CPR For Animals

CPR in dogs and cats has a low rate of success, but learn anyway, because it might be your pet's only chance in an emergency.

Have you seen the new CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) techniques for people? If not, click here and watch an informative video.

It is interesting to know that many of the parameters discussed in that video apply to CPR in animals. For example, one of the “new” recommendations calls for breathing assistance to be eliminated in the Sarver Heart Center technique. The same recommendation applies to CPR for pets.

The reason is that sufficient oxygen (O2) stays in the lungs in the early part of CPR to allow new oxygen to be picked up by blood flow created in CPR. Furthermore, stopping chest compressions to administer breaths has been shown to be counterproductive.  (However, if a sufficient number of attendants is available, in animal CPR, one person can be assigned to give short breaths that don’t interfere with chest compressions).

Step One is to determine whether CPR is even needed. Lay your dog on his right side (right side down) and pull his left front leg back over his chest. Where the elbow touches the middle of the lower half of the chest, listen and feel for your pet’s heartbeat. If you don’t feel or hear one, place your dominant hand there and your other hand under the chest in the corresponding location, and begin compressions.

The excursion of your hand should be about one inch for a 30-pound dog, less for smaller dogs and cats (see next paragraph) and more for larger dogs.

Toy breeds of dogs and cats should have their hearts massaged somewhat differently. Put both thumbs on top of the location described above, and fingers below.

The pace of your compressions should be 80-100 times per minute for large-breed dogs and 140-150 times per minute for smaller dogs and cats*. In CPR on people, most rescuers tend to work too slowly. Everyone in my generation knows the Bee Gees song, “Stayin’ Alive.” Click here to listen. The pace or “tempo” of Stayin’ Alive is about 104 beats per minute (BPM). For most dogs and all cats you need to go much faster than that song.

You will be amazed at how quickly you tire, so having more than one family member trained is certainly a worthwhile investment.

This is the point at which I must interject a dose of reality. Success rates with CPR in pets are abominably low, even in the controlled environment of a veterinarian’s office with a patient on monitors, an IV flowing wide open and the patient intubated for breathing. Do not beat yourself up if your pet cannot be resuscitated. While the odds for success are low, it is your only chance that you might be able to bring your pet back.

See you next week, Dr. Randolph.

*Our thanks to the American Animal Hospital Association for supplying this data.

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