Have New CPR Guidelines for Pets Improved Survival Rates?

By Ashley Watson

Dog-anethesizedAccording to the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (VECCS), “Less than 6% of dogs and cats that experience cardiopulmonary arrest (CPA) survive to hospital discharge, while the survival rate in people is over 20%.” Human survival rates were similar to the animal rates until the implementation of evidence-based CPR guidelines and standardized training. Last year, improved guidelines and training were introduced to veterinary medicine thanks to the collaborative efforts of VECCS and the the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC) in their 2011 initiative to establish better guidelines. Read more about this project and how it has affected survival rates two years later in this week’s blog post by VetriScience® Laboratories.


This week hundreds of veterinarians, vet techs, clinic managers, and vet students are attending the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium (IVECCS). Last year’s event was one of the most well attended conferences hosted by VECCS and other organizations, with over 2,700 attendees, according to the symposium website.

Conference-speakerThe theme for IVECCS 2013 was “Cardiology: The Heart of Emergency & Critical Care,” and one of the main highlights listed on the website was an overview of the new CPR guidelines—published in JVECC in June 2012. Last year was also the first time that ACVECC offered CPR certification testing at the conference. Establishing animal CPR guidelines was part of the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER) initiative, an 18-month project that solicited the help of more than 100 board-certified veterinary specialists from around the world.

According to VECCS, “These volunteers systematically reviewed the experimental and clinical evidence in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) research and devised a series of evidence-based, consensus CPR guidelines for dogs and cats.” The main goal of the RECOVER initiative was to provide a foundation for developing training tools for veterinarians and pet owners that will ultimately provide “improved outcomes in dogs and cats that experience CPA.” In addition, this unique undertaking will serve as a model for future evidence-based guidelines for other clinical challenges that vets face every day.

Part of that goal has been accomplished with the publication of the new clinical CPR guidelines, including new algorithm and drug dosing charts, as well as identifying knowledge gaps in the literature to improve future veterinary CPR research. Training provided at last year’s symposium by specialists in emergency vet care represents another accomplished goal. But a year later, have those numbers improved? Noah Jones, RVT at the Regional Emergency Animal Care Hospital of Asheville, North Carolina, wrote in a recent article that the survival rates are currently closer to 10%. While this is a 4% improvement, it isn’t clear what the ultimate goal is in terms of survival rates.

And what about training for pet owners? If part of the initial goal was to offer CPR training tools to pet owners as well as vets, what are those tools and how do pet owners gain access to them? Will VECCS include practical ways for vets to guide owners through pet emergencies, or will they publish separate guidelines for pet owners? How will those guidelines affect survival rates? These are all important questions to ask as the veterinary community continues to find innovative ways to improve the lives of companion animals.

What do you think of the new CPR guidelines? Will they significantly improve survival rates? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.