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What would you do if your very favorite furry friend, of the four-legged variety, suddenly collapses and stops breathing?

The American Red Cross, long known for its service to humans in need, is now recommending a quick response and the proper use of mouth-to-nose resuscitation.

Definitely not the usual mouth-to-mouth technique, but it could mean the difference between life and death for a pet, according to Dr. Kevin Kuhn, head of Afton Animal Hospital in Amherst.

Now, the concept of educating families on first aid for their pets is being promoted across the country by the Red Cross in conjunction with veterinary groups and the Humane Society of the United States.

About 65 of the 1,350 American Red Cross chapters nationwide, including the Buffalo-area chapter, have joined with the Humane Society in offering a two-hour class on pet first aid, focusing on how to react and respond to pet emergencies.

The interactive lecture, taught by local veterinarians, include topics that cover common emergencies for cats and dogs; bone, muscle, and joint injuries; CPR and rescue breathing; administering medication; car accidents and more.

Kuhn, who adopted the concept five years ago and has been teaching it through the Williamsville Community Education Program, said, "It's really an important program for pet owners. An emergency can arise at any time, and it's often difficult to know just what to do until you can get your pet to a professional for help.

"Our CPR technique is the same as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, except that we show the pet owners how to make a cone of one hand and breathe into the nose of the pet -- instead of mouth-to-mouth. It can be very effective."

The course will be offered at several locations:

Sept 15 -- 7 to 9 p.m., Red Cross, 5161 Camp Road, Hamburg.

Sept. 19 -- 4 to 6 p.m., United Church of Ellicottville.

Oct. 3 -- noon to 2 p.m., Red Cross, 64 Broad St., Tonawanda.

The course fee is $10; for an additional $10, participants can buy "Pet First Aid," a handy reference guide published by the Red Cross and the Humane Society. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society's Emergency Medical Fund.

To register, call the Red Cross at 878-2387.

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