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Mouth to Snout

Dog CPR class teaches basics of canine emergencies


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Students in FitRec’s Dog CPR class learn the basics of pet first aid,with the help of some furry friends. Photos by Kate Flock

A red canvas bag with “Little Anne” written across the front perches on a table in the front of a FitRec classroom. One velvety tan ear protrudes from an unzipped corner. The ear belongs to a yellow Labrador Retriever. Well, not a real one, but a life-size facsimile known as a manikin.

Welcome to Physical Education’s Dog CPR and First Aid class, or PDP ER 181, as it’s formally known.

EMS instructor Ray Levy passes around a sign-up sheet to the five human students in attendance. “I’m hoping you’re in the right class or you’d be really confused right now,” says Levy (SAR’98, SPH’01). Sure enough, minutes later, a sophomore gathers up her things and ducks out, admitting that she had signed up for the first aid refresher course—on humans. “It’s a good thing she realized it now,” says Levy, “before we started and she said, ‘These are dogs!’”

He and EMS instructor Christopher Libby (CAS’11) keep the tone light throughout the Sunday morning class, taught once a semester, depending on demand. The half-credit course draws students of all (ahem) breeds—from veterinarians-in-training to pet owners and dog walkers.

Ashley Power (CAS’13) is taking the class with her Golden Retriever, Wally, in mind. “If anything ever happened, I’d want to know what to do,” she says.

Levy and Libby (above) cover a lot of ground during the six-hour course, which includes an American Red Cross video (yes, one exists), a lecture, and hands-on practice that gives students a primer in how to handle a host of emergencies—choking, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), cuts and scrapes, and splinting.

During a break, Levy arranges the day’s guest stars on the carpeted floor at the back—the aforementioned yellow Labrador, a Greater Swiss Mountain dog, a Husky, a tabby cat (meant to simulate a very small dog), all plush, and a brown plastic mutt. Each contains an inflatable paper bag attached to a plastic tube extending out from the snout. One high-tech dog even comes with a hand pump to simulate a femoral pulse.

While the dogs in question might look like toys, this is serious business.

Each student is assigned one of the manikins to work on. They’re asked to pick one about the size of their own pet. “And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for,” Levy says as he takes them step-by-step through choking and breathing emergencies, coaching them on the ABCs of CPR: airway, breathing, and circulation. Students manipulate the animals awkwardly at first, but are encouraged when they see their manikins’ sides rising and falling with each breath.

Catherine Carchedi (CAS’14) looks concerned as she gives her plush dog the Heimlich maneuver. “Isn’t there a bone you can break if you do this wrong?” she asks. Libby assures her that isn’t as big a concern with animals as with humans, and she carries on.

Later, students practice bandaging and splinting their manikins’ wounds. Levy urges the dog owners to keep a dog first aid kit, containing gauze and adhesive tape, wire cutters (for nasty fish hooks), Benadryl (for allergic reactions), and a rectal thermometer (’nuf said) on hand for medical crises.

Pet emergencies are hardly an anomaly. In 2009, 10,510 pets received emergency care—for things ranging from heat exhaustion and shortness of breath to poisoning and severe trauma—at Boston’s MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center, according to hospital spokesperson Brian Adams.

“The more pet owners can learn about their pets, the better,” Adams says about the BU class. But “they should appreciate that there are professionals who deal with these situations on a day-to-day basis. We’d really hate to see a pet owner attempt to treat an emergency that can actually hurt the animal further.”

A thought echoed by Levy, who offers this disclaimer at the beginning of class: “I am not a veterinarian, nor would I pretend to answer questions about your particular pet.”

Information is not yet available about the spring semester Dog CPR class, but will be posted here. The cost for the daylong class is $75, which includes a required text.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday. Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.


4 Comments on Mouth to Snout

  • Anonymous on 11.10.2010 at 10:19 am

    Covered by Tuition Remission?

    As a BU employee I wonder if this is covered by tuition remission. I would love to take the class. Any chance this information can be added to the story? Nice piece!

  • Ray Levy on 11.10.2010 at 2:55 pm

    Tuituion Remission

    The class is covered by tuition remission, but there is a fee for the textbook, DVD, and certification.

  • Cindy S. on 12.08.2010 at 10:59 pm

    I lost my little dog a few months ago, if only I could have learned the canine emergencies, thanks for this course, it will surely help a lot of animals.
    Kanye West
    Lil Wayne

  • Dustin Blevins on 02.01.2013 at 11:16 am

    This is a great class topic! Everyone should be prepared to save their pets life in case of emergency. I have taken a pet emergency class as well as refreshed on canine cpr with a few people. While I have never had to use it, I am prepared in the case that I do need to use it!

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