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Matt Armstrong successfully revived his neighbour's dog Sheena with CPR last month. (Jennifer Roberts For The Globe and Mail)
Matt Armstrong successfully revived his neighbour's dog Sheena with CPR last month. (Jennifer Roberts For The Globe and Mail)

Heavy Petting

How a one-day CPR class could save your pooch Add to ...

Would you give the "kiss of life" to your furry best friend?

A recent Associated Press poll found that 58 per cent of pet owners say they would try to perform CPR on their animal if needed. Dog owners (63 per cent) were slightly more likely than cat owners (53 per cent) to say they'd go mouth-to-muzzle, and women (65 per cent) were more likely than men (50 per cent).

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One person who's 100 per cent behind pet CPR is Matt Armstrong of Toronto. He revived his neighbour's dog, Sheena, when her heart stopped during a walk in the woods last month. The seven-year-old boxer collapsed suddenly and stopped breathing. Mr. Armstrong checked for a pulse but could find none, so he slapped Sheena on the chest and blew air into her mouth for about two minutes until she started breathing on her own again.

Pet CPR protocol calls for closing a dog's mouth with your hand and breathing into its nose, but Mr. Armstrong didn't know that, so he just took a deep breath and went for it.

"I just stuck my face as far down as it went and started breathing," Mr. Armstrong said. Did he think twice about lip-locking with a slobbery dog's maw? "No, 'cause I love that dog."

Mr. Armstrong saved Sheena's life that day thanks to his animal-lover's instinct. But for those who want to be properly prepared for an emergency, pet CPR classes are now available in a few Canadian cities. Sally Achey teaches pet CPR in Montreal, for instance, and says that while the general public may be squeamish, there are enough hardcore animal lovers out there to keep her classes full. She hopes to expand to Toronto soon.

"I've had people laugh at me and say, 'You're kidding,' and people say, 'Ew, I wouldn't blow into a dog's nose,'" said Ms. Achey, who lives outside of Rutland, Vt. "But the people who come into my class are not at all hesitant about it; they're passionate about animals." Many pet lovers are more concerned about what they might catch from another human than they are about going mouth-to-snout with their dog or cat, she added.

Pet CPR is similar to the human variety, with adjustments for size and anatomy. Technique also varies with breed; resuscitating a Chihuahua is a different trick from breathing life into a Great Dane.

Ms. Achey's own dog, Tucker, acts as a test patient for students learning to take pulses and wrap bandages. They practise rescue-breathing on stuffed dogs. The full-day class costs $129 and also covers other pet first-aid instruction on treating bleeding, choking and broken bones. Ms. Achey has never had to use the techniques she teaches on her own dog, but one student recently reported that she saved her 10-month-old Tibetan Terrier from choking on a piece of rawhide.

"He gulped, it got stuck, and in a matter of seconds he was down," Ms. Achey said. "She was able, without panicking, [to save him.]We place an emphasis on having people be prepared."

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 25 per cent of pets that end up in emergency veterinary clinics could have been saved if their owners knew and applied just one first-aid technique.

Sheena was lucky. After her collapse, the boxer was diagnosed with a heart condition, and is now on medication and doing well. Mr. Armstrong still walks her daily, along with his two labs. Sheena obviously doesn't understand the details of her resurrection, but Mr. Armstrong says she seems to know he had something to do with it: "When we're walking now, she walks right behind me, staring at me."

Information on Ms. Achey's classes in Montreal is available at www.thesensibledog.com; more training information can be found at www.pettech.net/directory_canada.html.

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