A concerning phone call from my best friend recently got me thinking about the absolute necessity that every pet owner has to learn pet CPR. Being a beagle owner, Tammy is in and out of the Vet pretty regularly when her pup Maeby decides to do her best to swallow any number of items from a football to doormat, plants, clothing and anything that is come into contact with food. Luckily every time these bits and pieces have gone down (and back up) smoothly, but the reality is that a tiny shift could easily have caused a blockage to the windpipe with much ore serious consequences.
This story probably sounds horribly familiar to most of you dog owners out there. I myself have breathed a sigh of relief when certain missing household items have come safely through one end of my spaniel and out the other. Thankfully there are a few easy to remember steps to keep in your mind should your pet ever stop breathing. Just remember the easy acronym DRABC!
D = Danger
This one applies to you and your dog. Are you in harms way, for example in traffic? If this applies, gently lift your dog, supporting the head and body and lay them on a stable solid surface
R = Response
What level of consciousness your pet is showing signs of? Call his or her name loudly, rub their flanks and clap or whistle. If no sign of response is shown it is likely your animal has lost consciousness and may either have either stopped breathing, or their heart has stopped, or both.
A = Airways
Turn your dog so they are laying on their belly with their head and neck extending towards you. Visually check your dog’s mouth and throat for signs of a lodged toy, bone or other object. If possible carefully reach in and attempt to dislodge the item. If an item is present, it will be very difficult for you to help re-establish an open airway and breathing. If needed, the Heimlich manoeuvre can be performed to dislodge objects lower in the trachea
B = Breathing
Check if your dog is breathing. Look closely to see if there is any movement in rise and fall of the chest cavity. Feel and listen closely at the nostril openings and around the mouth for inhaled and expired air. If no breathing is present, first establish if a hear beat is present before performing assisted Ventilation
This is the big one. Check if your dog has a heartbeat. The easiest way to do this without medical equipment is to feel for the (usually strong) pulse in the femoral artery. This can be easily located on a on the inside of the upper thigh where the inner leg meets the abdomen. If you are still unsure if there is a heartbeat, listen directly to the upper left hand side of the dog’s chest. If there is a pulse present, but no breathing – continue to artificial respiration.
Mouth to Nose Resuscitation, Step by Step:
- Lay your dog on a flat, firm surface- right side down (left side upward)
- Extend your dogs neck out to fully open the trachea. Close your hands around your dog’s muzzle (as if you were holding a burger up to your mouth to take a big bite) to seal the lips so air doesn’t escape
- Place your pursed lips over your dogs nostrils and deliver a gentle breath – being careful not to exhale too vigorously (as this can damage your dogs lungs)
- Remove your mouth and check to see if your dog’s chest rises with the breath. Excess air will escape as with a natural out breath from the nose and mouth
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 every 3 seconds until your dog is breathing naturally on their own. (As a general rule dogs breathe 10-30 breaths natural per minute, so try to average 20 breaths per minute
- If your pet starts breathing on their own once again, but has not regained consciousness- seek veterinary aid immediately
If no heart beat can be detected, skip Mouth to nose Resuscitation for now and Continue to Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
*If you are alone performing this technique, focus solely on continuous chest compressions. If you have someone to assist, have them perform Mouth to nose resuscitation while you perform compressions. (The compressions of the heart will also assist in bringing air into the lungs)
*Adjust hand positioning to suit size of dog – two hands on top of the chest cavity for a large dog (over 30kgs), One hand for medium sized dogs (10-30kgs) or one hand with thumb and fingers cupped around the chest of a very small dog, puppy (or cat)
- Ensure the left side of your dog’s chest is facing upward and they are laying on a firm surface
- With arms stretched out straight (elbows locked), centre your hand/s above the point at which your dogs front elbow tucks back
- Compress the chest 25-30% of its width with the heel of your hand continuously at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. A great way to remember this is to follow the beat of “staying alive” by the Bee Gees in your head (its easy to remember when you think about the context). You might laugh, but once that song is in there, you’ll never forget it
- Continue compressions until a steady pulse can be detected. If you are unsuccessful after 10 minutes, end your attempt ( note: After 3 minutes without oxygen, irreversible brain damage will likely occur)
- Once heartbeat and breathing are established, immediately take your dog to your nearest Vet for medical assistance and monitoring
It is my every wish that none of you ever experience this dreadful situation, but be prepared if you do! I hope this has helped you feel more empowered as a pet owner. Remember doing something is always better than doing nothing at all, so even if you aren’t confident with this technique do your very best should the need arise!
Here is a Youtube link to help you visualise what I have described. Please not this tutorial discusses alternating chest compressions and breaths I you are performing the technique alone.
As always, thanks for reading and give your pup a kiss from me X
Lolly (Happy Paws co-manager, dogblogger and resident vet nurse).