As lifesaving techniques go, CPR is so mainstream that many outside the medical and emergency response world have used it or been trained to do so.
On fellow humans, that is. But what about on pets?
There is such a thing as CPR for animals, and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine wants emergency responders to learn it. It seems especially appropriate, since the first modern CPR occurred on a dog, said Dr. Alan Ralph.
Ralph, an emergency and critical care specialist on the staff of MedVet New Orleans, said CPR grew out of a 1958 Johns Hopkins University study involving researcher James Jude.
“It really wasn’t until one day in the lab that one of the research dogs was anesthetized and there was an unplanned cardiac arrest,” Ralph said. “They wanted to save the dog, and he told them to start compressing the chest.”
The dog recovered, and the concept of combining compressions with mouth-to-mouth breathing was born. Ralph said he knew of an 18-year-old terrier named Oliver that was discovered by his family after falling into a swimming pool. Oliver’s owner was a firefighter, and the family administered CPR for 40 minutes until Oliver resumed breathing, then they took him to the veterinarian, where he recovered.
To determine if the dog’s heart is beating, feel the middle of the chest or the inner thigh near the groin, Ralph said. If there is no pulse, the dog should be laid on its side, and begin compressions mid-chest at about two beats per second, or 100 to 120 beats per minutes. Breaths should be administered by closing the dog’s mouth and breathing into the snout about every 15 seconds. The principle is the same as human CPR — keeping blood and the oxygen it carries moving to the brain in hopes that the patient’s heartbeat and breathing will resume.
It sounds easy, but it isn’t.
“It wears you out a lot more than you think it does,” Ralph said. “You can’t really go faster than that and be effective, and you’ll be exhausted in no time.”
The school held a seminar on animal CPR and other dog emergencies on March 13. Only Taylor Saucier, 17, a certified first responder nearing completion of her emergency medical technician certification, joined the veterinary students in attendance. Seminar organizer Derecka Alexander said the school will offer the training again.
“A lot of people own pets, so in EMT situations, you go into the home and … it’s more of a safety concern than a medical concern,” said Saucier, who lives in Mandeville. “But, of course, if anything happens to the pet while we’re there, it would be cool to know how to help.”