Dr. Katy: Pet oxygen masks crucial in fire rescues

On April 3, Sydney Davis came home from school to find her house on fire, with two dogs trapped inside:

“I open the door and black smoke just comes out," she recalls.

With smoke filling the home, it took Arlington County firefighters ten minutes to find the dogs hiding behind the television.

"We picked them up, they couldn't hold their heads up, they couldn't stand," says Fire Captain William Bennett.

Sam and Dave were on their last breaths.

"They were struggling to breathe, foaming at the mouth," says firefighter Jamie Jill.

Thanks to pet oxygen masks, they survived. Industry experts estimate that more than 40,000 pets die in fires every year. And while medic units at most local fire stations do carry the masks, that isn’t the case nationwide due to high costs.

A mask can deliver oxygen at a rate of 10-12 liters per minute, and is placed directly over the dog’s nose. Fairfax County firefighters used a large mask to save Cola, a Great Dane puppy – from her burning home in November.

"At first I wasn't sure if she was alive. I felt her and could tell it was something alive...I got down close and she was barely breathing," says Trisha Danula, a technician with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue.

Once the team put the oxygen mask on her, she started to respond. Within ten minutes, Cola was sitting up in the ambulance.

"I think she knew it was helping her and she actually put her nose back into the mask, like don't take it off," says Trisha.

"The fact that they had these dog masks and we were able to get her immediate attention -- it means the world to us," says Cola's owner, Caroline Romanoff.

Dr. Alicia Montgomery says that all three dogs were extremely lucky to survive, and that all cases were particularly remarkable:

"All of them had significant signs of carbon monoxide toxicity."

And while the dogs received hyberbaric oxygen therapy at Southpaws Veterinary Hospital to speed up their recovery, Dr.Montgomery says the reason the dogs are alive today is due to the masks and a few fast-acting firefighters.

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