Although most owners will never be faced with the need to provide either artificial respiration or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to their dogs, it is still a good idea to understand how to implement the procedures should it be required. Many dogs that are in accidents or are hit by cars do need artificial respiration or CPR to stay alive and taking a pet first aid program or training is a great way to learn these techniques plus pet first aid.
The first thing to do when arriving on the scene where a dog has been hurt or injured is to check for safety issues rather than just racing over to the dog. It will do not good to the dog if you are hurt or injured and cannot perform the procedures. Stop and look around, is it safe, is there traffic, is there someone there to help? In addition check to make sure there are no power lines or electrical wires present if the dog has been in an accident that involves any type of power wires or construction areas. If the area is safe the next step will be to check the dog.
Dog's respond to trauma and injury is often much different than humans. A dog that is injured does not understand that you are arriving to provide help and assistance, so while they will be immobile before your perform the CPR or artificial respiration, they may become very aggressive afterwards as a self-defense mechanism. Be sure that you have room to quickly and easily move away should the dog become aggressive when he or she revives.
A Word Of Caution
Dogs, especially small and medium breeds, can be very easily injured during CPR and artificial resuscitation if the person uses too much force or incorrectly performs the procedure. It is always best to try to call for emergency assistance or get the dog to a vet if at all possible rather than performing the procedure yourself. In the case of many emergency situations neither of those two options are available, so carefully and gently following the steps outlined below is the best possible option.
Artificial Respiration and CPR
It is important to understand when to use CPR. Typically CPR is used to restore heart action and artificial respiration is used to restore breathing. Often the two must be used together. Starting CPR is vital as the dog's body and brain can only survive for two to four minutes without oxygen before permanent and deadly oxygen deprivation has occurred. Signs of cardiac arrest or stoppage of the heart in dogs include unconsciousness, lack of breathing, lack of movement, dilated pupils and colorless or gray gums.
The following steps are used in CPR or artificial respiration in dogs:
1. Assess the condition of the dog by rolling it onto its right side. Extend the top (left) front leg and check for a heartbeat by putting your head against the chest and listening (large dog) or by placing your fingers near the sternum (chest) of a small breed. If there is no pulse or heartbeat, you will need to start CPR as soon as possible.
2. Open the dog's mouth and look for any type of blockage such as a piece of bone, wood, toy, food or other material in the throat or mouth. Remove all material and clear any excess mucous material or saliva from the mouth. Be very careful as there may be some reflexive movement and you can easily be bitten during this procedure.
3. Pull the tongue forward and extend the head out straight to open up the airway. Do not try to do artificial resuscitation if the dog's head is bent backwards or to the side as the airway will already be restricted due to the positioning.
4. Place your hand or hands around the muzzle to keep the mouth closed. Take in a breath of air and seal the dog's nose with your mouth, blowing into both nostrils at the same time. Blow only until the chest rises, and take into consideration the size of the dog. Immediately remove your mouth to allow the air to move out of the lungs. The normal breathing rate for a dog is 15-20 breaths per minute.
5. Check for a pulse or see if the dog starts to breath on his or her own. If there is no pulse, start CPR immediately. Pulse can be check by listening to the chest in large breeds or by checking the femoral artery in small breeds. If the pupils are dilated and do not respond to light CPR should be immediately started in conjunction with artificial respiration.
6. For large dogs place the dog's spine against your knees and place one hand on top of the other at about the location of the 5th rib, approximately 1/3 up the body from the chest. Intertwine the fingers of your second hand over the first and push down in a firm and steady, even motion. Press down and release. The best possible rate is 100-120 compressions per minute or 2 breaths then 15 compressions repeated with out any pauses. For small breeds gently press in the same area with just the fingers of one hand or place one hand on each side of the dog in a chest position if CPR is being done by another person.
Artificial resuscitation and CPR in dogs is very difficult and is often not successful despite the best efforts of the rescuer. Always immediately seek emergency veterinary care and, if possible, complete the CPR or artificial respiration while on the way to the vet's if you can find someone that can drive while you work on the dog. If the dog does not respond by either starting to breath on their own or by having the heart start beating within five minutes, it is likely too late to save the dog. If you are close to a vet it may be possible to continue for a few more minutes, however the prognosis for the dog will typically not be good.