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CPR and Artificial Respiration for Kittens

How to Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Artificial Respiration 

Artificial respiration (AR) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are emergency procedures that hopefully you will never need to use. It is better to take your kitten to your veterinarian before problems become severe enough to require CPR. But, when necessary and if performed correctly, CPR may give you time to get your kitten to your veterinarian.

What to Watch For 

These signs are all reasons to get your cat to your veterinarian immediately:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Unconsciousness
  • Any sudden onset of illness
  • Any sudden unexplained change in behavior
  • Severe injury or trauma

Before you begin AR or CPR, make sure the kitten is truly in need. Talk to the kitten. Touch and gently shake him. You risk serious injury by trying to perform either AR or CPR on a kitten that is startled awake while sleeping. Here are some vital signs you can check to help you decide if AR or CPR is necessary:

  • Check breathing – Watch for movement of the chest, or feel for it with your hand. Put your hand in front of your kitten’s nose to feel his breath; if mist forms on a piece of clean glass or metal placed in front of your kitten’s nose, CPR is probably not necessary.
  • Check the color of his gums – Bluish or gray gums are a sign of not enough oxygen; white gums are the result of poor blood circulation.
  • Check for a pulse on the inside of the thigh, near where the leg meets the body.
  • Listen for a heartbeat by putting your ear (or a stethoscope) on the left side of the chest near the elbow.

Immediate Care

If possible, perform the following steps en route to your veterinarian.

  1. Check for breathing.
  2. If there is none, open the mouth and remove any obstructions in the airway.
  3. Pull the tongue to the front of the mouth, then close the mouth and gently hold it shut.
  4. Make sure the neck is straight and breathe short puffs of air into the nose – one breath every 6 seconds (10 breaths/minute). (If you have been trained in CPR for human infants, use a similar strength of breath.)
  5. Watch for chest movement; the chest should both rise when you give a breath and relax after the breath.
  6. If the cat's heart stops, use both artificial respiration and CPR (steps 7-10)
  7. Check for a heartbeat and pulse.
  8. If there is none, lay your cat on his right side on a flat surface.
  9. Place your thumb and fingers from one hand on either side of his chest behind his elbows and give a quick squeeze to compress the chest to about 1/3 to 1/2 of its normal thickness.
  10. Compress the chest about 100-120 times per minute; give two breaths for every 30 compressions.

Veterinary Care

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will give your kitten a brief physical exam to assess heart and lung activity before beginning resuscitative efforts. If your veterinarian can revive your kitten, appropriate testing will be done to determine the underlying health problem.

Treatment

While your veterinary team continues with CPR, some or all of the following may be done to aid in reviving your cat:

  • An endotracheal tube will be placed and oxygen used for artificial respiration. (An endotracheal tube is a tube placed in the trachea - the large airway that connects the throat to the lungs - that can be used to deliver oxygen to the lungs.)
  • An intravenous catheter will be placed to allow for easier administration of emergency medication and to give fluids.
  • Epinephrine and other emergency medications will be given in an effort to stimulate the heart and breathing.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, most kittens that reach the point of needing CPR do not survive. If your kitten survives, expect him to stay in the hospital until a diagnosis is made and his condition is stabilized.

Follow all your veterinarian's aftercare instructions, and if your kitten shows no improvement or relapses, be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Prevention

Accidents do happen, in spite of our best efforts, and some can be severe enough to require cardiopulmonary resuscitation or artificial respiration. Regular check-ups and prompt care of health problems will diminish the chances your kitten has a serious issue which requires artificial respiration or CPR.

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