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A Timely Update on CPR for Dogs from the ASPCA

The ASPCA, America's first humane organization, has a timely update to add to Monday's column on dogs and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When it comes to...

Julia Szabo  |  Oct 22nd 2010


The ASPCA, America’s first humane organization, has a timely update to add to Monday’s column on dogs and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When it comes to any informationthat can save a dog’s life in an emergency, we’re all ears, and it turns out that the revised guidelines on CPR for humans do affect CPR for dogs.

The new guidelines for CPR, issued Monday by the American Heart Association (AHA), instruct rescuers of humans in cardiac arrest to start with chest presses before giving mouth-to-mouth. According to the ASPCA, anyone wanting to rescue a dog in this same life-threatening emergency situation should also prioritize chest compressions.

So, if a dog goes into sudden cardiac arrest,it’sCAB (compression-airway-breath), exactly as recommended for CPR on people,instead of ABC (airway-compression-breath), as previously recommended.

“When we’re doing CPR, we don’t think in terms of ABC or CAB – we’re doing a lot of things at the same time,” explains the ASPCA’s Dr. Emmy Pointer. “But definitely the main emphasis is on chest compression. So if I had to say the order we do things in here at the ASPCABergh Memorial Animal Hospital, it would be CAB.”

That means chest compressions come first in response to a breathing or heart emergency, and the protocol for CPR is now the same for pets and people.

The ASPCA bases its animal CPR protocol on a 2008article in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine titled “Cariopulmonary Resuscitation in Small Animal Medicine – An Update.”

“One of the paper’s major points was that the AHA had used a bunch of studies to make their recommendations, and a lot of those studies were done on animals,” Dr. Pointer says. “So of course the information is applicable to veterinary medicine, because the studies were doneon animals in the first place.Here at Bergh Memorial, we base our CPR protocol on that paper.”

Sudden cardiac arrest – when the heart stops beating – can occur after a heart attack or as a result of electrocution, near-drowning, smoke inhalation from a fire, being hit by a car, or a drug overdose. The victim collapses, stops breathing normally, and is unresponsive.

CPR used to treat an unconscious animal -i.e. a dog that is not breathing and has no heartbeat or pulse – consists of alternating chest compressions and “rescue breathing” (mouth-to-mouth breathing, except in the case of dogs, it’s mouth-to-nose breathing).

To perform CPR on a dog, lay the unconscious animal downon hisright side. Kneel with the dog’s chest facing you. Cupping one hand over the other, palms down, compress the dog’s chest at the widest part of the rib cage.

If there are two people available, one should face the dog’s back while standing or kneeling to perform chest compressions, while the other person gives rescue breaths. (Or, one can drive to the emergency animal hospital while the otherperforms CPR on the dog in the back of the vehicle.)

To performrescue breathing, seal the dog’s entire snout with your hand, place your mouth over the dog’s nose, and gently exhale into the nostrils until you see the chest rise. Give 4 or 5 breaths rapidly, then check to see ifthe pet is breathing without assistance.

If he begins to breathe, but the breathing is shallow and irregular, or if breathing does not begin, continue givingthe dogrescue breaths until you reach the vet hospital or for up to 20 minutes, alternating with chest compressions.

As reported on Monday,when responding to a breathing or heart emergency, rescuers should pump the chest of the victim harder and faster – pushing at least 2 inches in adults, and pumping at a rate of at least 100 compressions a minute. And that’s helpful advice for rescuing a dog too.

Appropriately enough, a recommended guide to performing effective CPR chest compression is something everyone can easily remember: The beat of the Bee Gees’ classic song “Stayin’ Alive” from “Saturday Night Fever.”

Don’t worry about hurting the victim by performing CPR on him, experts say. Whether you’re trying to rescue a pet or a person, pumping the chest as hard and fast ashumanly possiblewill help them stay alive. But beyond 20 minutes there is little chance of reviving your pet.

To purchase the lifesaving Red Cross volume “Dog First Aid” – a must for every dog lover’s library – go here. The instructions are very clearly laid out and illustrated with easy-to-follow photographs.