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April: Pet First Aid Awareness Month, Illinois

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month and a great opportunity for pet owners to brush up on tips from the American Red Cross to keep their animals safe and healthy as we head into spring and summer.

HEAT STROKE: Heat stroke is one of the most common problems pets face in the warmer weather when they are not yet used to the warm temperatures. Pet owners should remember that the inside of a car can quickly reach 120 degrees in warm weather and should not leave their animals in the car. This can quickly lead to heat stroke. The signs of heat stroke include:

Heavy panting and being unable to calm down, even when lying down.

The pet’s gums may be brick red, they may have a fast pulse rate, or they may not be able to get up.

If someone suspects their pet has heat stroke, they should take the pet’s temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees. Bring the pet to the veterinarian immediately as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

OTHER HAZARDS: Open doors and windows can be hazardous to a pet. The animal may try to get outside, increasing the risk of falling from windows or being hit by a vehicle. Some plants and flowers can be hazardous. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control web site to find out which plants and flowers are poisonous to animals.

PET FIRST AID: Courses are available at many Red Cross chapters on how to care for your pet. The Red Cross has also developed Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid Guides with DVDs that teach basic responsibilities like spaying/neutering and giving medications, to performing CPR and preparing for disasters. Visit or call 1-800 RED CROSS to see when classes are available.

EMERGENCIES AND YOUR PET: Don’t forget to include pets in planning for emergencies in your home or neighborhood:

Make plans to take your pets with you if you have to evacuate. Most Red Cross shelters cannot accept pets because of health and safety concerns and other considerations. Know which friends, relatives, hotels, boarding facilities will accept pets.

Assemble an easy-to-carry kit with emergency supplies for pets:

  • Leashes, harnesses and/or carriers
  • Food, drinking water, bowls, manual can opener
  • Current photos of the pets
  • For more pet safety tips and information, please visit