OK, I wasn’t going to comment on that “Dog trainer saves dog with CPR” video that’s floating around the web, but enough people have seen it that I think it warrants it. It’s gotten enough play in the last day that I actually decided to postpone my vaccine post.
Despite the fact that the man neither saved the dog nor performed CPR, I would be OK with not bursting his bubble and letting him carry on this wave of adoration were it not for this one simple fact: I don’t want you all to do the same thing.
I do want to state that I know he tried his best, and good for him for doing that. I think his heart, and those of the many people who commented on the video in appreciation, are in the right place.
With that being said, here’s my take on it:
Did he really save the dog’s life?
We have a boxer, later determined to have heart disease (no surprise there if you know boxers) who had a “seizure” according the owner, then collapsed and stopped breathing.
I am reasonably confident that the dog was not in cardiac arrest mostly due to this one simple fact: he’s still alive. CPR in pets has an abysmal success rate when done properly, which this wasn’t. The chances are, had the guy just sat there and comforted the dog and owner the dog would still have been up and about in a minute or two. It looks more like syncope than anything. In short, this dog was lucky.
So why does it matter? Why can’t you just let the guy bask in glory? What, you might ask, would you have done in this situation?
The 3 C’s of Pet Emergencies
In CPR classes, you are told to remember the CAB mnemonic (or ABC, if you took it prior to 2010).
- C for circulation/chest compressions
- A for ensuring a patent airway
- B for breathing for the patient
Remember, CPR is meant to preserve the flow of oxygenated blood long enough for the patient to survive transport to a hospital in order to have the real life saving measures instituted. Getting to the hospital is the priority.
But because we are dealing with dogs and cats and not people, we don’t have the luxury of ambulances and 911. When our pet has an emergency, it’s on us to get them to the emergency hospital as soon as possible to assess the situation. So for pet owners, I propose the Emergency CCCs instead of ABCs:
1. CALM. You have to stay calm, which is very hard to do in an emergency. Chances are, you’re the one who’s going to have to drive the pet in and you want to both get there safely.
2. CALL. Have the emergency vet hospital phone number programmed and know where they are located so you don’t need to waste time looking for it in an emergency. The emergency vet staff is the closest you will get to a 911 dispatcher in terms of immediate advice and helping you stay calm. In addition, it is very helpful for the staff to know you are coming so they can prepare for your arrival, make sure the doctor doesn’t begin a non-emergency procedure, that sort of thing.
3. CAR. Time is of the essence. Don’t be messing around with CPR when you could be on the road. This is my major problem with this video- why the heck is the guy tapping on the dog’s chest instead of telling the owner to get her car? They’re wasting time with a dog who could be in atrial fibrillation on the verge of cardiac arrest! What’s that guy with the camera doing? Get the car keys!!
CPR is the fourth C in my book, to be instituted only after 1,2, and 3 are in place.
OK, so let’s say for argument’s sake that you have a driver, and you are in the back with your dog and you want to do CPR. As you know if you’ve done CPR training, it is forceful, fast, and assertive. It’s like trying to squish a tennis ball in the middle of a full suitcase- it takes force.
If you haven’t taken a pet first aid course, it’s a great idea. In the meantime, want to see CPR done right? Here you go:
I spent a good chunk of time yesterday e-mailing back and forth with my friend Dr. Megan, who you may remember from the 2010 blogathon works as an emergency vet. Dr. Megan had the same reaction that I did (printed with permission):
“I’ve worked as an ER vet for 3 years. This was NOT CPR. CPR on an animal looks pretty much just like CPR on a person, only your patient is on their side while you are giving chest compressions. You have to push hard and fast enough to move blood through the heart.
They used to test us in vet school by placing a blood flow monitor in the cornea (weird, I know) while we were giving compressions. If we could get blood perfusing through that far away from the heart, we were doing it right. It takes a LOT more compression to do that than what this man was doing.
Since this is a boxer, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess he has heart disease (common in Boxers, they actually have their own special heart disease, Boxer Cardiomyopathy), and he had a syncopal, or fainting episode. He certainly wasn’t breathing at the beginning of the video, but I wouldn’t say that the man “administering CPR” saved his life. If anything, they just stimulated him to breathe by jostling around the vagus nerve. I have a feeling the dog would’ve regained consciousness on his own.
Secondly, it wasn’t wise to have the dog sit there so long after he had regained consciousness before getting him to a vet. Once he’s conscious and aware of his surroundings, they should’ve carried him to a car and driven him to the vet.”
Has anyone performed CPR on a pet? What would you have done in this situation?