How to Get Pet First Aid & CPR Certified


This weekend I finally completed a 13-year-old promise to myself: I became certified in pet first aid and CPR through the American Red Cross.

Odd promise? Maybe. But I learned the hard way how it feels when your pet is in need and you don't have the skills to help her.

Thirteen years ago, that happened to me with my first cat, Mooshie. She'd been fine all day, but I left for an hour and she was unconscious when I came home. I scooped her up and literally ran the few blocks to the vet, but Mooshie never woke up. She'd probably had acute massive heart failure, the vet said.

I was crushed. Most of all, I was furious with myself for not knowing how or if I could have helped her.

So a few weeks ago, when a friend asked if I'd attend a pet CPR and first aid class with her, I jumped at the chance. I didn't know

what to expect at the start of the four hour class, and was surprised that it covered everything from what to do if your pet is choking to how to treat a snake bite.

One of the key things I learned in the class was the importance of having pet first-aid kits in both your home and your car and an unexpected lesson was that you can give a pet a variation of the Heimlich if she's choking.

Most of all, I now feel more confident that I'll be prepared and able to assist my cat (and dog) companions if they need me. Here's what you need to know about taking a pet first-aid and CPR class.


We practiced a form of the Heimlich maneuver (pictured) and other ways to help a pet who is choking.

What will I learn?

You'll learn emergency skills such as what to do if your pet has a seizure, suffers an electric shock, is injured in a car accident or ingests poison. You'll also be trained to administer CPR if your pet stops breathing (yes, you can give a dog or cat mouth-to-mouth -- really mouth-to-nose in this case -- and yes, we practiced on dog and cat dummies).

The course I took also taught us how to assess a pet's vitals, bandage wounds, administer medication and restrain an injured pet; how to tell whether your pet is choking, having a seizure or suffering from some other issue; as well as how to deal with more common injuries such as a wound to your dog's paw pad.

How long will it take me to get certified?

The course I took through the Red Cross was four-hours long on one day, but courses may vary depending on where you get certified.

Do I really need to take the course?

Some rescue workers, such as emergency animal volunteers, are required to be certified in pet first aid and CPR, but just about any dog or cat parent can benefit from taking the course.

How much does it cost?

Costs vary depending on where you take the class.

How can I find a class?

The Red Cross offers regular classes at its many locations. Find a pet first aid and CPR class near you. You can also do an internet search for "pet first aid and CPR" for one of the many other organizations that offer the certification course.