In any fire or medical emergency, firefighters and EMTs have a plethora of tools to render first aid. However, when a family pet is injured in those emergencies, their resources are often limited.
That's why a local company is trying to change that by developing oxygen masks designed for animals. Before they were developed by Herndon-based Wag'n Enterprises, the custom masks are now being carried by first responders in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
The chance to lead the Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department in Prince William County through training in the new animal masks was too much for EMT Stephanie Popish to pass up.
"I thought it was the best thing that we could have done," Popish said.
Ines de Pablo, the owner of Wag'n Enterprises, says that when animal need help breathing, human masks simply don't work well.
"They're all meant and designed for human use, so they fit a flat face," de Pablo said. "When you use that on a dog, you're wasting oxygen."
De Pablo says that since the masks come in all sorts of different sizes, firefighters can use them on a wide assortment of animals, from rabbits and ferrets to horses and cows.
Popish said that when it comes to pets in emergency situations, they've seen it all while responding to calls throughout Prince William County.
"If something happened to my dog, I know how heartbroken I'd be," she said. "You know the family can deal with missing material things, but losing a pet is like losing a member of your family."
Fire department officials say residents should not call 911 for emergencies that only involve an animal's health, though. In those cases, authorities urge residents to seek veterinary care.