offering first aid instruction for animals in 1997 in California.
"One of the most important reasons for people to learn basic first aid is that we've had many times where owners do the wrong thing and they end up killing their own pet," said Dr. McCumber, of the Animal Emergency & Critical Care Center of Toledo. "If people know basic things, then they will know what not to do and when to come to the vet."
Lynn Curtis, the preparedness operations coordinator for the Toledo chapter of the American Red Cross, said the nonprofit organization has offered the class locally since December.
She added that because the Red Cross works with Owens on other courses, it was a natural to bring Pet First Aid to the college's work force and community services department.
Participants don't have to be Owens students, and no college credit is given. They just show up - without their pets, please - and for $30, they will spend the day learning how to save their animal friend's life.
Dr. Debbie Johnson, staff veterinarian for the Toledo Area Humane Society, applauded the idea of teaching animal health care to area owners. She stressed the importance of learning to recognize an emergency "because the animal can't talk to [owners] like a person can."
The class will focus on how and when to call for emergency assistance, identifying normal animal behavior, and handling common life-threatening emergencies.
To learn CPR, participants will practice on life-size animal dummies.
"It's a great class for pet lovers," Ms. Curtis said. "What we're finding is that there are all kinds of pet people out there, and they want to know this stuff."
No one understands better the love people feel for their pets than Jonathan Rudinger, owner of Canine WaterWork Fitness Center, a pet massage clinic and health club for dogs in Toledo.
Although he admitted that there will always be skeptics, the success of his business is proof that pets are more than just animals, they are family members.
"Dogs are living longer now and they're facing more geriatric problems," he said. "People are understanding the responsibility of taking care of their pets and they are seeing the benefits in return."
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