Stayin’ alive

Know­ing how to per­form CPR won’t al­ways save a dog’s life, but it can re­vive a dog that’s col­lapsed in the field. Here’s how to do it

Sporting Shooter - - Gundog Vet -

CPR is some­thing I teach at all my first aid cour­ses, and know­ing how to per­form CPR could save a dog’s life. But, I should warn you, it prob­a­bly won’t.

In most first aid sit­u­a­tions where a dog’s heart has stopped beat­ing, the level of trauma is too great for CPR to be ef­fec­tive. Even in a vet­eri­nary prac­tice, un­less the cause of the car­diac ar­rest is rev­ersible (e.g. a re­ac­tion to anaes­thetic), CPR fails more of­ten than in hu­mans.

So why bother learn­ing about it? Be­cause CPR has re­vived col­lapsed dogs in the field. I sus­pect they still had a weak heart­beat and some­one pump­ing away at their chest helped them start breath­ing again, as well as stim­u­lat­ing the cir­cu­la­tion. You can’t do any harm by try­ing CPR – a dead dog won’t get any more dead – plus, you will feel that you did all you could.

If a dog ap­pears to be un­con­scious do a very quick check for breath­ing and a pulse. You might need to get down close to the dog to see small chest move­ments, or you can use a bit of fur or grass to see if there is air­flow from the nos­trils. It is eas­i­est to slip your hand un­der the dog’s chest and feel for a heart­beat. Al­ter­na­tively, feel for the femoral pulse. This is found on the in­side of the back leg, some­where be­tween the groin and the knee in the groove be­tween the mus­cle lay­ers. If you are not sure if the dog is breath­ing, or if you can feel a heart­beat or pulse, start CPR any­way!

It is eas­i­est to per­form CPR with the dog ly­ing on its side – it doesn’t mat­ter which side. Check the mouth for any de­bris (such as leaves if the dog has been in a near-drown­ing sit­u­a­tion), and place the neck in an ex­tended but re­laxed po­si­tion. There are two ways you can per­form CPR on a dog...

1) Mouth to nose breath­ing and chest com­pres­sions

Muz­zle the dog, or hold the muz­zle firmly and blow up the dog’s nose. The chest should rise as you do this. Be care­ful not to over­in­flate the lungs, es­pe­cially if you are a large man and your pa­tient is a small dog!

Next, in­ter­lock your hands and start to per­form chest com­pres­sions over the high­est part of the chest. Aim for 15-20 com­pres­sions at a rate of 100/minute. For tiny dogs or pup­pies, squeeze the chest be­tween your thumb and fin­gers. Com­press the chest by half to two-thirds’ depth.Give an­other breath. Re­peat!

‘It just so hap­pens that the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive is 100bpm, and the cho­rus is about 20 com­pres­sions... so, get singing’

2) Chest com­pres­sions only

In­ter­lock your hands and start to per­form chest com­pres­sions over the high­est part of the chest. Aim for com­pres­sions at a rate of 100/minute. For tiny dogs or pup­pies, squeeze the chest be­tween your thumb and fin­gers. Com­press the chest by half to two-thirds’ depth. It just so hap­pens that the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive is 100bpm, and the cho­rus is about 20 com­pres­sions… so, get singing.

In both cases, con­tinue un­til the dog re­cov­ers, or for up to five min­utes. It is un­likely, but not im­pos­si­ble, that you would be able to con­tinue CPR while trans­port­ing a dog to the vets, and there is no pet para­medic ser­vice to come out and as­sist. And as mentioned ear­lier, when a dog’s heart stops it is usu­ally be­cause the trauma or ill­ness is so se­vere that noth­ing can be done.

What about de­fib­ril­la­tors?

Un­for­tu­nately, ca­nine car­diac ar­rest rarely in­volves the fib­ril­la­tion [quiv­er­ing move­ment of the in­di­vid­ual fi­bres in the heart] that is com­mon in hu­man pa­tients, so de­fib­ril­la­tors sim­ply don’t work.

Un­like most of the other topics in this series, CPR is not some­thing to try at home! You can prac­tise find­ing your dog’s pulse and heart­beat, but if you want to try CPR on a dog dummy, you’ll need to book onto a ca­nine first aid course.

It is eas­i­est to per­form CPR with the dog ly­ing on its side

Per­form chest com­pres­sions over the high­est part of the chest

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