RECOVER Works to Improve Veterinary CPR Success Rates After Cardiac Arrest


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Dos and Don’ts for Performing CPR on a Dog

New guidelines for CPR may help more pets survive cardiac arrest. Photo Credit: AmazonCares

Decoded Science asked Dr. Fletcher what he recommended for pet owners faced with an animal in cardiac arrest.

His reply was to get the animal to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible, as delay in getting advanced care reduces the pet’s chance for survival.

People without hands-on CPR training should not attempt to resuscitate the animal, as there is the potential to do more harm than good.

CPR-trained people should, however, do the following while transporting the animal:

  • 100 – 120 Chest compressions: Push the chest to 1/3 to 1/2 its normal depth, then allow the chest to recover completely.
  • Trade off doing compressions every 2 minutes if there are enough people present, as responder fatigue may results in leaning on the chest between compressions, reducing their effectiveness.
  • Give 2 one-second breaths mouth to snout (mouth) after every 30 compressions.

An online CPR course for veterinarians and veterinary technicians is in the works, with a course for lay persons to follow. Until then, CPR training from the Red Cross or local fire department is the best option. For larger groups, Minnesota–based BART (Basic Animal Rescue Training) offers FEMA approved animal specific CPR and emergency care training.

Could better pet CPR training save lives? Image by Minita

More Research Needed on Animal Response to CPR

The literature review showed a number of knowledge gaps in the field of veterinary CPR. There is little research on things as basic as optimum hand placement for chest compressions, and whether dogs should be placed on their side or on their back during CPR.

As the information from the RECOVER literature review spreads throughout the veterinary community, researchers will hopefully tackle these unknowns.

Dr. Fletcher expressed his gratitude for the amount of effort this all-volunteer group of over 100 veterinarians put into the project. Most participants logged 60 or more hours and 95% said they would be willing to do it again.

This is great news, as RECOVER plans to re-evaluate the state of veterinary CPR knowledge every five years.


Fletcher, D., Boller, M., et al. Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation: Evidence and Knowledge Gap Analysis. 2012. Special Issue: Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Volume 22, Issue s1. S1-s131. Accessed July 25, 2012.

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