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What is Cardiac Arrest?

A very small percentage of canines who fall ill due to cardiac arrest recover. The survival rate is less than 10%. If a dog suffers cardiac arrest while under anesthesia, the survival rate is a bit higher due to the fact that immediate intervention is available, and aids like oxygen and catheterization are already in place. Lack of oxygen to the brain results in brain death within four to six minutes without cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR. There are three steps to CPR, basic life support, advanced life support and post-resuscitative care. These three components of revival include clearing the airway, giving fluid support and monitoring recovery. If your pet goes into cardiac arrest at home, chances of recovery are very slim.

Cardiac arrest, also known as cardiopulmonary arrest, is defined as the failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems in an acute manner. Resuscitation of your pet will depend on factors such as length of time under arrest before intervention and underlying cause of the event.

Cardiac Arrest Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$7,500

Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

The symptoms of cardiac arrest can be very dramatic. Recognizing the signs and acting on them immediately is crucial. When a pet is under veterinary care, in particular under anesthesia, the monitoring of vital signs can alert the veterinary team to the incidence of cardiac arrest. Signs that you may see if the episode occurs at home are:

  • Breathing abnormalities - difficulty breathing, decreased breathing, and respiratory distress

  • Mucus membranes become white or blue due to lack of oxygen
  • Pupils are dilated
  • Obvious distress could be vocalized by your dog
  • Collapse
  • No response of any kind

Signs that are not obvious without the proper medical aids (like a stethoscope) are irregular heart beat, lack of heart sounds, changes in heart rate, and no pulse.

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Causes of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

Cardiac arrest in canines can occur due to many circumstances. From end-stage disease, to arrhythmias, to different types of cancer, cardiopulmonary arrest is an unfortunate complication of many canine illnesses.

  • Anesthetic error (for example overdose of anesthetic during surgery)
  • Anesthetic equipment failure 
  • Ventricular flutter
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Airway obstruction
  • Electrical impulses to the vagal nerve
  • Asystole
  • Sinus bradycardia
  • Decreased blood circulation
  • Severe trauma such as to the chest
  • Neoplasia
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Severe abnormalities of electrolytes
  • Congenital heart failure
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Diagnosis of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

The presence of a pulse, the pattern of the respiratory action, and the ability of your pet to respond are main factors when checking for cardiac arrest. After assessing a cardiac arrest, the veterinary team, whether during a surgical procedure or evaluating an emergency admittance, will follow the ABC steps of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in order to determine the status of your dog and attempt revival. Ensuring the airway is clear, ventilation with 100% oxygen through intubation, and compression to re-establish circulation of blood are the three steps normally followed.

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Treatment of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

Recovery from cardiac arrest is contingent on prompt action. The goal will be to regain a beating heart and thus, normal function for your pet. 

Basic life support is stage one of CPR

  • Cleaning obstruction from airway if needed
  • A tracheotomy could be necessary
  • After clearing the airway, an endotracheal tube is placed
  • Next is to restart the heart by chest compression, open-chest internal cardiac massage or defibrillation

Advanced life support is stage two

  • Fluid resuscitation is carefully given depending on the stability of the pet
  • An IV catheter or endotracheal tube are used for emergency medication
  • An ECG will determine the type of arrhythmia (such as asystole or pulseless electrical activity for example), which guides the treatment

Post-resuscitative care is the third stage

  • If your pet has been successfully resuscitated he will receive continued supportive care and will be assessed for complications like kidney and brain damage

If your pet has gone into cardiac arrest while you are at home, panic and distress on your part can make resuscitation difficult. Having a knowledge of pet CPR is something all pet owners could benefit from, but is rarely learned. However, if you have assistance and know for certain that your pet is in cardiac arrest you must clear the airway and begin chest compressions. 30 compressions (using one hand for a small dog and two hands for a medium to large dog) should be given and then two breaths into the nostrils. Again 30 compressions and two breaths. Continue. This is a very basic way to attempt CPR, with no guarantee of success. If you are fortunate, your pet may begin breathing again, or you may attempt to continue the CPR while someone drives to the emergency clinic. It is very important to note that CPR can be extremely dangerous for your pet if you have mistakenly identified his collapse as a cardiac arrest.

