Poof, the dog is saved

Firefighters get resuscitation tips

Staff WriterDecember 1, 2005 

Veterinarian Chris Konvalinka, with the aid of a dog named Fire, demonstrates a pooch resuscitation technique for Durham firefighters. Konvalinka also showed how to take a dog's pulse and check it for low oxygen in the blood.


Bribed with bone-shaped biscuits, a dog aptly named Fire served as a willing guinea pig Wednesday to demonstrate mouth-to-muzzle resuscitation.

The early morning class taught by a local veterinarian was part of a new effort to better train Durham firefighters and emergency medical technicians to save the lives of man's best friend -- as well as the occasional cat, cockatiel or chinchilla.

It goes well beyond nabbing a scared kitty from a utility pole. In a house fire, pets can suffer smoke inhalation and burns, just like their owners.

Step one for a potential rescuer is handling a terrified animal without drawing back a nub.

"They might not recognize you are there to help," warned Chris Konvalinka of Quail Roost Veterinary Hospital in Rougemont. "Most animals defend their home, especially if they are injured or in pain. They might not look like they're going to do anything until you try to grab them, then they'll nail you."

Fire, a medium-sized dog of indeterminate breed, certainly didn't look ferocious. He sat on a table, tail between his legs and hindquarters shivering, as Konvalinka showed about 30 first-responders how to take a pulse using an artery in the leg or to check for low oxygen in the blood by examining the paleness of canine gums.

Veterinary assistant Kelly Rogers, Fire's owner and the wife of a Durham fireman, helped soothe her pet as Konvalinka demonstrated doggie CPR for a stalled heart. A graduate of N.C. State University's acclaimed veterinary school, Konvalinka donated three sets of specially shaped oxygen masks to the fire department and demonstrated their use.

But if the pet still doesn't come to, the vet showed the technique all were waiting to see.

Konvalinka gently held Fire's snout with one hand while cupping the other to blow his breath into the patient pooch's nostrils.

"I torture my dog from time to time with a little mouth-to-nose," the vet confessed. "He doesn't like it much."

Staff writer Michael Biesecker can be reached at 956-2421 or mbieseck@newsobserver.com.

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