No one wants to ever go through a pet emergency especially a life threatening one. However, tragedy can strike at any time. Rarely will you have a veterinarian on hand just when you need one so the best way you can save your pet’s life is by being prepared.
Some ways you can help your dog in an emergency include:
- Know where your nearest emergency vet and after-hours veterinary emergency hospital are and how to get there.
- Own a pet first aid kit and know how to use it.
- Have your vet, after hours clinic, and the pet poison control center phone number programmed into your cell phone.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, otherwise known as, CPR.
Learn CPR In 5 Minutes
A dog will need CPR when they can’t breathe on their own and their heart stops beating. Some reasons this could happen include:
Hopefully, you will never find yourself in this situation, but should your pet ever go into cardio pulmonary arrest (they can’t breathe and/or their heart stops), organ failure and death will quickly follow without immediate intervention. If you are the only responder, the only way to help your pet is to perform CPR yourself, until you can reach emergency medical care. If your dog collapses, if you can, call someone to come and help you, but don’t waste precious seconds.
Check for breathing
If you think your pet isn’t breathing on their own the first thing you will want to do is check. With your dog lying on its side, place your hand behind the armpit near the ribs and chest to see if you can feel their heartbeat or the rise and fall of their chest. You can also put the back of your hand by their nose to see if you feel any air escaping their nostrils.
If you can feel air, you don’t need to do CPR but you do need to rush your dog to the vet. If you have someone to drive you, even better in case you do need to perform CPR on the way.
Check the airway for choking
If you don’t feel any air, the next thing you will do is check the airway. CPR will not work if their airway is blocked.
Open the dog’s mouth and look inside. Sweep out anything you see with your fingers and look down their throat. If you see something lodged in their throat and think you can sweep it out, you can try. Otherwise, if the dog is not breathing, perform the Heimlich maneuver
The Heimlich maneuver on a dog looks like this:
According to the Animal Emergency Center, to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a medium to large size dog:
If your dog is standing
“Put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Then make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - much like you would perform the maneuver on a human.”
Doing this should dislodge the blockage. Be sure to check the mouth and help remove any food or debris that may be loose in the back of your dog's mouth so he doesn't choke or swallow what was previously bothering him.
If your dog is laying down
“Place one hand on the dog's back and use the other hand to push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending object.”
If your dog is choking on a bone or stick
If you can’t dislodge the object or something hard, like a bone or stick, is lodged deep in the throat, to prevent more trauma, it is best to rush to the nearest vet.
It’s always a good idea to have a vet checkup after any choking incident and essential if the dog lost consciousness or went without oxygen.
If your dog is choking on a ball
The best way to prevent a dog from choking on a ball is to use one large enough that they can’t close their mouth over it. However, if your dog is choking on a ball, open the dog’s mouth and try to grab the ball with your fingers to remove it.
If you can’t remove the ball and the dog is not breathing, you have two choices:
- The Heimlich maneuver.
- Roll the ball out of the throat.
To roll the ball out of the throat, on the outside of your dog’s throat, you roll the ball back up into their mouth like this:
How to do CPR on a dog
Once the airway is clear, if your dog is not breathing or you can’t find a heartbeat, on a larger dog, begin CPR like this:
- Place your mouth over the nose while holding the jaw closed.
- Blow 2 breaths into the dog’s nose so that the chest rises and falls.
- You may check for a pulse on the femoral artery on the back leg (see video) or just begin chest compressions.
- Begin chest compressions by compressing the chest to about 1/3 to 1/2 its usual depth 30 times, being sure to let the chest re-expand after each compression.
- Perform 30 compressions for every two breaths.
- Repeat these steps for two minutes then check for breathing or a heartbeat.
- If they are still not breathing, immediately perform CPR for two more minutes and repeat.
We hope you never need these instructions, but if you ever do, now you’re prepared. Please share this information with your family and friends so they can also save a life.
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