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Recovery of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

Even under the care of a veterinarian, the survival rate of a canine cardiac arrest is very low. Dogs who experience respiratory arrest as opposed to cardiopulmonary arrest have a better chance of survival, as do canine family members who go into cardiac arrest while under anesthesia. The survival of a dog with this condition will be highly contingent on how long he was in an arrested state, his condition when the event occurred, his age, and what exactly the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest was.

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Cardiac Arrest Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$7,500

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Cardiac Arrest Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Lilly

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting, Diarrhea

My 4lb yorkie has bad skin allergies and a cough/choking sensation(this was from several intubation for oral care 3 yrs ago). Took her for her annual exam approx 2 weeks ago. Rabies vaccine done and placed on Benadryl, prednisone , and clavamox for skin, allergies, ear wax buildup and wheezing cough. About 5 days later started developing slight diarrhea. Decided to stop the clavamox for 4 days. Started it back and then she began vomiting approx 3 days later. Stopped clavamox again. She was better the following day but less than 2 days later her vomit had a red tinge and became more frequent with several episodes of bad diarrhea which was first like a jelly consistency then became very dark. She became very lethargic. This all happened on a Saturday night into Sunday and we were out of town. Called the vet Monday morning and they couldn’t see her until 1:30pm. They did some labs and concluded it was NOT from all the meds prior but suspected HGE. So they kept her there for 3 hours on IV fluids and also began the antibiotic metronidazole. I picked her up at 4:30 and they said she had a great response to the IV fluids and antibiotic, even gave her some canned food (special GI diet blend) which I thought was strange to give her food that soon. Said to take her home and allow her to eat a little more that night. She was a little more herself at home but was still pretty worn out from the vet visit. She did vomit 2 different times during the night and had a formed stool that next morning but it was still pretty much black (old blood). Took her back to the vet at 8:15am for more lab work and IV fluids. She was feeling pretty good at this point when I left her. I received a call from the vet at 11:00am saying they had a sudden catastrophic event with her approx 5 mins after starting the IV where one minute she was barking and doing little circles (which she does when she’s trying to tell you she wants something) then all of a sudden she fell over and went into cardiac arrest and they could not revive her through cpr. He clearly stated he did not feel this had anything to do with the HGE because her lab work looked good, her response to treatment went so well and there were no signs of cardiac abnormalities or distress. They basically have no answers for me and said they were going to “talk this through and compare their notes” and get back with me. This happened 3 days ago and I really would like to have those answers but feel they might be covering up something they did wrong.....still haven’t heard from them. He kept insisting that the meds given prior had nothing to do with her stomach being upset (vomiting and diarrhea) but she was perfectly fine prior to taking these meds and then all of a sudden she was so sick.....and now suddenly dead from an unknown cause. I’m terribly sad as she was just like a child to me and was my whole world. Could the stress of having more lab work and another IV have caused the cardiac arrest or even possibly the fluids or metronidazole? Any explanation/advice you might have, I would be so grateful!

May 17, 2018

Lilly's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It is always distressing to lose of loved one, especially when you’ve just dropped them off at the veterinary clinic; without performing a necropsy I cannot say with any certainty what the specific cause of death was. When I was reading through the question I suspected hemorrhagic gastroenteritis due to the jelly like consistency of the blood in the faeces which is a characteristic sign of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis; the condition may turn complicated quickly and unfortunately may result in sudden death, but your Veterinarian doesn’t believe that this is the case (remember I’ve not examined her). Many medications may cause some vomiting or diarrhoea and are listed as common side effects; however I cannot say without knowing more if any medication contributed to her death. I wish I could give you some more information or closure on this. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-stomach-and-intestines-in-small-animals/hemorrhagic-gastroenteritis-in-small-animals

