Get Your AR and CPR Skills for your Pets Down Pat

Every pet parent should know how to perform Artificial Respiration (AR) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) correctly as these emergency procedures can not only save the life of a human but that of your pet too! If possible, AR and CPR should be performed whilst on the way to your closest veterinarian.

Artificial Respiration is performed when a patient has a pulse but is not breathing. You can check for a pulse by feeling with your fingers (not your thumb) on the inside of your dogs’ hind leg where it joins the body. CPR is performed when you cannot feel a pulse and is the process of performing artificial respiration and chest compressions simultaneously.

Artificial Respiration or Rescue Breathing:

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Confirm your pet is not breathing by conducting the following set of tests:
    • feel for their breath on your hand
    • place a mirror in front of their nose to see if it mists up
    • watch if their chest rises and falls
    • check if the gums are a blue or grey colour due to oxygen starvation
  3. Open the mouth and ensure the air passage is free from any foreign objects. If not, begin with the Heimlich Manoeuvre as instructed in last weeks article Save your Pet from Choking.
  4. Continue with rescue breathing if/when the air passage is unobstructed.
  5. Whilst keeping the pet on its side, open the throat by raising the chin.
  6. Gently clasp the snout closed with one of your hands.
  7. Open your mouth over the entire snout area, gently blowing air into the nose. Only blow until you notice the chest rising. (Note that you will be required to blow softly for cats, smaller dogs, puppies and kittens but harder for larger dogs).
  8. Before attempting to continue rescue breathing, ensure all the air has exited your pet’s lungs.
  9. Give allowance for 20 breaths per minute or one breath for every 3 seconds.
  10. Continue this pattern until your pet is breathing independently.
  11. Monitor the heartbeat closely.
  12. If you’re not already en route, take your furry loved one to the vet immediately.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Begin CPR straight away if you cannot feel your pet’s pulse. It’s ideal to have two of you conducting CPR so, whilst one person performs artificial respiration, the other performs chest compressions. In this case, adhere to the steps discussed above for artificial respiration and interchange with chest compressions in the ratio of one breath for every three compressions. If only one person is available to perform CPR, interchange one breath for every five compressions.

Small dogs and cats weighing under 14 kilograms

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Position the palm of your hand over the heart, on the rib cage. Place your free hand on top of the other one. (Take caution with puppies and kittens by placing your thumb on one side of the chest and station the remaining fingers on the alternate side of the chest.)
  3. Press down on the chest so it compresses approximately one inch. At regular intervals, compress and release for 80 to 100 compressions per minute.

For medium & large dogs over 14 kilograms

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Position one hand over the broadest section of the rib cage and place the other hand on top of the first. Ensure your hands don’t cover the heart.
  3. Firmly press down on the rib cage with rigid arms. Press on the chest so it compresses to approximately ¼ of its breadth. At regular intervals, compress and release for 80 compressions per minute.
  4. Persist with CPR until your pet is breathing independently and their heartbeat is constant.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen despite our best efforts to prevent them and sadly, some cases result in the need for either cardiopulmonary resuscitation or artificial respiration or both. Remember that prevention is key so ensure you schedule regular check-ups with your vet to stay abreast of any issues that may cause the need for artificial respiration or CPR to start with.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Breaking the Heartworm Disease Cycle

Heartworm disease, also known as dirofilariasis, is a potentially fatal illness in pets worldwide. Heartworms living in the heart, lungs and related blood vessels of infected pets can eventually cause cardiac failure, lung disease and impair other vital organs in the body.

Adult female heartworms residing in an infected dog or cat, breed microfilaria, which are microscopic baby worms that pass into the bloodstream.

As a female mosquito bites and feeds on the blood of an infected animal, it ingests the microfilaria. Within 10 to 30 days, they mature into “infective stage” larvae inside the mosquito. When the infected mosquito bites another animal, the infective larvae passes into the pet’s system.

The infested larvae pass into the bloodstream, moving to the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels where they develop into adult heartworms over a period of roughly seven months. Adult heartworms can survive for up to 7 years in dogs whilst they can only live for up to 3 years in cats. A dog may carry as many as 250 worms in its body and they can measure up to 30 centimetres in length.

Infection in Dogs and Cats Compared
Heartworms thrive in a dog’s system because they can develop into adults and reproduce in their host. Heartworms cannot grow to adulthood in cats and therefore don’t survive as long. However, even baby worms can cause a severe condition in cats called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Medication that efficiently treats heartworm in dogs, doesn’t render itself as effective in cats, therefore prevention is key when safeguarding cats from heartworm disease.

Signs and Symptoms:

DOGS: Infected dogs will usually have a mild, unproductive cough as well as reduced appetite that leads to weight loss. A sudden intolerance to exercise may be experienced, marked by shortness of breath and fatigue, even with regular exercise.

As heartworm advances, heart failure may result as well as a swollen abdomen because of excess fluid therein. Caval syndrome is when the blood flow in the heart is severely constricted when dogs are infected by large numbers of heartworms and this can ultimately lead to cardiovascular collapse. Death is almost a certainty if the heartworm blockage isn’t removed quickly.

CATS: Infected cats may display reactions associated with an asthma attack along with intermittent vomiting. They may have fainting spells or seizures and experience trouble walking. Reduced appetite also leads to weight loss. A build-up of fluid in their abdomen is also a possibility, however, in some cases, the initial symptom is sudden collapse followed by death.

Heartworm Testing

DOGS: Even if your dog is on preventative medication, testing for heartworm should be conducted annually. Testing requires a non-invasive blood test administered by your veterinarian that identifies the existence of heartworm proteins. Positive results from the initial test will necessitate further testing.

CATS: Detecting the presence of heartworms in cats involves using both an antigen and an antibody. X-rays or ultrasounds may also be an option. Prevention of heartworm disease in cats is essential as there is currently no approved treatment available.

Treatment for Dogs?
Several treatments of medication called melarsomine hydrochloride (Immiticid®), are required to eradicate adult worms. The treatment is injected into the lower back muscle, but the associated pain is excruciating which is why patients are ideally admitted to hospital for 1 – 2 days to receive pain control, anti-inflammatory medication as well as intravenous fluid therapy.

The majority of microfilariae are only killed when a second injection is given to the host roughly one month after the initial treatment.

Your pooch will then need to begin a year-round heartworm preventative medication. If a dog has been severely laden with heartworm disease, they are likely to have permanent heart damage which will demand long-term therapy.

Caval syndrome, as mentioned above, necessitates the mature heartworms be removed surgically via a surgically cut opening in the jugular vein. This can almost always be avoided through early diagnosis and treatment.

If a dog is undergoing treatment for heartworm disease, it’s imperative that they are kept calm and quiet at all times, and exercise is prohibited for a full month after the treatment has been administered.

A mild cough can be expected for two months after treatment if a dog was heavily infected. However, if they display shortness of breath, heavy coughing, depression and fever, consult your vet immediately.

The good news is that heartworm disease is preventable in both dogs and cats. The bad news is that current heartworm preventative medication is ineffective on adult heartworms so it’s crucial to eradicate heartworms before they mature into adults. Heartworm preventative medication must be given according to a precise schedule, so not to give baby worms (or microfilaria) a chance to develop into adults.

Heartworm disease is easily preventable but expensive to treat. Unfortunately, in contrast to their canine counterparts, there is currently no conclusive cure available for cats. With this said, the best approach to defeating heartworm disease is by safeguarding your cats and dogs with heartworm preventative medicines that your vet will prescribe to you.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson