CVM Student Organization Hosts Unique CPR Training for Students, Faculty

A group of students and faculty hold a Texas A&M flag
Students and faculty who attended the RECOVER CPR training in January

Story by Megan Myers

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has become one of the first colleges in the country to provide students and faculty with both basic and advanced CPR training under the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER) initiative.

The RECOVER initiative, the first standardized CPR training to offer certification through the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC), was created in 2010 with the goal of developing and disseminating the first true evidence-based veterinary cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines.

The CVM chapter of the Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (SVECCS) hosted a RECOVER CPR certification training on Jan. 18 to provide an opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students to further their training on CPR techniques.

“Here at A&M, we offer both CPR certification levels, which is a really unique opportunity,” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor and SVECCS faculty adviser. “We’re one of only a few places in the country that are able to use interactive simulators for the advanced class.”

The RECOVER CPR training consists of online modules, videos, and quizzes, followed by a six-hour day of hands-on practice with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs.

“You really learn the physiology behind CPR, as well as how you can use that physiology to better adapt your technique or your strategies (for resuscitating an animal),” said Katie Freeman, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS treasurer. “It was very one-on-one. The instructors were always there giving critiques or feedback.”

Besides the physical motions of CPR, the training also focused on the communication skills that are necessary to help maintain order in emergency situations.

“As a student, being able to lead a team and learn how to actually walk through the steps and come across as appropriate and professional, but also get done what needs to get done, was one of the coolest things that I learned and why I think this course was so vital,” Freeman said.

Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as "Jerry" dogs
Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs

Two veterinarians from the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) and 22 veterinary students attended the training, which will be offered again at multiple conferences at the CVM this year.

While the RECOVER CPR training is not yet offered to the general public, Rutter hopes that it will become an option in the future.

“The hospital members who learn can teach everybody at the Small Animal Hospital, and then when we go off as veterinarians, we can teach our technicians,” said Alyssa Gentry, a third-year veterinary student and SVECCS president. “It really spreads all the knowledge and raises the standard of care, as far as CPR goes.”

Though CPR is often portrayed in movies and TV shows as being successful nearly every time, it is typically only effective 50 percent of the time for animal patients under anesthesia and 5 percent or less for patients not under anesthesia.

“With these techniques we’ve been learning, our hope is to raise those numbers,” Freeman said. “Across the board, everybody is going to experience an emergency case and should be equipped to perform CPR. Emergencies can happen at any time of the day, at any point in your career. It’s better to be prepared.”

“There’s so much of veterinary medicine that’s hard for practitioners, for owners, and for the animals,” said Lauren Minner, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS education coordinator. “CPR really is a thing where you can perform a miracle if you have your stuff together.”

The RECOVER training also gives veterinary students the opportunity to build upon and practice the CPR training they receive as part of the CVM’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum before they enter the VMTH for their fourth-year clinical rotations.

“The training these students have had is going to really help them when they come to clinics because the biggest thing I see whenever students see their first code (when a patient enters cardiac arrest) is that it’s a traumatic place to be,” Rutter said. “Rather than having a group of students who kind of stand against the wall and watch, these students have already been in these simulated environments.

“If you do a good job in the right situation, there’s a chance you can get that pet home, which is a miracle for that pet and that owner,” Rutter said. “That’s really what we’re all looking for. For the ones you can save, it means everything to that pet and that family.”


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CPR and Heimlich Maneuver on Pets

bigstock-young-beautiul-golden-retrieveSome dogs—especially puppies—will chew on nearly anything in sight. Dog and cat owners may find their curious pet chewing on shoes, furniture, and even clothing. Although it can be hard to stop young pups and playful cats from chewing on objects other than toys, it is still possible for pets to choke on their toys, other objects, and even food. In addition to learning how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking pet, it is equally important to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a dog in case of an emergency.

“Pet owners should perform the Heimlich maneuver on their pet if they believe the pet is choking on something,” said James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Usually this means that the owner has seen the pet swallow something and that the pet has been having trouble breathing since. This can be an object that was swallowed unintended, but it can also be something like a toy or a rawhide.

If a dog or cat is suffocating, it may start to panic. In this case, pet owners should approach their pet and carefully restrain it. Do not muzzle the dogs. First, check to see if the object can be removed with your fingers. Open the animal’s mouth using two hands and use your fingers to remove the object. It may also be helpful to use the flat side of a spoon to push the object closer if it is out of reach.

If the object cannot be removed with fingers, objects may be removed from small dogs’ and cats’ throats by the owner gently picking up the dog by their thighs and swinging them from side to side. Apply forward pressure to the abdomen just behind the ribcage, if the condition does not improve. Larger dogs require the Heimlich maneuver if the object cannot be removed with fingers.

How to perform the Heimlich maneuver:

  • If your large dog is standing, place your arms around its belly and make a fist with your hands. Push up and forward just behind the rib cage.
  • If the dog is lying down, place one hand on its back and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upward.
  • Be sure to check and remove any loose objects in or around the dog’s mouth that have become dislodged.

To ensure the object did not damage the animal’s throat or cause any other injury, take your pet to the veterinarian after the incident.

Sometimes serious choking and lack of oxygen requires your pet to receive CPR, which is a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration. CPR should be used when you cannot feel or hear the animal’s heartbeat and when the animal is unconscious.

For step-by-step pictures on how to perform CPR on your pet, Barr recommends trainings published by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical care. To visit their website, click here.

In addition, Barr recommends keeping a first aid kit in case of any pet emergency. “A human first aid kit is quite helpful when taking care of pet injuries,” Barr said. “The only addition I would add would be a small leash and a muzzle. These can be helpful in helping the owner to manage the animal during the post injury phase.”

Although we try our best to prevent pets from chewing on foreign objects, accidents still happen. It is important to be prepared for any choking episode to prevent your pet from serious injury or death.

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