May 18, 2018

I actually scheduled an appt yesterday and met with the vet since there are so many unanswered questions. I told him that I wanted exact details of what happened since she was fine when I left her in their care but died suddenly one hour later. Apparently they did lab work initially and everything looked good, then placed the IV catheter without any issues. Waited approx 15-20 mins then started the IV fluids. He said that immediately after opening the IV port she collapsed and was in cardiac arrest. They performed CPR, intubated her but was unable to revive her. What bothers me the most is that he did admit that since she never had any type of red blood through her vomit or feces, and it was only dark black that it possibly could have been a bleeding ulcer from the prednisone and/or antibiotic clavamox they prescribed her 2 weeks prior. He even stated that her lab work was good on this morning prior to starting the IV. I have been a medical professional for 25 years and I strongly feel that the vet tech must have started that IV port wide open and too much fluid (overload) caused her sudden cardiac arrest. He wouldn’t allow me to look at their documentation of the incident, only her labs prior to death. For the past 5 years of taking her to this vet they are quick to always prescribe prednisone for just about anything she’s had wrong and I explain every time that is caused her bowel issues and end of having to wean and stop the meds. So frustrating to think that a simple mistake with an IV caused me to lose my precious dog of almost 11 years!!

May 21, 2018

Lilly's Owner

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Flays

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Afgan hound

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating
Trouble Breathing
Trembling

hello, can someone please clarify some doubts I have about my dog who sadly past away this morning? she was an elder dog, not sure about her age because I adopted her as an elder already four years ago. she developed a non malignant tumor in one of her mamary glands, so she had just been neutered and got the gland removed three week ago. she had been with diarrea for a couple days, and started getting red skin, so I gave her a shower to help the skin calm down. she was shacking the whole day, and didn't want to eat even her favorite foods. at night she started having trouble breathing and her gums were very dried. we took her to urgent care on monday night. she was having trouble breathing and was very hot. the doctor performed many tests. Among those, complete blood count, chest x ray, she meassured her pressure, and it turned out she also had demodex on her skin. she was put on oxygen right away and some medications for pain relief. Also fluid therapy and antibiotics. the next morning she was not really doing better, still having trouble breathing, no reaction when calling her name either the doctors were all saying she was in critical condition, and to expect the worst, BUT not a single one was suggesting eutanasia yet, they said it was too soon. that morning she got diagnosed with tromboembolism and she was given medication for trombosis, alongside fluid therapy, oxygen, pain reliever, antibiotics. that afternoon, at around 6:30 I visited her again. She tried to stand up, but failed due to her advanced age, she changed positions by herself, because she had to be switched every four hours, but this time she did it herself. She reacted to food and tried to eat, but couldn't swallow. I was about to leave a couple times and she kept trying to stand up. I stayed with her a bit longer. When I last saw her she was resting in a superman position and the doctors said that was the best position for both lungs to expand for air. I went home and was very uneasy, so decided to go back to the hospital but they didn't let me in to see her. Yet, I stayed outside in my car and slept there. They promissed they'll let me know if anything would happen. I suddenly woke up at 6:30am the next morning, and though everthing was ok, since they haven't reached for me, when suddenly they did. the doctor approached my car and told me my dog had just entered in cardiac arrest. I rushed upstairs, but when I arrived to her, she had been pronounced dead. I tried to talk to her, but a doctor told me she was gone, then the other doctor said she could still hear me, because she had tried to bring her back with adrenaline and other drug with some tropine name, that I don't remember well. After I realized I didn't make it on time to say goodbye, I got mad and yelled at the staff why they didn't let me in if they knew I was outside, also why they didn't warn me abouth this or suggested eutanasia instead? I knew she wouldn't make it out of the hospital, but I never expected she'd just die suddenly and alone. I'm devastated thinking she died alone. Can you please tell me if: - what the doctors did was right? - does it hurt to die from cardiac arrest? - could she actually hear me even pronounced dead? (she was still warm) - did the shower triggered the whole tromboembolism problem? - the fact that she tried to stand up repeatedly affected her heart?

