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Mouth-to-Snout Resuscitation

Red Cross: Camarillo class teaches pet lovers to perform CPR and administer first aid on their animals, using stuffed dogs and cats.


CAMARILLO — Poor Atlas.

In the span of three hours, the German shepherd puppy stopped breathing, choked, got a nose bleed, cut both his ear and leg, and was shot in the back with an arrow.

Fortunately, Atlas is a mannequin--a stuffed dog with breathing tubes and lungs. Instructor Carol Becker conjured up his imaginary injuries as training examples Friday for those taking an inaugural pet CPR and first aid course offered by the Ventura County chapter of the American Red Cross.

The three students all rose to the challenges before them: They resuscitated and bandaged Atlas and three unnamed animal dummies--a St. Bernard puppy and two gray cats.

These students all took the three-hour class as seriously as new parents taking an infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation class. For them, it was about saving their loved ones.

Nina Bacon is an Oxnard dog trainer who owns four dogs, one of which she found in a park and days later had to have treated for dehydration and possible head trauma at a cost of $700.

Her mother, Katherine Kessler of Port Hueneme, has a large beloved Portuguese water dog.

And Theo Genix of Ventura said she not only adores her 6-month-old briard, Sophie, but also hopes to start a mobile dog-grooming business.

Genix and Bacon both carry photos of their dogs in their purses. Each said she wouldn't hesitate to put their CPR training to use, wrapping their lips around the nose of a strange dog passed out in the street. They didn't even change their minds after Becker said animals usually vomit once they start breathing on their own.

"I would be much quicker to give CPR, or anything, on a dog than on a person," Genix said, explaining that people are more likely to have a disease that she could contract.

That is a valid point, said Thousand Oaks veterinarian Sharon Bass, who has taught her own version of pet CPR.

"There are not too many diseases you can get from [dogs and cats]," Bass said. "Diseases like to stay within their own species."

Kessler, though, admitted she might be a little squeamish. "I'd have second thoughts about it," she said.

The Ojai Valley chapter of the American Red Cross has offered a couple of pet CPR courses because its CPR instructor, Clarence Sterling, became one of the first trained in such techniques three years ago. But the Ojai chapter hasn't been able to afford the $900 for an animal mannequin, which has a tube protruding from its nose for students to blow into.

Bass bought a dog mannequin, developed her own course and taught a couple of classes during the past two years, but she does not have Red Cross certification to teach the course. Seventy-five people showed up for the first class Bass led.

"I'm sure there are people out there thinking, 'God, are these people crazy?' " Bass said. "But I think everyone in a crisis situation would want to be able to revive someone you love, and I think that holds with your pets, too."


Friday's Camarillo class marked the first time a certified instructor used breathing animal mannequins to teach such a course in the county, Red Cross officials said.

Charles James of the Red Cross' Los Angeles chapter developed the course three years ago. The Ventura County chapter sent four instructors to a training session in April, something Becker thought was long overdue.

"People don't know what to do with their animals when they are hurt, injured or sick," said Becker, who was once bitten by a kitten she tried to help after it was hit by a car.

The Red Cross mannequins are so new the staff has yet to name any of them but Atlas. Becker, who said she is not much of a dog person, named the German shepherd after the pooch she felt closest to, a former Simi Valley police dog who died a year ago.

Pet CPR is similar to human CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, requiring an alternating sequence of chest compressions and breaths. But instead of breathing into an animal's mouth, a rescuer must hold the animal's mouth closed and breathe into its nose. If it's a cat or other small animal, rescuers put their mouths over both the nose and mouth. Instead of mouth-to-mouth, it's mouth-to-snout.

"I have done CPR on rats before," Bass said.

After mastering CPR techniques and rescue breathing, the students in Friday's class moved on to first aid. Wearing latex gloves, they wrapped the stuffed animals in gauze pads and bandages for a slew of ailments, a relatively simple task since their patients were immobile.

"Yeah, I'd like to see a cat let me do this," Bacon said as she wrapped a bandage around the head of a dummy kitty with an imaginary ear flap injury.


In addition to leading the hands-on training, Becker shared plenty of useful tips: Don't look directly into the eye of a sick or injured animal you don't know. Wrap a towel or blanket around an injured animal before picking it up to avoid getting hurt. And don't apply a tourniquet to a bleeding limb, unless you think the animal is bleeding to death, because the limb will probably have to be amputated.

Becker also warned the students not to take their passion for their pets too far. If a pet is inside a burning building, don't go in after it, she told them.

"We all love our animals," Becker said, "but it's not worth losing your life over."


For further information about future pet CPR and first aid classes, call the Red Cross at 339-2234.

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