By Dr. Becker
Did you know that approximately 40,000 dogs and cats die in house fires each year? And that number could be on the very low end, as other estimates put the total at up to 150,000 pets lost annually, according to the New Holland Volunteer Fire Department in South Carolina. What a heartbreaking statistic.
Many pet owners leave their animals alone while they are at work or running errands. If the house catches fire, the pet is left to fend for itself. And even when first responders are aware there are animals inside a burning structure, it’s often difficult to locate them because pets, unlike people, look for a place to hide from fire rather than escaping it. Far too many pets die each year from smoke asphyxiation.
Oxygen Masks Designed Especially for Pets
But here’s a bit of really good news. Pam Gleason, publisher of two regional South Carolina newspapers, the Aiken Horse and the Dog and Hound, has generously donated pet oxygen mask kits to New Holland volunteer firefighters.
Part of the inspiration behind the donation is a dog named Dora, who was saved when her home in Greenville, SC caught fire. Dora is alive thanks to an oxygen mask, and happily, she has found a new forever home.
The donated masks are specially designed to provide oxygen and air in a more efficient manner to pets. The masks can be used to help conscious pets suffering from smoke inhalation, as well as pets that must be resuscitated after losing consciousness.
The new technology works not only for dogs and cats, but also goats and several other animals. According to firefighter Gary Knoll:
“We take the oxygen hose, attach it, and take the face mask and place it over the pet's mouth and administer oxygen and air to the pet. If the animal isn't breathing, we can take the rebreather from our first responders bag and squeeze the bag to inflate the animal's lungs.”
The Specially Designed Masks Allow Firefighters to Stabilize Pets for Transport to a Veterinarian
The new kits contain three different mask sizes to accommodate different types of animals. They give firefighters the ability to stabilize a pet long enough to get it to a veterinarian for further treatment.
According to Knoll, since many households today contain a variety of synthetic materials that produce dangerous gases, having pet oxygen masks available is especially important. He estimates that the level of toxic gas produced inside a burning home is 10 times higher today than 20 years ago. And since 75 percent of all deaths from house fires are the result of smoke inhalation, the need to provide air and oxygen to family pets is critically important.
Estimates are that over 3,000 of the 5,000 homes in New Holland contain pets, so volunteer firefighters are grateful to have the technology available to save the lives of residents’ cherished dogs, cats, and other animal companions.
Local Residents Can Help Their Fire Departments Purchase More Pet Masks
According to Pam Gleason, fire departments in Aiken City, North Augusta and Couchton also have the kits on their trucks. The kits cost $75 each, and residents of the region can assist their fire departments by helping them purchase additional kits at Wag'N O2 Fur Life. Alternatively, residents can join a fellowship program online and receive donations from others to help provide the kits.
The Emma Zen Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization, also raises funds to provide fire departments across the country with pet oxygen mask kits.
In this short video, first responders in Texas demonstrate use of a pet oxygen mask: