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How To Save Other Pets With CPR

February 2, 2016 | Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC | Comments

We've touched on performing CPR on your dog or cat, but a number of my readers have contacted me asking about whether it was possible to perform CPR on other pets of the non-feline and non-canine variety. I'm happy to tell you that yes, CPR is possible on a number of non-traditional pets, like rabbits, birds, and even larger animals like horses. For those who are interested, I have included three sets of instructions for these kinds of pets below.

CPR on a Bird

  1. Stop, look, and listen for both breathing and a heartbeat. Put your ear to the chest to hear if there is a heartbeat. See if the bird's breast is rising and falling, and also open the beak and check the oral cavity for blockages.
  2. If you find a blockage, try to clear the airway with a fingertip or cotton swab. (Note: Be very careful that you do not get bitten if the bird suddenly startles into consciousness!)
  3. If there is a heartbeat but no breathing, position the bird so that you can deliver rescue breaths by tilting the head slightly away from you.
  4. On the bird's beak, there are nares (nostrils) that deliver oxygen to the bird's system. Seal your lips about the beak and nares and then deliver five quick breaths into the bird's beak.
  5. Keep in mind that birds are much smaller than you and that especially for small birds, smaller puffs of breath are essential to not injure the respiratory system. Similarly, with larger birds, it's okay to use a larger puff, but be gentle. Look for the rise and fall of the bird's chest.
  6. If there is no heartbeat or the heartbeat stops while you're giving rescue breaths, administer chest compressions by placing one to three fingers on the sternum (keel or middle chest bone). Birds have a rapid heart rate, so you will attempt to give 40 to 60 compressions in a minute.
  7. Keep up a pattern of five puffs and 10 compressions until the bird regains breathing/heartbeat or you reach your avian vet.

CPR on a Rabbit

  1. Position your pet rabbit on its back.
  2. Check to see if your pet is breathing before you begin CPR. If the rabbit is breathing, you should see the chest rising and falling as it inhales and exhales.
  3. Also check for a heartbeat by placing your ear close to its chest and listening for a heartbeat. If there is no breathing or heartbeat, proceed to administer CPR.
  4. Tilt your rabbit's head back to open the airway. If you don't want to put your mouth directly on that of your rabbit, put a piece of gauze over the rabbit's nose area.
  5. Hold the rabbit's mouth shut and make a seal with your mouth over the rabbit's nose. Blow five small breaths into the rabbit, just enough to see the rabbit's chest rise.
  6. Check for a heartbeat by placing your fingers on the large vein inside the rabbit's hind legs. If you don't feel a pulse, place your pointer finger and thumb at the highest part of the rabbit's chest and gently squeeze once per second.
  7. After a minute of this, give the rabbit five more breaths, then compress the chest again; continue as needed until you reach the vet, checking each time for breathing and pulse. Should the rabbit begin to breathe or the heartbeat start, stop CPR.

CPR on a Foal (Horse)

  1. Foals and other bigger farm animals have larger airways than us. As a horse owner or someone with foaling training, you should always have a foaling kit and a resuscitation bag.
  2. Like usual, check the airways for obstructions; in foals, this could be leftover amniotic fluid, mucus, or other birth debris. If it's present, remove it immediately.
  3. Attempt to stimulate breathing by vigorously rubbing the foal with towels for 20 to 30 seconds. If unsuccessful, attempt to stimulate breathing again by tickling the nostrils or stick your fingers in the ears.
  4. If breathing does not begin, resort to emergency ventilation support. Try to position the foal on its right side, and place the mask over the nose of the foal until it's firmly sealed. If possible, an assistant should extend the neck of the foal and put firm pressure along the left side of the neck to prevent air from entering the stomach during resuscitation.
  5. Squeeze the resuscitation bag with two hands to force air into the lungs of the foal at a rate of 10 to 20 breaths per minute. After 30 seconds, assess to see if chest compressions are needed.
  6. Check for a heartbeat; if there is none present or it's less than 40 beats a minute or less than 60 beats a minute but not increasing, you will need to do chest compressions.
  7. Try to make sure that the foal is supported on a firm, dry surface, position rolled towels or sandbags under the thorax, and kneel or stand, placing your hands just behind the foal's triceps at the highest point of the thorax.
  8. Use your entire body to compress the entire thorax, but be mindful that there is a risk of fracturing the ribs or lacerating the lungs. Perform compressions at a rate of 80 to 120 a minute, and relieve the resuscitator every two minutes (if possible).

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