The Jaws of Life!

national dog dayIn case you missed it, Monday was National Dog Day – also known as: International Dog Day & National Dog Appreciation Day.

National Dog Day serves to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day – for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage.
Founded in 2004 by pet lifestyle expert and author Colleen Paige, National Dog Day was created to honor dogs more than we currently do, to give them “a day”, to show deep appreciation for our long connection to each other – for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work, their capacity for love and their ability to impact our lives in the most miraculous ways.

National Dog Day wishes to encourage dog ownership of all breeds, mixed and pure – and embraces the opportunity for all dogs to live a happy, safe and ”abuse-free life”.

As our regular readers know, we’re big dog lovers here at SRxA’s Word on Health, so it seemed fitting to bring you a happy and healthy tale (or perhaps that should be waggy tail) for the weekend.

dogs and house firesEach year, in the U.S., thousands of people lose their lives to fire.  Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to hearing about these tragedies, but there is another tragedy that occurs in which we rarely hear about – the hundreds of thousands of cherished family pets who suffer injury or death due to smoke and flames.

Government statistics estimate that there are around 400,000 home fires are reported annually. And 62% of these homes will own at least one pet -meaning some 300,000 animals are at risk of smoke inhalation.

Although firefighters and their heroic efforts attempt to save a pet’s life during a burning building, the damage a pet sustains from inhalation of smoke or carbon monoxide overwhelms many of the animals that often die en route to a veterinarian.   But if fire and rescue crews are able to provide life-saving oxygen for animals, as they do for humans, more animals would be saved.

Of the 30,000 or so fire departments in the US, only 1,700 have some type of pet oxygen delivery device.  In Word on Health’s home state of Virginia, there are 24 fire departments with such equipment, including Fairfax, Arlington, Sterling, Chesterfield, Spotsylvania, and Stafford.

Previously, in Prince William County, Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was the sole company, within the fire and rescue system, that provided this device.  But now, thanks to a generous donation provided by Prince William SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), firefighters have an opportunity to assist pets who are experiencing respiratory distress or failure due to a fire and potentially save more lives.

WAGN_FirstResponder_Banner_v2PWSPCA purchased 42 of the WAG’N 02 FUR LIFE delivery system/devices –each worth approximately $3,000 and has provided 2 kits to each of the 21 fire and rescue stations in the county.

I was honored and privileged to be asked to coordinate the introduction of the pet oxygen kits at Nokesville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and to ensure that all fire and EMS personnel are trained in the use and maintenance of the devices – a process we fittingly began on National Dog Day and hope to have fully operational by the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Dog-with-Oxygen-MaskThe pet oxygen delivery devices work similar to equipment manufactured for humans suffering from smoke inhalation except this device is used solely for four-legged animals.  The device has a cone shaped design with a rubber seal that creates a snug fit over the animal’s nose and mouth making the oxygen delivery more effective than oxygen masks designed for humans.

And while we hope that we never have to use them, we are confident  that by carrying the pet O2 kits on our fire trucks and ambulances that we can minimize the number of animal fatalities that occur due to fire.

What better way to mark dog appreciation day?

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And the Winner Is…

This morning’s headlines are full of the news from last nights Oscar’s.  The winners, the acceptance speeches, the dresses, the drama.

SRxA’s Word on Health is not going to add to the speculation over the alleged JLo wardrobe malfunction, or weigh in on Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Dictator spilling ‘ashes’ all over Ryan Seacrest. Instead, we’re taking a look at the accuracy of some of the health themes explored in two of the night’s biggest winners.

The Artist picked up five awards including best picture, best actor and best director. We also give it our nod for the way in which it depicted carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the film, George Valentin, a fading, former film icon is bereft and broke. Realizing that studios no longer want to hire him, in a fit of drunken depression, he sets fire to his films. Smoke fills his squalid apartment and George passes out.  Fortunately for him, his faithful dog escapes, alerts a policeman who is then able to save the dying George just in the nick of time.

A true Hollywood happy ending of course, but also an accurate portrayal of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the 1920’s, film was made from nitrocellulose, which is highly flammable. As it burns it produces smoke and carbon monoxide.  Victims of this odorless gas typically become light-headed, confused and then pass out. If enough carbon monoxide is present, people die of asphyxiation.

The Iron Lady, resulted in a well-deserved 3rd Oscar for Hollywood leading lady, Meryl Streep. Her brilliant portrayal of the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher provided an insightful look at her descent into Alzheimer’s-type dementia.  The movie intersperses Thatcher’s victories as Britain’s first female leader with the disease that has dominated her recent years.

Her character displays textbook dementia: memory loss, forgetfulness, hallucinations, talking to ghosts, moments of clarity interrupted by profound paranoia and denial.

As anybody who has taken care of an aging parent with dementia will know all too well, in the early stages, patients deny, deny, deny that anything is wrong, probably because they reality of what they are facing is just too devastating.

Word on Health congratulates all the Oscar winners and those behind the scenes for their realistic health insights.