March 28, 2018

Flays' Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There is a lot of information here and I cannot give you any specific information since I wasn’t there and I don’t want to give you any misinformation. There are a variety of causes (factors) of cardiac arrest; stress from the surgery, age, pre existing conditions, clotting disorders among other issues. This was a distressing time for you and Flays, I cannot speak on behalf of the veterinary staff of the hospital (or know if they did everything correctly as I cannot examine her and review case notes) you visited to why they didn’t recommend euthanasia (it isn’t an easy subject to bring up with pet owners); the repeated attempts at standing may have caused unnecessary stress and increased the blood pressure which may have contributed to the problem. Cardiac arrest can be painful (like in some humans), but I cannot say if this was the case for Flays. If Flays was pronounced dead, it is unlikely she would be able to hear anything or comprehend anything; I know it isn’t any comfort. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 29, 2018

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Whikey

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Golden Retriever and Labrador mix

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6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Unable To Stand
Heavy Breathing
Slight Drooling
Swollen Leg
Not Active

Dear Doctors, My wife's dog Whiskey passed away a few days ago. (he stays with my wife's Mom in another house) To give you some background - When we visited my Mom-in-law's house and saw him in October'17 - we saw a bulge on his right hind leg. We saw him struggle and so took him to get an xray at a vet hospital. The Doc said it was a hairline fracture- recommended us to keep him immobilised (no spint or bandage given). Fast-forward to last week - Whiskey was unable to put his foot down. The next day his whole foot was swollen and so we took him to another vet. This vet saw the bulge and proceeded to sedate him to get an xray done (he gave him 2 injections) Viewing the Xrays he said he had a tumor - osteo sarcoma and gave us the usual treatment options of amputation, pain reliever, have a bone biopsy done etc - and gave him 3months to a year of life expectancy. So we went home discussed this with the family. We returned at 2pm. At around 6pm he was still groggy, was trying to get up but kept falling over, he laid down most of the time, he was drooling very little and puked 2-3 times and had deep breathing. He refused to eat and only drank water. He was so groggy and we all thought that this was because of the sedative. We ofcourse were concerned and even called a friend - she said the sedative could take 6-7hrs to wear off, even called the Vet- he said he would be dull today. So we were waiting for him to get an appetite so that we could give him a painkiller that the vet prescribed to be given after food. At 930pm he gave a big stretch, peed himself and stopped breathing. We tried to revive him but nothing worked. I called up the Vet and he said this was due to the cancer - he could have gone at any time. The sedative should have worn off in 45mins. But right upto the day he could not put his foot down - he was a VERY VERY active loving dog. Everything changed too fast. This was a big big big shock to the family and it has been very distressing. My wife who has had this lovely animal since 1 month had to see him die in his arms. What do you think wouldve caused this? Was it the sedative? Was it the cancer?

March 28, 2018

Whikey's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what the specific cause of death was; the osteosarcoma, any anaesthesia, stress, reaction to medication, undiagnosed heart condition or another cause may have caused this sudden death. Without performing a necropsy it is impossible to say what the specific cause of death was, you should return Whiskey’s body to your Veterinarian for an examination so that they can give you some answers to a cause of death. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 28, 2018

Sorry typo - "Whiskey" is his name

March 28, 2018

Whikey's Owner

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Leo

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

8 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

My baby boy died on 7/2/2018, he required an xray to determine the cause of his constipation. He suffered cardiac arrest after his breathing slowed down and the vets removed him from the anesthetic. They were unable to revive him. He had been given a painkiller the evening before which had left him commatosed, he was laid lethargic with his eyes open all night. Did my vet overdose my dog?

Feb. 24, 2018

Leo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm so sorry for your loss. Without knowing what medications Leo received, I cannot comment on the effects of those medications, but there are very common medications used to sedate puppies for common procedures. It may have been a tragic underlying condition. If you do feel that a mistake was made, every veterinarian is guided by a state board, and any client is welcome to contact the state board if they feel that there is a problem. I am sorry for your loss.

