Drowning



Most animals are competent swimmers. However, drowning is not uncommon in animals.

Examples include:
1) Jumping or falling into a swimming pool and being unable to get out. If not seen and rescued, fatigue eventually results in even the best swimmers succumbing.
2) In cold climates, falling through thin ice on a lake or river and being unable to get out.
3) Being caught in a swollen river etc etc.

Whatever the cause of the potential drowning, once pulled out of the water, the first thing to do is to remove as much water as possible from the lungs of the animal. How you do this will depend to a large degree on the size of your pet. Cats and small dogs can be picked up and held upside down to allow gravity to drain water out of the lungs. Larger pets that maybe can't be picked up should be placed on sloping ground with the head lower than the body. The steeper the slope the better.

Check for a pulse. If a pulse is present, place the animal on its right side and start artificial respiration .If a pulse cannot be found, then immediately start CPR. Continue with artificial breathing or CPR until the animal is breathing normally and has a regular pulse. As soon as the animal is stabilised, get it to a veterinarian for further treatment. Possible complications of a near drowning include a foreign body pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, both of which can be fatal.

Suffocation and other hypoxias

Hypoxia basically means too little oxygen getting into the blood stream. Apart from drowning , other possible causes include a foreign body lodged in an airway, exposure to toxic fumes, suffocation, or a wound to the chest area that punctures the thorax.

Clinical symptoms of hypoxia include restlessness, gasping for air, head and neck being extended and often blue tinged tongue and mucous membranes (an exception here is carbon monoxide toxicity which turns the mucous membranes bright red.)

Immediate first aid steps include ensuring an open airway and then increase the flow of oxygen into the animals respiratory system. This may entail doing artificial respiration in the short term, but the most effective method is by providing high concentrations of oxygen in an oxygen cage at your local veterinary hospital.

Should the animal have a penetrating wound to the thorax then you should either hold or bandage the wound closed until you can get the animal to a vet. If you use a bandage around the chest, make sure it is not so tight that it inhibits the normal expansion of the chest when the animal breathes in. A tight bandage would worsen the hypoxia!

Respiratory distress, whatever the cause, is extremely stressful for the animal. In handling an emergency situation, you will have to balance the need to restrain the animal in order to treat it against the restraint aggravating the respiratory distress!