By Amy Caldwell
Published: 10/03/2017, edited: 09/24/2021
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CPR (also known as ‘cardiopulmonary resuscitation’) is one of the cornerstones of any basic first aid class that most people can expect to take at some point in their lives. The procedure has saved countless lives since its inception, reviving people from near-death or performing the vital function of keeping them alive long enough for more technical medical assistance to be rendered. However, it is also a technique that is fraught with risk if it is not performed properly and it can even prove damaging to the recipient if it is done correctly. For this reason, people may be hesitant to attempt to perform the procedure on their pet if they were to fall ill and many more people are not even sure if CPR will actually work on canines. For this reason, we have formulated a brief guide to the various pros and cons of performing CPR and if the procedure is safe to perform on your dog.
When to Use CPR
So what exactly does the CPR procedure entail and when should it be used? The primary function of CPR is to help circulate oxygenated blood around the body when the recipient is no longer able to do so by themselves. This is done by forcefully exhaling air into the patient’s mouth in order to fill their lungs and then performing chest compressions to push blood through the chest cavity. You should keep in mind that a tight seal has to be made over the patient’s nose and mouth in order to make sure that oxygen is sent into their lungs and is not able to escape. Additionally, the chest compressions need to be delivered at a constant rhythm of approximately one hundred beats per minute. Many first aid instructors will commonly equate this rhythm to the beat of the song ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees in order to make it easy for their students to administer the technique under stress. You should be aware that CPR should only be performed on patients who have stopped breathing entirely and who no longer have a pulse. This is most common in victims of disease-induced heart attacks, though other causes such as electrocution and poisoning can cause a sudden loss of cardiovascular functionality and still pose a threat to others coming into contact with their body. For this reason, it is highly advisable to properly assess the situation before attempting to perform CPR.
CPR for Dogs?
Although the technique was originally developed for use on humans, it can still be performed on dogs, albeit with some slight modifications. It is wisest to get some training from a competent professional before attempting to give your dog CPR, as if performed in the wrong manner (i.e. in a similar manner to how it is performed on humans), it is possible for you to cause serious injury to the animal. The first major change to the procedure is that the animal should not be placed on their back, as while this will allow for a proper compression of the chest cavity in humans, it can impede breathing in dogs as well as result in organ damage when the rib cage is compressed. The second thing to note is that instead of placing your hands directly over the animal’s heart, you will have to aim for the bottom of the lungs themselves, which can be found at roughly the widest point of the dog’s ribcage. The other parts of the procedure, such as the rate at which compressions should be delivered and air being forced into the lungs via the mouth, remain the same. However, it should be noted that when compressing the rib cage, you should try to not deliver too much pressure, as this too can seriously harm the dog. Instead, the person giving CPR should try to squeeze the ribcage by about a quarter of its normal width.
While CPR can be a lifesaving measure, it can also have drawbacks. These include possible biting or scratching from the dog if it is experiencing involuntary muscle spasms, as well as significant injury for the animal in the aftermath of the procedure. It is common for humans who have received CPR to have extensive bruising on their chests, as well as cracked or broken ribs due to the force that has been exerted in order to keep them alive. Because of this, you should always try to keep a dog that has just undergone CPR relatively still until professional medical care can be given, so as not to aggravate these or any other injuries they may have received.
Know the Right Technique
The ability to perform CPR is an incredibly important skill that everybody should know and saves countless lives each year. However, administering this first aid improperly can cause more harm than good, making it very important that you try to seek out a qualified trainer who can help you refine your knowledge. If your dog suffers from heart disease or a similar condition, CPR may at some point prove invaluable, so having the right training can mean the difference between life and death.
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