National Pet First Aid Awareness Month

National Pet First Aid Awareness Month

By Susan Spisak

April is National Pet First Aid     Awareness Month, an effort by the American Red Cross (ARC) to draw attention to specialized pet first aid. This month is dedicated to raising awareness among pet parents and animal lovers about injuries and emergency care. While prevention is best, accidents and unfortunate situations may occur, so it’s important to be prepared so you can jump into action. I turned to Bobby Silcott, a retired EMT and Animal Control Officer, who is knowledgeable in Pet First Aid for an especially altruistic reason.
Well before his recent retirement, Bobby came up with a plan to provide animals with Pet Oxygen Masks or Poms. (Prior to this, they were using human masks in the field, or improvising with other items, to get pets oxygen after smoke inhalation.) He founded the all-important non-profit POM Project to equip all state, fire/rescue departments with POMs free of charge to accomplish his goal, “Job #1 – Save Lives.” As of January 2024, he’s donated over 650 sets, and he figured a way out to purchase those that weren’t donated by businesses—he teaches Pet First Aid and CPR Training for a nominal fee. The class fees are used to purchase POM sets, so it’s a win-win for students. They learn important tools and know they are helping a crucial animal cause.
Bobby went through the necessary steps to be certified to teach lifesaving dog and cat Pet First Aid and CPR classes to individuals and groups. He’s offered the classes and continues to offer them at venues such as pet stores, fire departments, libraries, vet offices, and grooming salons who allow him to teach at their facilities without a fee.

Pet First Aid Basics & the App
Knowing the basics of Pet First Aid is proactive and learning and understanding your dog’s (and cat’s) body language is key. Things to know are their temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and gum color. Make a chart of what’s normal for your dog’s size or breed, so you can recognize when things are abnormal. Ask your vet for input on your next visit as well.
Different types of injuries and illnesses require specific steps. In many cases, it’s hard to tell whether a dog requires urgent veterinary care or can be treated at home—but always give your vet a call. Start by looking for any obvious abnormalities or concerning symptoms. Secure your pet if necessary, assess the situation, and convey it to your medical professional.
If your pet has a severe injury or condition, rushing straight to a veterinarian is often better than wasting time trying to further assess him yourself. Again, let your vet know you’re on the way. If it’s after hours, proceed to the area all-night vet hospital.
There’s a helpful free First Aid App by the ARC that can guide you through most issues. “I think it’s not a bad source…it’s worthwhile having,” Bobby said of the app. He stressed to stay away from the “million” online posts on social media that aren’t reliable info. The ARC app is thorough, explaining a plethora of problems and how to handle such as allergic reactions, bleeding, bloat, blood sugar issues, and burns. It includes step-by-step instructions, videos, and images for more than 25 common first aid and emergency situations. It has detailed instructions for CPR by dog size, so you can perform it until you get to the veterinarian.  
The Pet First Aid app can be downloaded by texting ‘GETPET’ to 90999, by going to, or by searching for “American Red Cross” in app stores.

The ABC’s of CPR
The ABCs of CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, are airway, breathing, and circulation. “As individuals, we hope we never have to use these, but they can be lifesaving depending on the severity,” Bobby said.

CPR involves chest compressions with or without artificial respiration. It is only to be used on your dog when you cannot feel or hear his heartbeat and he’s not breathing. This may occur for a few reasons: trauma, choking, or illness.

Before performing CPR, keep in mind that it is potentially hazardous and can cause complications or fatal damage if performed on a healthy dog. The ARC app can walk you through the steps via written instruction and videos appropriate for your dog’s size until you get to your vet. (If you don’t have the phone app, follow the online steps,  Bobby also shared, “I have found you can get some very reliable videos on YouTube, with actual veterinarians demonstrating CPR and where the heart is.”  

Bobby added that general knowledge of compressions and starting CPR is best for your animal--doing nothing can be worse. It might keep your dog alive long enough to get to the vet for life-saving treatments. “Again, it’s one of those things as individuals we hope we never have to use, but if we do, we’re prepared.”

Pet First Aid Kits
A home and travel Pet First Aid Kit is essential. A first aid kit is critical to ensure your injured canine moves on the path to recovery. Keep one at home and another in the car to ensure you’re always prepared to patch the problem before going to the vet.  

Bobby said Pet First Aid Kits and human kits are similar. He admitted for the average person, purchasing kits can be expensive. Many are available on Amazon—look for an American Red Cross approved one. If preparing your own, gear your kits to your activities. For travel and day outings, be sure to have a portable water bowl, wipes, a towel, Benadryl in the event of a sting (speak to your vet before purchasing), a leash, nonperishable food, bottled water, and medical records.

Pet First Aid Classes
Bobby is now scheduling Pet First Aid/CPR classes for Spring/Summer 2024. If you or your organization would like to host a class in Maine or New Hampshire, please let him know at the site below.

He charges $80 to each student, which in turn is used to purchase a set of small, medium, and large POMs. Students receive a book on pet CPR and a lifetime certification, and the five-hour class is a particularly useful tool to animal owners.

He admitted he loves teaching them and knows of at least one situation where a graduate was able to utilize the training. A pet store manager took the class and a week later a shopper brought her large dog in. Within moments, the dog collapsed and began having a grand mal seizure. Bobby was told chaos ensued, but the manager was calm and took charge, following her learned steps. She then reassured the owner the dog would be fine. Once the dog’s episode was over, a nearby vet was called and the owner quickly transported him there.

“Hopefully folks get something out of the classes,” he said. Animal welfare, the POM Project and Pet First Aid go hand in hand to Bobby, “They’re all equally important. “They really all mean a lot to me.” Check his schedule for upcoming Pet First Aid Classes at or
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