Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
As much as we try to protect our pets, accidents do happen. So, it is important to be as prepared as reasonably possible. One way to be prepared is to know how to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
CPR is an emergency technique used to help someone whose heart and/or breathing has stopped. Although somewhat modified, the same techniques used for people – rescue breathing and chest compressions – can be used to help treat an animal in distress.
The first lesson to know about CPR is that it doesn’t restart a stopped heart. The purpose of CPR, in both humans and animals, is to keep them alive until the heart begins beating on its own or a cardiac defibrillator can be used. In people, about 15 percent of those getting CPR actually survive. In animals, CPR is frequently unsuccessful, even if performed by a trained veterinarian. Even so, attempting CPR will give your pet a fighting chance
The ABCs of CPR
In both humans and animals, you must follow the ABCs: airway, breathing and circulation, in that order. If you suspect your pet is in distress, immediately look at his posture. Note the presence of blood, vomit or feces; his breathing pattern and other bodily sounds; and any materials, such as possible poisons, around him.
It is vital to know for sure that your pet isn’t breathing or doesn’t have a pulse before beginning CPR; it is dangerous to apply CPR to an animal (or a person, for that matter) if he is breathing normally and has a pulse.
Look for the chest rising and falling or place a mirror in front of his nose and watch for condensation. When checking for a pulse, remember that animals do not have a distinct carotid (neck) pulse. To determine if the heart is still beating, place your hand on the left side of the chest.
If your pet has stopped breathing, check to see if the throat and mouth are clear of foreign objects. Be careful about placing your fingers inside the mouth. An unresponsive dog may bite on instinct. If the airway is blocked, do the following:
Lay your pet down on his side.
Gently tilt the head slightly back to extend the neck and head, but be very careful: Do not overextend the neck in cases of neck trauma.
Pull the tongue out of your pet’s mouth.
Carefully use your fingers to sweep for any foreign material or vomit from the mouth. Unlike CPR for humans, you can reach into the airway to remove foreign objects.
If necessary, perform the Heimlich maneuver
If your dog is breathing, allow him to assume the position most comfortable for him. If he isn’t breathing, make sure the airway is open, and begin rescue breathing. Again, remember that even an unresponsive dog may bite on instinct.
Make sure the neck is straight without overextending.
For medium to large dogs, you will be performing mouth-to-nose breathing. Close the mouth and lips by placing your hand around the lips and holding the muzzle closed.
Place your mouth over the dog’s nose. For dogs under 30 pounds, cover the mouth and lips with your mouth. Your mouth will form a seal.
Exhale forcefully. Give four or five breaths quickly.
Check to see if breathing has resumed normally. If breathing hasn’t begun or is shallow, begin rescue breathing again.
For dogs over 30 pounds, give 20 breaths per minute.
For dogs less than 30 pounds, give 20 to 30 breathes per minute.
Now check for a heartbeat. If no heartbeat is detected, begin cardiac compressions with rescue breathing.
For most animals, chest compressions are best done with the animal lying on his side on a hard surface. For barrel-chested dogs such as bulldogs and pugs, CPR is best done with the animal on his back.
Make sure your pet is on a hard surface. The sidewalk or ground should work. If the animal is on a soft area, chest compressions will not be as effective.
For small animals (less than 30 pounds)
Place your palm or fingertips over the ribs at the point where the raised elbow meets the chest.
Kneel down next to the animal with the chest near you.
Compress the chest about 1 inch at a rate of twice per second. (Small animals have higher heart rates than people so compressions need to be more rapid.)
Begin 5 compressions for each breath. After 1 minute, stop and check for a heartbeat. Continue if the beat has not resumed.
For animals 30 to 100 pounds
Kneel down next to the animal with the back near you.
Extend your elbows and cup your hands on top of each other.
Place your cupped hands over the ribs at the point where the raised elbow meets the chest.
Compress the chest 2 to 3 inches at a rate of 1.5 to 2 times per second.
Begin 5 compressions for each breath. Check for a heartbeat after 1 minute and continue if none is detected.
For animals over 100 pounds
Perform CPR as you would for large pets.
Compress the chest about once per second.
Apply 10 compressions for each breath. Check for a heartbeat after 1 minute and continue if none is detected.
Perform CPR until you have reached a veterinary hospital. After 20 minutes, however, the chances of reviving an animal are extremely unlikely.
Heimlich For Your Dog
Before administering any first aid, make absolutely certain your pet is actually choking. Many people confuse difficulty breathing with choking. If you witness your pet ingesting an item and then immediately begin pawing at the face, the throat, acting frantic, trying to cough and having difficulty breathing, only then should the Heimlich maneuver be considered. If your pet is not really choking, the Heimlich can cause serious injury.
After determining that your pet is choking, remove any item that may be constricting the neck. Examine inside the mouth and remove any foreign object you see. Do not blindly place your hand down your pet’s throat and pull any object you feel. Dogs have small bones that support the base of their tongues. Owners probing the throat for a foreign object have mistaken these for chicken bones. Do not attempt to remove an object unless you can see and identify it.
If your pet is small and you cannot easily remove the object, lift and suspend him with the head pointed down. For larger animals, lift the rear legs so the head is tilted down. This can help dislodge an item stuck in the throat.
Another method is to administer a sharp blow with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. This can sometimes dislodge an object. If this does not work, a modified Heimlich maneuver can be attempted.
Grasp the animal around the waist so that the rear is nearest to you, similar to a bear hug.
Place a fist just behind the ribs.
Compress the abdomen several times (usually 3-5 times) with quick pushes.
Check the mouth to see if the foreign object has been removed.
This maneuver can be repeated one to two times but if not successful on the first attempt, make arrangements to immediately take your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital.
Even if you are successful in removing a foreign object, veterinary examination is recommended. Internal injury could have occurred that you may not realize