South Salisbury Fire Department adds pet oxygen masks to its equipment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2018

SALISBURY — It’s not often firefighters or a department’s medical responders find themselves giving oxygen to dogs and cats.

But if that need should arise — and who knows, it could today — South Salisbury Fire Department is ready.

The department has pet oxygen masks that can be quickly be used at fire scenes.

Holly-Anne Franco, assistant medical coordinator for the South Salisbury department, recently procured three pet oxygen mask kits from Wag’N O2 Fur Life.

The Charleston, South Carolina-based company donated the kits, each of which contain three different-sized masks. They’re designed for “anything that breathes,” Franco says, and she lists animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets, snakes, birds, alpacas — even hamsters — that can be victims of smoke inhalation.

“Like a human,” Franco says, “it (an animal) would have the same issues.”

If the animal is responsive or breathing, the masks are connected directly to a portable oxygen tank.

The smallest masks are used on animals with short snouts, such as cats and pint-size dogs. These masks are designed to provide 1 to 3 liters of oxygen a minute.

The medium-size masks are good for a dog 20 to 55 pounds and deliver 3 to 5 liters of oxygen a minute.

The largest size is for a dog 50 to 150 pounds and delivers 5 to 7 liters of oxygen a minute.

The masks are simple in appearance with stoppers on the end, dual vents on the side and a rubber, open bottom through which the pet’s nose or snout is placed.

If firefighters rescue a pet that is not breathing on its own, they can add an ambu bag between the mass and oxygen that helps force air into the animal victims’ lungs.

The pet oxygen mask kits will be placed with Engine 741 and Squad 71, with the third kit in reserve at the South Salisbury station.

“We’re excited we have the opportunity to have these,” Franco said.

A plus with pet oxygen masks is “they are reusable, because they’re not going back on humans,” she added.

The masks can be easily cleaned with soap and warm water.

“We hope to keep these going for years on end,” Franco said.

Franco is conducting quick training sessions on the pet oxygen masks with the department’s part-time firefighters and otherwise at monthly training sessions. All firefighters and medical responders will be trained to use the pet oxygen masks.

No certifications on the pet masks are required, medical coordinator Jeff Blake noted.

Some of the training will involve the proper carrying techniques for getting rescued pets safely down ladders, how to deal with combative animals and CPR techniques on animals.

Franco said the department hopes the pet oxygen masks never have to be used, “but we will do annual training on it.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.