Most pet owners would leap into action for an injured pet, even if it meant risking dog breath by going mouth-to-snout.
Fifty-eight percent of pet owners — 63 percent of dog owners and 53 percent of cat owners — would be at least somewhat likely to perform CPR on their pet in the event of a medical emergency, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll.
Tammy Parks, 52, of Amherst, Mass., has taken a pet first aid class and wouldn't hesitate to help her 15-year-old mixed breed terriers, Lucy and Julia, or her white fronted Amazon parrot Koko.
"It's not rocket science. The mechanics are the same as humans," said Parks, who was an American Red Cross first aid trainer. "Size is the biggest difference."
In general, though, the poll found few pet owners are prepared to handle pet emergencies. Just 20 percent of pet owners have a pet first aid kit in their home, and 54 percent do not have a fire evacuation plan for their pets.
Sixty-two percent of dog owners and a third of cat owners let their pets ride in their cars unrestrained, rather than placing them in a special pet carrier. And 11 percent of pet owners sometimes leave their pets unattended in a car or truck.
Still, most pet owners said they would go the extra mile to rescue their pets. Women were more likely to say they would perform CPR on their pets than men, 65 percent to 50 percent, the poll showed.
Nearly every decision made at the Parks house is made with the safety of the animals in mind.
"We don't use pesticide on the lawn. We don't buy food with pesticide on it. No sugar, no salt, just natural nuts and fruits. No Teflon in the house, no smoking, no air fresheners, no aerosol products," she said, explaining that any one of those things could kill their 7-year-old bird.
Barbara Klingman of Houma, La., said she changed things after her Chihuahua, Honeychild, ate something that forced an emergency trip to the vet.
"I make sure she doesn't have anything she shouldn't have," Klingman said of the 7-pound, 4-year-old dog.
The poll showed 7 percent of those polled have pets who have eaten something poisonous and 16 percent have pets who have had allergic reactions to something.
There were also threats from pets themselves: 17 percent reported having a pet bitten or attacked by another animal, 9 percent said a pet had bitten or attacked another animal and 5 percent said a pet had bitten or attacked another person.
When the worst happens
The poll revealed that 41 percent have experienced at least one pet safety emergency that required an emergency trip to a vet and 11 percent have had a pet hit by a car.
Edwin Griffin Jr., 61, of Plano, Texas, remembers all too well 25 years ago when his white German shepherd ran in front of a car. The dog broke both hips and his jaw, lost an eye and was in intensive care at an animal hospital for two weeks.
"I had just lost my wife the month before. My children were 1 and 3. I mortgaged the car to save my dog because of the impact it would have had on the children," he said.
The dog lived six more years.
Now Buddy, Griffin's 3-year-old golden retriever, has a first aid kit, a carbon monoxide alarm in the room where he sleeps and several designated escape routes for emergencies. But it's Buddy who's come to the rescue of humans in his home, especially Griffin's father-in-law, who is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer.
"My wife's father gets a great deal of relief from being able to touch and rub Buddy. Buddy just stands beside him. He knows that is his role," Griffin said.
Pet safety and CPR training is offered by the American Red Cross and many private companies. "Vets are the experts but they are rarely on scene when something happens to our pets," said Denise Fleck, who runs Sunny-Dog Ink in Burbank and has written pet safety textbooks, appeared on a number of TV shows and taught classes throughout Southern California.
Disaster plans are important, too, especially in areas like Southern California that are at the mercy of earthquakes and fires.
"If people value their pets like a family member, they should know how to do CPR, just like they would for their kids. In disasters, pets get hurt and run into debris and all kinds of things," said Mark Solnick, director of emergency preparedness and response for the Red Cross of Santa Monica.
Laurie Sullivan, 47, of Littlerock, Calif., has three dogs (Elsa Ann, Hope and Schotzie), an Arabian horse (Cary) and 19 cats. She has tended to a wide variety of emergencies over the years. Lucky for her menagerie, she was a certified emergency medical technician and a hospital worker.
She was there to help when one of her dogs choked on a small bone, when one of her cats had a hard time delivering eight kittens, when a neighbor lost the tip of her finger to a horse and for countless everyday cuts, scrapes and bruises.
She has never had to use CPR on an animal, but she knows how to. However, "it would really be hard to give CPR to a horse," she laughed.
The AP-Petside.com poll was conducted Oct. 1-5, 2009, by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. It involved telephone interviews on landline and cell phones with 1,166 pet owners nationwide, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for all pet owners.