In the event of a fire or other dangerous breathing environment, humans have always looked to oxygen masks to aid in providing the necessary air to survive the event. Did you know that pets can benefit from oxygen masks as well? Veterinarians have been using pet oxygen masks for years in their offices and emergency clinics when pets arrive that are in need of oxygen, but the practice was seldom heard of outside of those controlled environments – until more recently.
Experts say it is becoming more popular and widespread to hear about firefighters, animal rescue teams, first responders, and paramedics saving the lives of dogs and cats with the use of oxygen masks. Take the story of the 2-year-old Siamese cat, Hanna. Hanna was the almost-victim of a fire that broke out in a home in Florida. She was found in the bedroom and was thought dead because of her lack of movement and breathing, but once she got outside, she moved her head.
Firefighters immediately placed a pet oxygen mask on Hanna’s face and watched in amazement and awe as the almost lifeless cat was so clearly alive! Firefighter Eric Morton said, “as soon as I put that mask on the cat, it started almost immediately to come around, she started to open her eyes and look around.” He kept the oxygen mask on her until animal control officers arrived, and by then, he says, Hanna “was like a normal cat.”
Pet oxygen masks are different than the masks used for humans; they are cone shaped and are able to fit over both the nose and mouth of the animal while creating a tight fit. “Immediate oxygen therapy can make the difference between life and death in severely affected pets,” says Elke Rudloff, an emergency and critical care veterinarian outside of Milwaukee.
Not all fire companies and emergency responders are able to provide pet oxygen masks in addition to human ones, but with their popularity growing, the hope is that more will be be donated in an effort to give all distressed pets a fighting chance.