Oxygen masks will help pets survive

TRYING IT ON FOR SIZE — Buddy, held by his owner, Stacy Raiport, is being very cooperative as jennifer Mieczkowski places a pet mask on him, demonstrating how the pet-saving device works. (Photo by Mary Pankow)
Approximately 100,000 pets die each year in house fires, according to a training seminar given April 3 by Jennifer Mieczkowski of Project Breathe and Invisible Fence brand.

The training, held at the Gowanda Fire Hall, gave first responders, and other interested, a first-hand look at pet oxygen masks and how they work.

Project Breathe was created by Invisible Fence brand in 2007 to lower the number of pet fatalities. So far, 9,500 of the pet masks have been donated to fire companies.

When asked by Mieczkowski how Gowanda's firefighters know when a pet is trapped inside a burning building, they responded that the owner usually lets them know. Tim Twichell said that if the animal is alive, of course they let it out, or try to get it out.

To assist firefighters in determining whether a pet resides in a building, Mieczkowski brought along a supply of pet alert stickers to be placed in windows. (Residents may pick one up at the Municipal Building Village Office. There is no charge.)

The dangers of smoke inhalation was stressed, including the fact that it may take up to 48 hours for a pet to develop the symptoms, which are similar to a human's symptoms: seizures, loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, dry cough, bright red membranes around eyes or lips.

Remaining calm around a pet in distress is imperative, Mieczkowski said. She also suggested approaching them from the side, rather than from the front, which they may interpret as threatening. In addition, firefighters must choose the right size mask for the animal.

The small oxygen mask fits pets up to 20 pounds; the medium mask is for pets between 20 and 50 pounds; and the large mask fits animals over 50 pounds. The shape of the snout also factors into the size of mask being used.

Continuing on, Mieczkowski said that the mask should cover the animal's nose and mouth. The fire-fighting professionals were also reminded to remember the CPR ABCs: Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Setting the proper oxygen flow rate is very important as well, depending on the size of the mask.

If an animal is found not breathing, but has a pulse, a resuscitation bag can be used with the oxygen mask. Another plus is that the masks can be reused. They just require washing with dish-washing liquid.

At the end of the training, the Gowanda Fire Department was presented with three oxygen masks, one of each size; three oxygen supply lines, a rescue leash, decals and an instruction guide.

Accepting the donations, Fire Chief Steve Raiport said, "If it saves one pet's life, it's worth it. We're honored and grateful for the donation."

Now, not only do area residents benefit from the expertise of Gowanda's firefighters, their pets will have the increased benefit of a pet oxygen mask if the need arises.

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