Cardiac Arrest Can Be Fatal in Dogs

Cardiac arrest, or cardiopulmonary arrest, is often fatal in dogs. Less than ten percent ever recover after such an event, and most of these are dogs that have cardiac arrest while under anesthesia because resuscitation efforts can be started immediately, and oxygen and catheterization is already available in such cases.

For a dog owner, quick administering of CPR can improve the odds of survival, but in such a case, being able to identify the early signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest is tremendously important.

Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

The symptoms of cardiac arrest can come on very quickly, and they can tend to be quite dramatic. In most cases, the dog will suffer from breathing abnormalities, such as decreased breathing or difficulty breathing. As a result of a lack of oxygen, the dog’s pupils will become dilated, and her mucous membranes will become white or blue. Other signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Vocalizations
  • Collapse
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Weak pulse
  • No response or reflexes of any kind

Because the body is unable to deliver oxygen to the dog’s brain when it has cardiac arrest, CPR is essential. If the dog’s brain goes without oxygen for just four to six minutes, brain death will occur.

What Causes Cardiac Arrest in Dogs?

Cardiopulmonary arrest can be caused by a range of factors. It can be caused by a heart arrhythmia, an anesthetic error or equipment failure, cancer, an end-stage disease, or it can be a complication of another illness, including:

  • Congenital heart failure
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Decreased blood circulation
  • Ventricular flutter or fibrillation
  • Airway obstruction
  • Severe electrolyte imbalance
  • Electrical impulses to the vagal nerve
  • Sinus bradycardia
  • Severe trauma to the chest
  • Neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth)

How Cardiac Arrest Is Treated in Dogs

The goal of treating cardiac arrest is to revive the beating of the dog’s heart, and the quicker treatment is provided, the better the prognosis will be. The basic life support foundations of CPR are generally applied initially, including:

  • Removing any obstructions from the dog’s airway
  • Performing a tracheotomy if necessary
  • Installing an endotracheal tube
  • Performing chest compressions, defibrillation, or open-chest internal cardiac massage

Once the patient’s heart starts beating again, treatment shifts to stage two – advanced life support. This typically includes fluid resuscitation, an IV catheter, and an EKG to help guide the progression of the treatment.

Finally, continued supportive care will be administered in order to assess any complications that might arise from things like kidney or brain damage.

What to Do If Your Dog Suffers Cardiac Arrest at Home

If your pet suffers a cardiac arrest while you are at home, it is important not to panic. It is also important to remain focused so you can administer CPR to your pet, the steps of which include:

  • Clearing the airway
  • Beginning chest compressions (30 compressions using one hand for a small dog and two hands for a medium to large dog)
  • Breathing two breaths into the dog’s nostrils
  • Repeat the 30 compressions followed by two breaths into the nostrils

Performing CPR on a dog that is not in cardiac arrest can be very dangerous for the dog. Because of this, it is important that you know the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest so you don’t accidentally perform it on a dog that doesn’t need it.

It is also worth noting that quickly administering CPR is not a guarantee that your dog will start breathing again, but it is your best chance for helping your dog at home.

Author: Giano Panzarella