Pet CPR: Are You Up For Mouth-to-Snout?
A new AP poll reveals that 63 percent of dog owners would give CPR to their pet in case of medical emergency. My initial thought, 'What's wrong with that other 37 percent?' Too queasy?' Even worse, only 53 percent of cat owners would do the same. Shame on the other 47 percent. Pussies.
Though I've never been called into CPR action myself, the poll brings to mind a special story - when my dinky little personal blog managed to save a life.
I'd asked an old friend of mine, Kath, to - once and for all - write up the story of Stanley the Tortoise. Her family's reptile was not only a part of my childhood but probably many other childhoods as well. Stanley is approximately 126 years old, likely born around 1883, during the Chester A. Arthur administration.
Stanley's many near-death experiences were the stuff of legend and I was anxious to have them documented in my wee corner of the blogosphere. Kath obliged and I posted Stanley's story in April 2008. Some months later, the post received a grateful comment from "Brady":
"This is an awesome story about your tortoise Stan, but I have to say thank you first because this was the first result on Google for 'tortoise fell in pool,' as our desert tortoise Tommy, just did 2 hours ago. While my sister jumped in to get him off the bottom of the pool, I sprinted up to my room, did a quick internet search, and ran back outside to tell my sister to do the things you had done to Stan after he fell in. He looked simply dead, but after doing what you posted, like turning him to drain the water, and racing him to our nearby vet he became responsive again and is expected to come back home in a few days completely fine. Once again, thank you so much, and your tortoise sounds invincible!"
Of course, I let Kath know immediately that she had not saved one special tortoise but now, two. Her family was moved to tears, big smiles all around. Stanley, however, had no apparent thoughts on the matter and continued munching on rose petals.
The message here (other than how much love and devotion can be inspired by a tortoise) is obviously, never give up when it comes to your non-human friend. If your dog, cat, bird or tortoise is in dire straits, ignore the ick factor and just try your best.
"It's not rocket science. The mechanics are the same as humans. Size is the biggest difference."
--Tammy Parks, pet owner who recently took a pet first aid class
Henceforth, some very basic* Animal CPR:
If Fido is not breathing, use a finger to clear any mucus or other objects from the mouth. Much like human CPR, tilt the head back to straighten the airway passage.
Hold the mouth shut with one hand, and place your mouth over the animal's snout, beak or whatever, making sure the seal is tight. Blow into the nose and watch to see if the chest expands.
If the chest doesn't expand, start over again by clearing the mouth. If the chest does expand, release the animal's mouth so it can exhale.
Repeat the breathing procedure every five seconds until the animal is breathing normally.
If you detect no heartbeat, you need to do CPR along with cardiac resuscitation.
Start by putting the animal on its right side. Place the heel of your hand on the ribcage just behind the elbow. Place your other hand on top of the first hand.
Firmly press on the ribcage in quick, smooth movements. Depending on the size of the animal, press down 3-4 inches using both hands. The compression should last no longer than 1/2 second. The smaller the dig the fewer inches of compression and less force are needed. Be careful not to damage the ribcage. Repeat this procedure 10 times.
Then, if the animal is still not breathing, perform CPR as described above.
Alternate between the chest compressions (10 in a row), and one breath into the nose.
(*Please note that there are slight variances in CPR approach depending on species and size.
Check out this excellent how-to video 'starring' Elaine Acker, CEO of Pets America, who demonstrates pet CPR on a doggie mannequin.
Much like human CPR, a person can also become certified in animal CPR. Talk to your vet about classes or check with your local animal shelter. Also, your local chapter of the American Red Cross might provide classes in pet CPR.
Tampa-based ManaTEEN Club - an incredible volunteer organization with over 10,000 active teen members - offered animal CPR to their members last summer
"That's right, for the first time in ManaTEEN history, youth had the opportunity to become certified in dog and cat CPR. The participants were informed about procedures for handling animal poisoning, practiced performing compressions on dogs and cats of various sizes, and tested their new life-saving skills in a disaster simulation. It is always good to know how to deal with certain disaster situations and whether you are a pet owner or not, the skills can come in handy."
Mary Oquendo over at Groomwise stresses how pet groomers need to know their animal CPR, and for good reason:
"Benny the Boxer is alive because of Laurie and Donna. Benny has cardiomyopathy and went into heart failure at their shop. He was fortunate because his groomers were trained in Pet CPR and First Aid. They knew what to do and in five minutes Benny had a heart beat and was breathing again."
Finally, Wes Howenstein, who blogs over at RainingCatsandDogs, posts a video about a Carolina man who quickly saved his dog using CPR:
"This story revolves around a man, his two dogs, a backyard swimming pool, a surveillance camera and a CPR class three decades ago."
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