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Help, My Dog is Drowning

Dogs are excellent swimmers but can drown if they become exhausted or fall through ice. If your dog is drowning in a lake or pool, send for help and then try to reach the dog with your hand. If you must swim to the dog, take a floating device with you. Grab your dog by the tail or back of the neck, or let it grab on to the float. Swim back to shore.

Once you have reached shore, hold the dog upside down by the hocks. Give a few sharp shakes to drain excess water from the lungs. Lay the dog on its side. Make sure there is no debris in the mouth. If the dog is not breathing, administer artificial respiration. If there is no heartbeat, apply CPR. When the dog is conscious, wrap it in a blanket. If the dog was rescued from ice water, treat it for hypothermia.

CPR (when heart beat & breathing stops)

The same CPR technique used for humans can be adapted to save the life of a dog. CPR will provide heart contractions and breathing until the dog can perform these functions on its own. Heart and respiratory failure can occur after a trauma such as an electric shock, poison ingestion, a car accident or shock caused by a trauma. (If there is massive external or internal bleeding, CPR will not be effective since there is not enough fluid in the blood vessels to carry oxygen.)

CPR should not be performed on a dog that has a heartbeat. Nor should you perform artificial respiration on a dog that is already breathing unless the breaths are very unsteady and shallow. Watch the dog's sides to see if the chest is rising and falling.

Visual signs of no heartbeat include fully dilated pupils and cool, blue-colored gums. Get familiar with pulse points on your healthy dog. Knowing how a normal heartbeat feels will help you in the event of an emergency.

If there isn't a heartbeat or breath, CPR must be given to the dog. You will have to manually compress the heart and administer artificial respiration, one immediately after the other. A rhythm must develop between the heart compression and the artificial respiration.

An unconscious dog may become aggressive when it revives. Apply a dog muzzle -- always. You can use a strip of gauze, a strip of sheet, a necktie or even a sock. Wrap the cloth around the snout and tie under the jaw. Pull the ends back on each side of the dog's neck and tie behind the head. If the dog starts to vomit, remove the muzzle and reapply when he is finished.

Administer CPR as follows:

  1. Lay the dog on its side. If there is no back or neck injury, pull the head and neck forward.
  2. Open the dog's mouth and pull the tongue forward so it does not block the throat. Clear the mouth of any debris with your fingers and close the dog's mouth. Recheck the pulse.
  3. Hold the dog's mouth and lips closed. Apply a muzzle.
  4. Inhale and put your mouth over the dog's nose, forming an airtight seal. Exhale. Repeat the process 10 -15 times per minute.
  5. Remove your mouth and apply heart massage in between breaths.
  6. Place the heel of one hand over the dog's chest (in line with the back of its elbow). Place the heel of your other hand on top of the other.
  7. Pump firmly and briskly. Hold each push for two counts and release for a count of one. (Use pressure appropriate for the size of the dog.)

Continue the massage until the heartbeat returns. Continue artificial respiration until the dog begins to breathe. If the dog does not respond after 15 minutes of CPR, revival is unlikely.

Hypothermia (Cold Injury)

Exposure to cold temperatures, especially if the dog is wet or ill can cause the onset of hypothermia. Symptoms include shivering, lethargy and eventual unconsciousness. The body will feel cold to the touch. Breathing is slow and shallow.

First aid starts with drying the dog and placing it in a warm place. Do not put the dog too close to a fire or heat source. Heating the dog too quickly can cause shock. Be careful not to burn the dog's skin. In the case of newborn puppies or if the dog has collapsed, place in warm bath water. When the puppy or dog is warm, remove it and dry thoroughly. Make sure the water does not become cooler than the dog or it will extract heat from the dog's body. Keep the dog in a draft-free, warm room for several hours. Warm liquids or warm food may be offered.

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