Creating Safe, Healthy and Happy Lifestyles for our Pets
Statistics have shown that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death among pre-senior dogs and cats. Leading the way are motor vehicle accidents (being hit by a car), poisonings, and choking. It is estimated that over 60% of all animal hospital visits are emergency in nature. According to the American Animal Hospital Association 1 out of 4 more pets could be saved if just one pet first aid technique was applied before veterinary care.
My name is April Begosh. I am the owner of Healthy Pets NH, a training and education company that offers courses in CPR, First Aid and Wellness Care for pets to pet owners and pet professionals. I received my instructor certification from a company called Pet Tech Inc.
It was my dog, Suzie, who ultimately started me on my path towards wellness care for pets. I am a lifelong pet owner whose pets have run the gamut from frogs to snakes to birds to hamsters to cats and, of course, to dogs. In March 2007, during a routine wellness check-up, my vet palpated a mass growing on Suzie’s spleen. She was 14 at the time so it was his opinion that surgery was unfair to her and to me. His recommendation was to simply monitor the growth of the mass and to make sure that it was not negatively affecting the quality of her life. He suggested that I periodically palpate the mass myself to determine if and how fast it was growing. I have been a human massage therapist for 16 years so I was completely comfortable with palpation and was confident in my abilities to monitor the various body systems and symptoms to determine if a disease process was progressing. For the next several months I massaged Suzie daily with the intention of feeling for, looking for, listening for, and smelling for any signs that her health was deteriorating. Sadly, in November 2007, 8 months after detecting the mass on her spleen, Suzie communicated to me that it was time to let her go gracefully, peacefully and with dignity. It was the first time in my life of 35 years of pet ownership that I have ever had to make the decision to euthanize my pet. While it was one of the most painful decisions I have had to make in my life to that point, her trust and her faith in me made the experience easier to handle. In our final seconds together, I made a promise to Suzie that I would actively work towards creating safe, healthy and happy lifestyles for our pets.
In March of 2009, I took the first step towards making good on that promise, thus, Healthy Pets NH was born. HPNH teaches pet owners and pet professionals how to bring their pets from kittenhood or puppyhood into their senior years in the healthiest way possible. Through the use of lecture and hands on skills, HPNH teaches positive nutritional habits, the proper amount and use of exercise, how obedience training and behavioral assessment can keep your pets safe and how to pet proof your home to avoid accidental poisonings and preventable injuries. Of course, accidents do happen and, when they do, HPNH will prepare you to administer rescue breathing and CPR for your pet. We will teach you first aid techniques such as choking management, bleeding protocols, managing hot and cold injuries, how to induce vomiting, and even how to brush your pet’s teeth.
All of these skills are important for a pet owner to know and to be able to apply correctly and appropriately, but, as a massage therapist, I am all about prevention. Knowing and tracking some important things about your pet can go a long way towards recognizing when something is not “right” with your pet. The “Snout to Tail Wellness Assessment” created by Pet Tech Inc, and taught through Healthy Pets NH will allow you to know your pet’s normal heartbeat, breathing rate, and body temperature and will encourage you to track these things on a daily to weekly basis so that you are aware of any changes in your pet’s health and can quickly act on them before symptoms progress to a point of disease. Not only does the assessment teach how to monitor these vitals, but it also is a systematic approach to palpating for any changes to your pet’s physical health. I like to call it touching with intention. We all touch our pets every day, why not follow the steps below to touch with intention and perhaps prevent a minor problem from becoming a major health concern?
“Snout To Tail Wellness Assessment”
1. Head: Snout-The nose should be cold and wet. Not too wet with discharge and not so dry that it is cracked. Muzzle should be free of bumps and abrasions.
2. Mouth, Gums & Teeth-Gums should be bubble gum pink. Teeth should be white and without cracks, chips or missing teeth. Breath should not stink.
3. Eyes-Eyes should be clear with no discharge and they should track movement. Both eyes should be symmetrical. Are the whites, white, red or yellow? Are the pupils pinpoint, dilated or unequal?
4. Crown/Skull-Check for abrasions, bumps, masses, tenderness or sores.
5. Ears-There should be no odor or discharge. They should not be sensitive to the touch. They should be symmetrical.
6. Neck & Spine-Is there any pain, discomfort or guarding along the spine?
7. Chest & Ribs-You should be able to feel the ribs. Breathing should be easy and rhythmic.
8. Front Legs & Paws-Check for range of motion. Nails and dew claws should not be cracked, split or painful. Check the pads for cracks or tears. Check between the toes for foreign objects.
9. Hind Legs & Paws-Use the same procedure as the front.
10. Abdomen & Genitals-Abdomen should not be sensitive, painful, hard or rigid. There should be no discharge from mammary glands or genitals. Anal area should be free of hair, debris and feces.
11. Tail, Skin & Coat-The tail should be free of deformities and pain and should have good movement. Assess the skin and coat for quality, texture, color, temperature and excessive shedding.
The “Snout To Tail Wellness Assessment” should be done 3-5 times a week to be most effective. Learning this assessment and then knowing what to do if you should find something abnormal with your pet is the best way to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Healthy Pets NH is committed to improving the quality of our pets’ lives throughout the state and holds classes in all of the major cities throughout the year. In addition to working with pet owners and pet professionals, Healthy Pets NH provides fundraising events for local animal shelters and rescues. If you are interested in learning more about what Healthy Pets NH has to offer, visit their website at www.healthypetsnh.com. Together we can create safe, healthy and happy lifestyles for our pets.