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Mouth-to-snout resuscitation saved my dog

"The doggie's swimming in the pool," my 5-year-old nephew Darin announced.

I knew that spelled trouble.

Iggy, my German short-haired pointer, hated the pool, preferring lakes and oceans.

He also was prone to epileptic seizures, about a handful a year. We always worried that he would have one poolside and drown.

When I raced out back, there was my greatest fear realized. Iggy was underwater, his eyes open.

Oh Lord, I thought. This was the end of my beautiful friend with the velvety ears and the glossy coat the color of milk chocolate, who insisted on being a lap dog even at 70 pounds. He had no pulse and his eyes were vacant and glassy.

Well, it wasn't his end. In fact, he lived five more years after that.

Hundreds of dogs drown each year, according to the Sierra Club, most often in residential pools or off a seawall where the confused animal can't figure out how to get out and they die from exhaustion.

My friend Leah, a first-grade teacher used to thinking on her feet with helpless creatures, said, "Quick, let's do CPR." It hadn't even occurred to me do such a thing. I had no idea how to do pet CPR, but we bumbled our way through it.

He was too heavy to roll over, so she compressed his chest from the side. "Blow in his mouth," she ordered.

I pried open his jaws, but I couldn't get enough of a vacuum to blow down his throat. Desperate, I shut his mouth and blew in his nose and could hear gurgling.

Finally, a pool of yellowish water oozed out of his mouth. He was in shock, but there was some shallow breathing and a pulse.

Two hours later at the veterinarian's office, a subdued dog had coughed up the rest of the water and was starting to feel like his old self again.

I later found out what we did right, according to Dr. Michael Rumore of Lake Seminole Animal Hospital, who teaches pet CPR and first aid for the SPCA:

• If the dog is not breathing, use a finger to clear any mucus or other objects from the mouth. Tilt the head back to straighten the airway passage.

• For heart compressions, lay the animal on his side and put your hands where the left elbow touches the chest, about the middle of the rib cage, giving you closer access to the heart. Try not to damage the rib cage; use just two fingers and a thumb for a tiny dog or small cat, Rumore said.

• Close the animal's mouth and blow in his nose. Cup your hands around the nostrils to make sure the seal is tight.

• If the chest doesn't expand, check by clearing the mouth again. If the chest does expand, release his mouth so the dog can exhale.

• Alternate between 10 chest compressions and one breath into the dog's nose until the dog is breathing normally.

"Dogs traditionally are good swimmers, but if they are just too old or too blind or crippled to get out, they can easily drown," said Dr. Don Morgan, president of the Pinellas Animal Foundation.

A veterinarian for 45 years, Morgan has seen a number of drowning cases over the years, often from dogs falling off seawalls that can't find a way back to shore or in a pool without steps. And veterinarians are often too late to save them.

That's why it's important for pet owners to know CPR, he said, because a fast response is needed.

This same procedure, he notes, can also be used if an animal is choking (the Heimlich maneuver is the same for dogs, he says), or has a heart or fainting episode.

Rumore said he's rarely had happy endings like mine, which is why he encourages clients to take first aid and CPR courses.

"Most people just don't think about emergencies in general," Rumore said. "This is just an afternoon class, and sometimes you can have a happy ending."


Doggie CPR

The Red Cross's Tampa Bay chapter offers Pet CPR classes for $40. See for local numbers and classes. The SPCA of Tampa Bay also plans some pet first aid and CPR classes this year. Check for classes or call (727) 586-3591.

Mouth-to-snout resuscitation saved my dog 02/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 3:30am]
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