Cardiac Arrest in Dogs

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Cardiopulmonary Arrest in Dogs

Cardiac arrest (also known as cardiopulmonary arrest or circulatory arrest) occurs when normal blood circulation ceases due to the heart's inability to contract (heart failure). Like many other body systems, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems work in a coordinated fashion. Therefore, if a dog fails to breathe for more than six minutes, it can lead to heart failure and cardiac arrest — both of which can be fatal. Cardiac arrest can occur in dogs of any age, sex, or breed.

Symptoms and Types

Blood circulation may remain intact if the animal resumes breathing within four minutes of the initial problem. However, if it lasts longer than six minutes it can lead to cardiac arrest. Common symptoms associated with this emergency include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope)
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis); a sign that oxygen in the blood is dangerously diminished
  • Heavy breathing (dyspnea) and gasping
  • Hypothermia
  • Lack of response to stimulation


  • Abnormally low levels of oxygen in arterial blood (hypoxemia)
  • Low oxygen supply; possible due to anemia
  • Heart disease (e.g., infections, inflammation, trauma, neoplasia of heart)
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Electrolyte imbalances (e.g., hyperkalemia, hypocalcemia, hypomagnesemia)
  • Abnormally low bodily fluid levels
  • Shock
  • Use of anesthetic drugs
  • Blood poisoning caused by bacterial toxic substances in the blood (toxemia)
  • Brain trauma
  • Electrical shock


Cardiac arrest is an emergency that will require immediate veterinary assistance to assess the animal's condition and the form of treatment. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the complications. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination, focusing on the dog's airways, breathing ability, and circulation. Your veterinarian will also constantly monitor your dog's blood pressure and pulse rate.

Routine diagnostic exams used to determine the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest include chest X-rays, complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Blood samples are collected to determine the level of gases, including oxygen, in the blood. Dogs suspected of having an underlying heart disease may undergo echocardiography to evaluate the extent of the problem.

  • anemia Heart disease
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The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance


Denotes an animal that is still able to reproduce or is free of cuts and scrapes


Fainting; the respiratory and circulatory systems are suspended for a time


The windpipe; it carries air from the bronchi to the mouth


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


A magnesium deficiency in the blood


A condition of the blood in which the blood is poisoned due to the absorption of poisons


A low level of calcium in the blood

blood pressure

The amount of pressure applied by the blood on the arteries.


Any substance known to eliminate feeling; usually applied during a painful medical procedure.


Having a hard time breathing; breathing takes great pains


A procedure that is used to evaluate the health and structures of the heart


Too much potassium in the blood


A condition of the blood in which normal red blood cell counts or hemoglobin are lacking.

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