UI Vet Med student combines education, artistic talent in kits for K-9s

UI Vet Med student combines education, artistic talent in kits for K-9s

URBANA — Before he became a veterinary student, Paul Fedyniak flirted with the idea of becoming a professional artist.

This year, he put both his veterinary training and artistic talent to work to help police dogs injured in the line of duty.

Fedyniak took on jobs painting pet portraits and accepted donations as well in order to pay for veterinary medical kits he developed for first responders.

A University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine student with two dogs of his own, Fedyniak came up with the idea for the kits after a new state law took effect that permits ambulances to transport injured police dogs to the nearest veterinary hospital.

He knew local ambulance crews were getting some veterinary-emergency training through the UI, Fedyniak said, and he wondered what more could be done to help. Two UI veterinarians told him it would be nice to provide dog-sized oxygen masks for ambulances.

Fedyniak said he figured if he was going to raise money for the oxygen masks, why not do more and develop a whole bag full of veterinary emergency supplies a sick or injured dog might need?

He launched a campaign on a crowdfunding site to start, and when donations there slowed down, he began taking on the pet-portrait jobs to pick up more of the costs.

He has developed two kinds of kits — one for ambulances and the other a trauma kit for canine officers to carry in their squad cars.

Both kits contain canine-sized oxygen masks — which are important, because oxygen masks for people don't fit a dog's facial features, Fedyniak said. The kits also have muzzles, sterile lubrication and hair clippers to trim dog hair away from a vein for an intravenous treatment.

The kit for ambulances also has canine reward toys that can be offered as a distraction, Fedyniak said.

He figured police squad cars would already have the reward toys, but they wouldn't be carrying the medical supplies ambulances do.

So he outfitted the trauma kits to also include items such as bandages, a clotting agent, a quick-read thermometer, antibiotic ointment, sterile water and a catheter.

Fedyniak has raised more than $2,000 to date for the kits, each of which costs $100 to $140 to assemble. As of this week, some of the 16 kits he has completed have been given to Illinois State Police and Arrow Ambulance.

A native of Park Ridge, Fedyniak is set to receive his doctorate from the UI College of Veterinary Medicine next week.

He comes from a family of veterinarians that includes his grandfather, dad and brother. His brother has already joined his dad's veterinary practice in the Chicago area, and Fedyniak said he plans to do likewise after he leaves the UI.

He also hopes to continue his canine medical kit program, which he has named MediK9USA, by turning it into a nonprofit venture.

"My goal is to sell kits to raise money to make more kits," he said.

Dr. Brad Weir, a Carle Foundation Hospital emergency medical physician who worked with the veterinary college to develop care and transport protocols for injured police dogs, said the supplies in these kits will help both with canine treatment and further ambulance staff training.

"That equipment isn't something we previously carried in the ambulances," he said.

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