A lot of professions that work on an emergency basis, such as doctors, vets and fire officers follow the old saying that “to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail”.  It was with this in mind that the fire officers at Camels Head Fire Station, who are a specialist rescue team in Plymouth, approached our vets in the practice for advice on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in animals. CPR is an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions, often with artificial ventilation, in an effort to manually preserve brain function until further measures can be taken.

Recently the fire station had kindly been donated a variety of equipment for small animal resuscitation, for use in emergency situations. Obviously the first priority for the fire rescue team is to save human life but there are instances when a family pet needs to be resuscitated too. Alan, one of the fire officers at Camels Head, worked with two of our vets, Ben and Catherine, to prepare a presentation for the rest of his team on how to use the equipment correctly and so give the best chance of saving the life of a pet. Fire officers are very well versed in the resuscitation of humans but there are a few key differences with our animal friends, the main one being that they can bite and scratch! The way in which we resuscitate them is also different.

To augment the presentation, Ben and Catherine also brought along a real dog, Lulu (who loved all the attention), and two stuffed toy dogs, so that the CPR could be practiced in a safe and controlled manner. It gave everyone the chance to get to grips with unfamiliar equipment so that when its use was required the officers would be able to respond in a logical, rapid, manner that would give the best chance of survival, as any delay can mean the difference between life and death.

Sadly, even with the new equipment the success rate is likely to be low, with fewer than ten percent of animals that receive CPR surviving. However, the keenness and professionalism of the fire officers to increase their knowledge of this subject will undoubtedly lead to some animals surviving that would not have done, so we are very grateful that they contacted us.

In return for our vets’ knowledge on small animal CPR, the specialist rescue team shared their experience on large animal rescue – which is extensive – with a number of our vets. All in all, a lot of information was exchanged between the professions so when the time comes we can act as a united team to provide the best care possible.

Catherine Walsh