Would you know what to do if your pet was choking or needed first aid due to an injury? What if you suspected poisoning?

These are questions that led longtime groomer, day care and boarding provider Malinda Malone, owner of Malinda's Pampered Pets, to totally change the way she runs her Ahwatukee Foothills business.

She discovered a company called Pet Tech, Inc. based in Carlsbad, Calif., an international training center for pet CPR and first aid. Malone said she was so impressed with the company's programs that she sought certification in all the organization had to offer.

"I know the importance of first aid in my profession and beyond," Malone said. "Several years ago, I wanted to take a pet CPR/first aid class, but there were no classes of this type available locally. So I decided to take the three-day certification class Pet Tech offered and started teaching PetSaver classes. I regularly host PetSaver seminars right here in Ahwatukee."

The PetSaver Program is a comprehensive, hands-on workshop. It covers healthy living, priorities and concerns of emergency situations, restraining and muzzling, primary pet assessment, rescue breathing, CPR, bleeding, seizures, shock and fractures, poisoning, heat and cold injuries, insect bites and stings, snakebites, snout to tail assessment, choking, vitals, making a pet first aid and emergency preparedness kit as well as learning proper dental care.

The class includes a handbook and upon completion of the seminar participants receive a certificate that is valid for two years.

In addition, Malone said she is the only master Pet Tech instructor in Arizona certified to teach people to become instructors themselves.

"Taking this class alone makes you more valuable if you are in the pet business because time is of the essence in an emergency," Malone stressed during a recent seminar at her Ahwatukee shop, sharing that she had just used what she knows to save her own dog from recently choking on his food.

It's an opportunity that Maricopa resident Jennifer Panehal decided to explore as she begins the process of opening her own dog day care and boarding facility in the area.

"I think taking these classes and getting certified will help me stand out more and it's good to know for my own pets," the 22-year-old said. "This gives me hands-on experience and makes me more marketable in starting my own business."

As more and more people pamper their pets with spa and day care services, they are viewing these four-legged furry friends as true family members, therefore, looking for the best possible care.

About 63 percent of all households in the United States have a pet and in 2006, nearly half of pet owners, or 49.7 percent, considered their pets to be family members, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In 2010, $48.35 billion was spent on these pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, and the group estimates that number will rise to $50.84 billion for 2011.

"People who take care of our children are required to be certified in CPR and first aid, so anyone who takes care of your furry four-legged children should be certified," Malone said. "As a pet owner or a pet professional, being prepared for an emergency and quick action can mean the difference between life and death for your best friend before you ever get to your veterinarian's office."

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) one out of four more pets would survive if just one pet first aid technique was applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care.

"Anything that might help is well worth it because if it gets to the point that an animal needs CPR it's not a good situation," said Dr. Alex MacKenzie, a veterinarian at Foothills Animal Hospital in Ahwatukee. "It's similar to the training employees here go through, but if it gets to the point of administering CPR a vet is involved."

Malone asks those inquiring about her classes to think about if their groomer, dog walker, kennel worker or pet sitter knows what to do in an emergency?

"No matter how good you are, accidents are going to happen and it makes me sad that not more pet business owners want to get certified," she said. "Does it work all the time? No. But it does work 15 to 20 percent of the time before you can get that animal to a vet."

Malone hopes to see a state law put in place in the future to regulate and require certification for people who open up pet day care, grooming and boarding facilities.

"As it is now, anybody can call themselves a groomer or pet day care provider in Arizona because there is no regulation. But when you send your kid to a day care, that business is required to be certified, so what's the difference?"

MacKenzie said he never thought about that scenario and noted that anyone who is in the business of dealing with animals would be smart to go through pet CPR and first aid training.

"I hadn't thought much about it but (Malone) has a good point," MacKenzie said. "I think as more people use those facilities someone should look into licensing those businesses and the facilities should be evaluated."

Malone's next Pet Tech seminars are coming up on Sunday, June 12. On that day interested pet owners or pet care providers can go through the four-hour Pet CPR and First Aid class, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., for $80 or stay until 4 p.m. that day for the full PetSaver Program, which costs $120.

These workshops are conducted at Malinda's Pampered Pets, 4302 E. Ray Road, in Ahwatukee. For more information, call Malone at (480) 753-5766 or visit www.malindaspamperedpets.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7913 or kmixer@ahwatukee.com

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