What Would I Do if the Unthinkable Happened?
No one wants to think about their pet being in a critical medical situation, and though thankfully it does not happen often, there are cases of pets experiencing cardiac or respiratory arrest under anesthesia or of extremely ill pets in the hospital who “crash.” While we do everything we can to keep things safe during anesthesia (It is estimated that less than 0.5% of pets die under anesthesia per year) and to make our hospital patients well, unforeseen life threatening events can and do happen in a veterinary hospital.
Patton Veterinary Hospital routinely asks clients of all our surgical and hospital cases whether or not they want to have their pet resuscitated should an emergency situation occur. We know it is a difficult and sometimes unexpected question and our intent is not to frighten or worry you. However, we want both you and our team to be prepared in case that unthinkable event should happen. But what does emergency resuscitation really mean?
If a patient should experience cardiac and/or respiratory arrest (i.e. the heart stops beating or the pet stops breathing) we would begin CPR. If the heart has stopped, chest compressions are instituted by our experienced veterinary team, drugs like epinephrine (adrenaline) may be administered which is why nearly all of our surgical patients have an IV catheter placed. Manual ventilation is also performed (a breathing tube placed in windpipe and oxygen or breaths are given with an Ambu bag or via an oxygen tank) if the patient is not breathing.
Young animals that experience cardiac arrest while under anesthesia have the best chance of recovery. While only about 5% of pets who experience cardiac and/or respiratory arrest survive, it is always worth trying to revive a patient. However, do not feel bad if you answer “no” to resuscitation. As noted, survival rates are low and there may be many personal or health related reasons such as your pet has a terminal illness as to why you may not want us to perform CPR on your pet in an emergency.
Whatever you choose, ask questions if there is something you do not understand, know that our staff is well trained to handle emergency situations and will do all we can to save your pet and know that we make every effort to keep your pets safe and healthy while they are in our care.
It may be a good idea to talk over wishes and expectations with your family and your veterinarian about what type of emergency care you would want for your pet if a life threatening situation should arise. Being prepared ahead of time makes things a little less scary and gives staff the go ahead to start life-saving treatments without wasting precious time trying to contact you during an emergency. We know these situations are difficult, but being prepared can make all the difference.
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital, serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.