Paging Dr. Dolittle Part III
In parts one and two, I covered the basic elements to include in your Pet First Aid Kit, what to include in a Pet Shock First Aid Kit, the signs of shock and how to prevent it, and what actions to take if, in fact, your furry friend’s going into shock. In this article, we’re moving on to the topic of CPR and how to administer it to your pooch.
The first step is to learn the stages if Rufus does require CPR. You’ll need to assess your pooch then give them CPR if they seem breathless or lifeless. Know that CPR is not required in all circumstances, so you first need to evaluate if they are breathing or if they've collapsed.
Evaluate: Check to make sure they're breathing by watching for the rise and fall of their chest. If they're breathing normally and are at rest, you should count 12-24 breaths per minute, so their chest should rise every 2-3 seconds. To calculate their breathing rate, count the number of breaths during a 10 second period and multiple that number by six.
If you see no movement, feel no pulse, no air from their nose against your hand, they may need cardiopulmonary resuscitation that combines chest compressions with artificial breath ventilation to kick-start their heart. CPR needs to be done immediately once you’ve determined they're not breathing. You need to know how to do it correctly and by all means, don’t do this on a healthy dog. A team of two is best to provide compressions and breathing to the animal.
► Check for a heartbeat: On larger dogs, check their heartbeat by laying them on their side and lift their front leg up so you can reach into the space over their ribs (this is the 3rd intercostal space by the way). Again, wait to see if there’s any movement or signs of breathing. Apply pressure first by pressing down to see if you feel any heartbeat. If no heartbeat is determined, move forward.
► Clear their throat and airway: Remove any obstructions so you can ventilate. Clear any mucus, spittle, blood, vomit, etc. Pull their tongue forward and tilt their head to open the airway more. This is the position for artificial respiration.
♦ For a small dog: use your mouth to cover the nose and mouth. Use your hands to cup the sides to keep it airtight.
♦ For a large dog: place your mouth over the nose/nostrils; use your hands to keep cheeks flat and keep mouth closed.
► Administering ventilation: Blow into the dog’s snout until you see the chest wall rise. Then stop. You do not want to damage the dog’s lungs. Move back letting the air escape.
RULE: Do this every 100 – 120 times per minute (For you disco savvy people out there, use the tempo of the Bee Gees song, Staying Alive).
► Chest compressions: while you’re giving them air, their heart is not pumping it, so no oxygen’s being sent to their brain or to their organs, so chest compressions are needed for this reason. This action is critical, as their organs will start shutting down without oxygen.
♦ For very large breeds use abdominal compressions or squeezes. The organs, such as the liver, can be pushed to help assist apply pressure to the heart, hold the heart with your left hand and use the other to push up gently and hold your compressions. Try a few times; if it’s not working then use both for the heart compressions.
For most breeds, this is the normal compression site as described behind the arm. But for different breeds, you may need a different area to be the most successful. And, since I don’t know what breed or size dog you have, check out the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care for more information.
RULE: Remember You want to do 80 – 100 chest compressions per minute “ah-ah-ah-ah-staying alive - staying alive - ah-ah-ah-ah - staying alive etc.
Use the area you found above, under the leg, where the heart is again. Lay your palm one over the other then over this area of the heart. Now, press down firmly - gentle enough but with enough pressure to compress the chest 1/3 of the depth. Go to ½ if it seems really deep.
RULE: It’s a quick movement, very rapid but gentle push, release; compress release 10-12 times every 5 seconds. Repeat.
Every few minutes stop to see if it’s working and if their breathing has resumed. Hopefully it will; continue until it does. If not within 4-5 minutes, too much damage to the brain and organs will have happened, sadly.
Opening an Unwilling Dog’s Mouth
The easiest and fastest way to open a dog’s mouth is to use your fingers to push in the very corners of the mouth and roll them over the back teeth; this makes them bite down on their own cheek if they close their mouth.
Most dogs will open right up and as long as you keep their cheek rolled over the gum, they won’t bite down as it hurts (OUCH!); the back of the jaw has all the power, so be careful. If it slips off, quickly pull your hand away, or you’ll be sorry!
Taking your Dog’s Pulse: This was covered in part two, so go back and have a gander.
Heatstroke and How to Cool Them Down
If you think your boy or girl may be having a heatstroke, they need to be treated quickly, as it’s really a big deal. Seriously folks, this is a big deal.
Being left outside without adequate access to shade, or left in a car (even on a cool day!), and indeed even simply going for a walk in high heat and humidity, can all be disastrous for your dog. Your dog regulates their body temperature through panting, so most snub-nosed breeds (bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Pekingese, etc.) are all at a significantly higher risk for heatstroke because their airways are smaller. And, dark-coated and fat dogs are also at a higher risk. It's important, therefore, to recognize the early symptoms of heatstroke: excessive panting, restlessness, and distress. And if they continue to heat up, they'll start drooling large amounts of saliva from the nose and mouth, and may become unsteady on their feet. You may also notice their gums turning either bright red or blue in color.
If you suspect overheating, early intervention is essential:
► Move them out of the heat immediately and into a cooler area, and direct a fan on to them if at all possible.
► Wet towels with cool (NOT cold!) water and place them on the back of their neck, under the armpits, and in the groin area. Make sure the fan is directed in such a way as to be blowing on these.
► Do NOT use ice or cold water - this will cool the outside of your dog and cause blood vessels to constrict, ironically and disastrously causing the heat to be trapped inside the body. Use room-temperature tap water.
► If the SHTF, then this is not an option, but in case you do have access to a vet, get them there as soon as possible for examination because simply cooling them down is only part of the process - most animals will require additional care and treatment.
► Don’t over cool your pet and don’t try to force water into their mouth. If they are alert and wants to drink water, then let them, but don’t force it.
► As always, prevention is better than cure, so never walk your dog during the heat of the day during the hotter months of the year, and during these months you should generally limit walks at any time of the daytime. Don't leave them outside unattended in the heat and never leave them in a car, even on a cool day.
In the next part of our four part series, we’ll discuss treating wounds, chemical burns, and a smattering of other topics.
Stay alert, stay alive!