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Just like with MDs, Vets will perform CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) on companion animals in hospital. Hopefully your pet will never need CPR but it's worth knowing this practice occurs so you can decide if you would want your animal resuscitated in such an emergency situation.
The decision to resuscitate or not is a big decision for you as a pet owner. It's commonly a multi-factorial decision with moral, financial, and welfare considerations all carrying weight in the decision making process. Since it is always an emergency scenario, discussing these choices with your veterinarian (particularly if your pet is sick enough that there is a real chance that your animal will need to be resuscitated) is important to ensure the correct decisions are made at the time. Often, your vet won’t even have time to call you to let you know what’s going on.
Why do vets perform CPR?
Commonly vets will perform CPR if your dog or cat goes into respiratory or cardiac arrest (your pet stops breathing or their heart stops). Respiratory or cardiac arrest can be caused by a number of different reasons and often Vets won't have to time to accurately determine the likely cause of the arrest until after afterwards.
What is involved in CPR?
CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) involves attempting to get your dog or cat to begin to breathe and contract their heart on their own. To do this Vets manually take over control of your animal's breathing and heart contractions and try to give medications and therapy to stimulate voluntary breathing and heart contractions. The steps are outlined below:
Cardiac Massage – A vet/nurse will commence chest compressions. These are done quite forcefully and at a rate of approx 120 compressions per minute. These compressions are not ceased until the animal starts to beat their heart on their own.
Ventilation – In addition to looking after the heart contractions, someone needs to look after the animal's breathing. A vet/nurse will intubate your pet (places a tube down the animal’s throat) and connects this up to oxygen (ideally) or room air if oxygen isn't available. This person is then responsible for giving the dog/cat a breath every 5-6 seconds. Again, this is not ceased until the dog or cat is breathing of their own accord.
Medications and Therapy
Medications and additional therapies are often used in combination with CPR to aid in resuscitating your pet. These may include the following:
Adrenaline– Adrenaline is a drug used to stimulate heart contractions. It is given intravenously or down the endotracheal tube (the tube which is down the throat)
Atropine – Another drug which acts in a similar fashion to adrenaline
Defibrillation – Defibrillation involves using electronically charged paddles to ‘defibrillate’ or jump start the heart
What are the chances my animal will survive after CPR?
This is a difficult question to answer and is dependent upon the cause and the severity of the symptoms. In saying this, a number of pets are saved using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. As you can comprehend, this is a difficult issue to wrap your head around and certainly it's difficult for pet owners to come to a decision as to whether they would want their pet to be put through CPR. In the end, to some degree the decision is a personal one, and is certainly dictated by things such as the age and condition of your pet at the time.
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