Feb. 25, 2018

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Suky

dog-breed-icon

Maltese

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Painful Urination
Pain

This past weekend my 7 yr old Maltese had a cardiac arrest and died 😢 She started acting diffent and I took her to the Vet he prescribed her medication for a swollen throat. The following evening she peed on her bed and was unable to stand. We tooke her to an emerhency pet hospital and they keep her all night and said she had a UTI sent her home with the exact same prescription with a lower dose. The next day same episode but now she was laying on the floor 😭 went back to the hospital and got readmitted no answers! They called me in the morning saying she was doing good and I could have her back in a couple of hours! An hour later vet called and said she was under cardiac arrest and that she didn’t think she was going to make it! We are devastated and without knowing what really happed! Have u ever had an experience like this before?

Feb. 19, 2018

Suky's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Sometimes symptoms may be suggestive of one condition when the issue is really a different one, I cannot say what specifically happened to Suky as I haven’t performed an examination or necropsy; I do not want to speculate about a specific cause or if there was any misdiagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 19, 2018

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Daphne

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Lab mix

dog-age-icon

6 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Uti

My 6 month old lab mix rescue had hurt her right hind leg running in the backyard. We thought she was 4 months old, but the vet looked at her teeth and said she was at least 6 months old if not older. She had other issues happening at the same time, she was on a second round of antibiotics for a uti that wouldn’t quit, and was on a dewormer for tapeworm when this all happened. She went in for a cruciate repair surgery on Thursday. The surgery lasted a bit longer than expected 1 and a half hours instead of 1 hour. They were finishing up the surgery went everything went quiet. She went into cardiac arrest and did not make it. Is this a typical situation?

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Thor

dog-breed-icon

Scottish Terrier

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Heart Stopped
Scotty Cramps
Wheaten
Anesthesia
5 Months

My almost 6 month old male Scottish terrier puppy died about 10-15 minutes under anesthesia, he was being neutered . According to vet the heart stopped. Adrenaline was given and CPR for about 40 minutes but could not revive. The heart did not want to beat on its own. Is this normal to happen in dogs at such a young age? Pulse oximeter was used.

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Kira

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Kira was about 8 years old and was a perfectly healthy dog, her breed was a mix of German Shepard and golden retriever. She weighed around 60 pounds and was in near perfect condition. One day we brought her in for a dental cleaning, a normal routine procedure. The vets administered the general anesthesia and began to clean her teeth. Half way through the cleaning her heart rate dropped to 50, so the vet administered some type of drug to try to get her heart beating faster. Kira’s heart started beating at 120bpm and she then went into cardiac arrest, then died. This happened just yesterday. I’m still at a loss as how this could happen and why it would happen. I loved that dog so much and her sudden disappearance is hurting me so much, nearly causing me to go into a depression.

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Patron

dog-breed-icon

Tea cup Pomeranian

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Coughing, Lethargic,

Patron was prescribed with some pain killers for his back pain. He had disc displacement and was having a very hard time walking. He was supposed to stay still and sleep for most of the day for 3 Weeks. He was prescribed Diezapam, Gabapentin, Tramadol and Rimadyl. He was an incredibly energetic dog who had quite a severe case of collapsed trachea. Days passed and he was not staying still and was opening the crate and running around causing himself more pain so the dosage of the gabapentin was increased. We took him to the vet on Saturday night because his collapsing trachea was acting up again, but the checked his oxygen level and it was at a perfect percentage. Over night he coughed, and we woke up and gave him the dosage required by the doctors. By noon he looked as if he was not breathing so I took him into the vet. When he arrived he was put in the oxygen chamber and his gums turned back to pink. It was 10 minutes after that he went into cardiac arrest, pulmonary reason. They practiced CPR and they successfully revived him. He was intubated, so the doctors waited a couple of hours before slowly removing the oxygen and seeing if he was able to breath, writhing seconds his oxygen level dropped to zero and they concluded his trachea has collapsed to the point of no return. My question is, was it the drugs that worsen his collapsing trachea? Was it the increase of the dosage what let him into cardiac arrest?

Cardiac Arrest Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$7,500