NorthStar VETS Buddy Pet Oxygen Mask Initiative

Buddy’s Story
Buddy3Dr. Steven Berkowitz, Emergency and Critical Veterinarian at NorthStar VETS, recently visited the Florence and Chesterfield Fire Companies. The brave firefighters from these townships rescued a service dog named Buddy from a condo fire back on February 21. Buddy was brought to NorthStar VETS due to his extensive injuries from the fire. Dr. Berkowitz picks up the story from here. “When Buddy came, he had pretty significant burns on his body as well as serious smoke inhalation. He had trouble breathing and was very uncomfortable. We quickly got him some nasal oxygen therapy and pain medications and starting treating him immediately for his smoke inhalation and burns. Twenty percent of his body’s surface area was covered in burns and he really was affected by the fire. Due to all his injuries and smoke inhalation, Buddy was not able to make it through his ordeal, even though he fought hard for 24 hours. He was tough, as was his family. In response to this, we at NorthStar VETS decided that we wanted to help local heroes in the area (the firemen) by delivering masks that will be able to be used in first response for smoke inhalation pet victims and we’re doing it in the name of Buddy. I can’t think of a better family. Buddy is a great dog. His owner is a veteran from the war. I can’t think of two better heroes to be associated with this. They are amazing.”

What the The NorthStar VETS Buddy Pet Oxygen Mask Initiative is About
NorthStar VETS has donated a number of specialized kits to firehouses across the area. Dr. Berkowitz explained what was in the kits. “Each kit contains three differently-sized oxygen masks that will provide higher quality and quantity oxygen than first responders can provide with masks designed for humans. The masks they use now provide flow-by oxygen. With the new masks, first responders can place the pet oxygen mask over the pet’s face and place their muzzle into the mask which plugs into a standard oxygen line and oxygen source that first responders already have on their rigs. Some of the other things included are first aid supplies such as gauze, sponges, a slip leash (which is important for pets missing their collar and for pets when a clip-on leash is not handy), and a cooling blanket. The blanket is really helpful to pets when they have burns by keeping them nice and cool and helping with some of the discomfort associated with skin burns.”

Reaction from First Responders who Received the Kits
Chesterfield Fire Company Recieving Award from NorthStar VETSAndrew Popso, Fire Commissioner for Florence Township, gave us his reaction to receiving the pet oxygen masks. “NorthStar VETS actually beat us to the punch and saw a need. They took this idea and ran with it, which is fantastic. My father, a very good man, always said, ‘It’s easy to hurt somebody. If you want to do something great in life, learn how to heal.’ And I think that is what NorthStar VETS did. They presented something to this town, and it’s a very generational town, that will spread by word of mouth and everyone will hear and know that their ‘loved one’ will be taken care of as well. We know of a lot of people that try to go back into the building as well as people in motor vehicle accidents that concern themselves with their animals, and now this is another step in being able to provide that service them.”

These masks will allow firefighters to better help pets in an emergency. Kyle Asbrand, Fire Chief of the Chesterfield Hose Company, also gave us his reaction. “We treat pets in house fires like a normal human. We give them oxygen through non-rebreather masks that we would treat a human with as well. At that point, we do the best we can with the blow-by oxygen. Now with these new oxygen masks, it’s going to help us deliver more oxygen immediately to the animals whether it’s a cat or dog and it’s another tool in our toolbox that we can add to our truck.”

What this Initiative Means for Pet Owners Like You
Dr. Berkowitz explained a little more about how the masks work better for pets. “The air you and I are breathing now is about 21.7 percent oxygen by law of physics. When we have an oxygen line going to a patient via flow-by, we can get to about 23 to 24 percent. With these pet oxygen masks, we can get as high as 40 to 50 percent oxygen. This is tremendously beneficial to a patient that has carbon monoxide or cyanide poisoning from a house fire.”

Andrew Popso continued by detailing what this means to pet owners. “We can now not only support patients and victims that we normally deal with, but now we’re going to have the opportunity to provide better care for the animals. For me and my family, we grew up around animals and have always had animals. I look at my pets as if they’re children of my own.”

Buddy’s New Legacy
The Buddy Pet Oxygen Mask InitiativeBuddy was a service dog to a local veteran and a loving family pet, and this memorial will allow him to continue helping others. Dr. Berkowitz summed it up. “To be able to help a dog like Buddy and his family is amazing. And especially to have this initiative named after Buddy, who was a war veteran’s dog. It’s great.” And Kyle Asbrand added his additional remarks as well. “The guys are so happy that NorthStar VETS realizes and appreciates how much we do and try to do for everybody, and were able to come here to us and present us with this award. It’s another thing that helps motivate our guys to keep training hard and do good work.” Andrew Popso agreed. “To take a positive out of a negative tragedy is fantastic. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

NorthStar VETS will provide additional masks to other first responders in the area in the months ahead.

Steven Berkowitz, DVMSteven Berkowitz, DVM
Dr. Steven Berkowitz attended St. Georges University and did his clinical year at the University of Illinois. Berkowitz joined NorthStar VETS after serving as the Chief of Emergency and Critical Care at another specialty hospital. Prior to that, he completed a three-year residency in Emergency and Critical Care medicine at the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, NJ. His residency was completed at one of only a few recognized veterinary trauma centers in the United States. Prior to his residency, he was a staff Emergency Veterinarian at Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, NY as well as serving as an emergency doctor at Animal Emergency and Referral Associates in Fairfield, NJ for 3 years. Dr. Berkowitz can be seen on seasons 5 and 6 of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet, which was filmed during his internship at The Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital of the ASPCA in New York City.
Dr. Berkowitz has special interest in the management of metabolic and endocrine derangements, trauma, as well as management of the septic patient.

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