A family member is no longer breathing. The moment has escalated to a life or death situation, but what do you do when this family member is a furry one?
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) can save a pet’s life. According to Dr. Ashley Allen, clinical assistant professor in emergency and critical care at the University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital, some professionals refer to this procedure as “mouth to snout” CPR.
There are several reasons a pet may need CPR, she said. Trauma, specifically vehicular trauma, is one of the most common causes for abnormal cardiac rhythms that she sees in her line of work. Other reasons include heartworm disease, especially for cats; chewing on electrical cords; hyperglycemia, which is low blood sugar typically found in toy dog breeds; and airway obstruction.
Recognizing your pet is sick is the first and most important step.
“The faster you can start doing CPR, the better the potential outcome,” Allen said.
Although the majority of pet owners are not trained to recognize animal distress the way Allen’s team is, she said animals tend to give palpable signs something is wrong.
“They usually very obviously tell you that there is a problem,” Allen said. For example, any animal that is sick and suddenly stands up to either have a large bowel movement or vomit a lot and then collapses, there is a high probability the animal is having an arrhythmia and is close to dying. However, there are tools that can help pet owners recognize when their furry member of the family is sick.
American Red Cross launched its Cat and Dog First Aid online training program Aug. 8, 2017. The program teaches cat and dog owners how to determine a pet’s vital signs so they can be aware of any irregularities, as well as step-by-step instructions with visual aids for what to do if a pet is choking, needs CPR, has a wound or is experiencing a seizure.
The Red Cross Pet First Aid app is a free resource for pet owners that complements the online course. In addition to the aforementioned topics covered in the online course, the app covers allergic reactions, blood sugar emergencies, car accidents, electric shock, poisoning, heat-related illnesses and more.
The app gives six-step instructions for pet CPR with videos to watch. The first step is to determine if a pet is breathing and has a heartbeat. The next step after determining that the pet needs CPR is to start chest compressions. Because dogs come in a variety of sizes, the app requires dog owners to choose the size of their dog prior to providing the proper technique. The third step is to perform chest compressions at the proper rate per minute. Then the app prompts pet owners to perform cycles of 30 compressions and two rescue breaths. Allen used similar guidelines, instructing 30 compressions per every breath given to the animal.
Step five is to check for a heartbeat and breathing every two minutes. The final step instructs pet owners to continue CPR until they reach an animal hospital or vet. According to American Red Cross, reviving a cat or dog beyond 10 minutes is unlikely.
You have to know how to do a compression in order for the CPR to be effective, Allen said. She suggests learning how to conduct a proper chest compression prior to being faced with an emergency situation.
She also suggests pet owners take their pets to the clinic as soon as something traumatic happens.
“Sometimes you don’t know how bad injuries are until time goes by,” Allen said.
If you are close to a professional clinic and your animal needs medical intervention, take your pet there, Allen said.
“I think your chances of having a professional do CPR are much better than doing it at home,” she said, “because you can’t intubate a patient at home, you can’t clear out airways with suction and you don’t have epinephrine, you don’t have atropine or all the other things.”