Edmonton Humane Society offers class on pet first aid

The Edmonton Humane Society is running two courses in pet first aid this week. Lessons will include what to do if your animal is choking or overheating.

First aid educator says awareness of surroundings is first step in preventing injury

Beginning Wednesday evening, educator Dale Gienow will lead pet owners through basic first aid for animals. (Kevin Wilson/CBC)

Most people know what to do when they see someone choking on a bite of food — but would have no idea what to try if the same thing happened to their four-legged companion.

That's what the pet first aid course being taught at the Edmonton Humane Society this week hopes to correct.

The American Red Cross-certified course promises to teach participants everything they need to know in order to administer frontline first aid to their pets, and how to stabilize them for transfer to a vet.

Educator Dale Gienow says there are many situations where a little extra knowledge about pet first aid practices could come in handy.

At home, animals can choke on food or toys or suffer from exposure to poisonous household products. Outside, pet owners may find themselves dealing with an overheated animal, frozen paws or an unfriendly or feral dog with injuries.

"Really, it's for pet lovers who want to help look after our canine companions."

What to do if your dog is choking

One of the skills that will be covered is what to do if your dog is choking.

"It's quite different depending on the size of the dog and the nature of the blockage," Gienow says.

While a small dog can be put on its side and the blockage cleared with compressions, owners may need to pick up a medium-sized dog and do a maneuver similar to the Heimlich to clear their airway.

When it comes to truly large dogs, the solution is to "wheelbarrow" it, he says, meaning the owner should pick up the dog's hind legs and tap it on the back repeatedly.

Following any health scare, the animal should be taken to the vet, he says.

But Gienow says the single most important thing an owner can do to keep a pet healthy is to be aware of the surrounding environment and temperature at all times.

"Sometimes your pet doesn't always know best and you have to intervene and help them out," he said. "If we can mitigate the chances of things happening, that's always best than having to deal with them afterwards."

In the future, Gienow says he'd love to see courses like this become a prerequisite for new pet owners.

Participants in the three-hour course, which is being offered on Wednesday night and on Saturday morning, will earn an American First Aid certificate.


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