While attending MetroBarks event recently, Ann stopped by the SylvaniaVET booth and asked me about the case The Blade reported about a young man that saved his dog’s life by administering CPR. She wanted to know how pet owners should administer CPR to a pet.
The hero teenager, Steven, and the nearly deceased Lab, Taylin, were rushed to SylvaniaVET by the Mario Andretti-like driving of the boy’s father. The dog had been playing fetch with a ball and the ball had become lodged in the back of the dog’s throat.
The affected dog gagged, staggered and collapsed within seconds. The dad tried a doggy Heimlich-like maneuver, which was unable to propel the ball from the Taylin’s throat. Dad’s hand and fingers were too big to reach in and pull the ball forward.
After jumping out of the family pool, our hero sat with the dog while dad headed our way as though a life depended on it, which it did. Steven’s smaller hand was able to get into the passed out dogs mouth and get a finger behind the ball. A herculean effort dislodged the ball and opened the throat, so air could now pass. To the best of my knowledge, the boy had had no formal canine CPR training but knew the dog was in respiratory arrest and he must breathe for it.
He cupped his hand around the dogs closed mouth and used the hand mask to blow into. This, of course, forced air directly into the dog’s lungs. When dad rushed into the hospital carrying a limp Taylin, they were immediately rushed into hospital treatment where several techs and Dr. Melanie Blaisdell took over.
On evaluation the patient had a heart beat, but still was not breathing on its own. The dog had a fever and its temperature spiked to over 105 degrees. The staff immediately addressed the ABC’s of resuscitation -- Airway, Breathing, Circulation -- by passing an endotracheal tube and starting positive pressure breathing with oxygen. While A and B were being addressed, others on the team addressed circulation by starting IV fluids. Efforts to cool down the hyperthermic patient were also started.
Through quick thinking and staying cool, our hero saved his dog so that the critical care team could finish the job. We were able to send the Taylin home that night.
Artificial respiration in a pet is done exactly as described above. Check and clear the visible airway. Close the mouth and cup your hands around the muzzle. Breathe forcefully enough to observe the chest expanding as you exhale into the dogs nostrils. Stop blowing and allow the chest to collapse, which is when the dog’s lungs exhale. Repeat this process 8-10 times a minute. The force you use to blow must be appropriate to the size of the animal.
If the heart stops in a patient, it is very difficult to get it restarted, but there is no reason not to try.
It can be physically demanding if the affected animal is a large dog. In most cases, it is easiest to do cardiac compressions with the animal laying on its side.
Knowing where to apply compression is very important. I would recommend that you learn to feel your pet’s heart beat by practicing at home. With the animal laying on its right side span your hand around the bottom of the pet’s chest, the sternum, and thumb on top and fingers on the other side. Press lightly and feel for the location of the strongest beat. This is usually about the 5-6 rib space.
Another trick to find the right spot is to flex the up elbow and push it back alongside the chest wall. It will not go further than about the 5-6 rib, intercostal, space. Once you find the site and feel the heart beat, do not try compressions, in a normal dog, but mentally picture yourself doing the compressions about 60-100 times a minute.
In an animal with respiratory and cardiac arrest, it is necessary to do dog compressions and artificial respiration at the same time. Obviously this is a two-person job.
Animal Heimlich can be tried by holding the pet upside down and pressing firmly with a sudden compression just behind the ribs.
There is a YouTube video of a dog being given CPR, which would be useful if it were accurate. The one component that is worthwhile is how the compressions were done on a larger dog. However, the compressions were on the top of the chest near the back bone. Cardiac compressions must be down near the sternum.
In a big dog, it may be necessary to use both hands on one side of the chest to be able to press hard enough. Do not press any harder than necessary to compress the chest about 30%. In the video, there was not enough breathing for the dog. Watch the video on YouTube to learn that in some situations CPR can work.
I hope you never need these skills, but equally hope you also file away this information in case a situation like Steven’s and Taylin’s occurs where you can help.
Dr. Robert Esplin, a 1970 graduate of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, owns SylvaniaVET hospital at 4801 N Holland-Sylvania Rd. He writes a periodic column for ourtownsylvania.com and accepts all pet-related questions for it through email at email@example.com.