- Remove the animal from the body of water.
- If the animal is unconscious, hold it upside down by the hindlegs (with the front legs supporting the body on the ground) to allow water to come out of the mouth.
- Clear the airway and institute CPR.
- If available, an oxygen mask and tank can be used to supply supplemental oxyen.
- Wrap the animal in a blanket and seek veterinary attention immediately.
- EVEN IF YOU REVIVE YOUR ANIMAL, VETERINARY ATTENTION IS NECESSARY DUE TO ACCUMULATED FLUID IN THE LUNGS.
WHAT IS IT?
Drowning occurs when liquid (usually water) enters an animal’s airways, impairing breathing. The term “near-drowning” refers to victims that survive.
Often affected animals are found in or near water
- Saturated fur coat
- Very rapid or very slow respiratory rate
- Difficulty breathing, marked abdominal effort on breathing (dyspnoea)
- Pale or blue tinged gums
- Increased or decreased heart rate
- As with people, pet cats drown in bodies of water in the home as well as in the wider environment. They may fall into a body of water from which they cannot escape, or swim too far out and become exhausted.
- Backyard swimming pools, ponds, bathtubs and even buckets of water present drowning risks. Animals may also drown in boating accidents, natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis and in some cases of animal abuse.
- Aspiration of water into the lungs causes the lungs to collapse and the water in the air spaces interferes with gas exchange, causing a lack of oxygen carried around in the bloodstream to all the other organs in the body. This leads other effects in the body like changes in blood flow, acute respiratory distress syndrome, tissue injury due to lack of oxygen, neurological damage, cardiovascular collapse, hypothermia and death. Almost all patients who ultimately die do so from brain swelling and injury due to the lack of oxygen supply.
Animals presented for near-drowning may require resuscitation, intubation and oxygenation and sometimes mechanical ventilation. Intravenous fluids may be required. Specific drugs can be given to try to decrease brain swelling if necessary. Near drowning victims are also at risk of developing pneumonia. X-rays may be performed to assess the lungs and antibiotics may be required.
Never leave your animal unattended near a body of water such as a backyard swimming pool unless you are certain that it knows how to get out.
Animals suffering from epilepsy, vestibular disease, mobility disorders or from the after effects of anaesthesia should not have access to a body of water in which they can drown (fish pond or swimming pool).
Powell LL (2009) Drowning and Submersion Injury. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.
Martin LG (2001) Near Drowning. In: Veterinary Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Wingfield WE (Ed.). Philadelphia, USA: Hanley & Belfus Inc.