Can You Use a Defibrillator on a Dog?

Image of a golden retriever standing with a defibrillator and first aid kit

Umm, you want to save Fido? I Get it. While we don’t typically deal with this kind of thing at DDI Safety, since you’ve asked, we’ll give you the run down.

Believe it or not, there has been some research done on using human defibrillators (AEDs) on our four-legged friends. A recent study (link to study) found that AEDs can successfully record cardiac electrical activity in dogs and often recommend delivering a shock when needed. The key conclusions were:

“Human AEDs can successfully record cardiac electrical activity in dogs. AEDs appropriately recommend delivery of a shock most times, contingent on skin preparation. Dogs with double, long, or heavy haircoats should be clipped prior to pad application. ECG paste will aid AED reading in all haircoat types. Further investigation is warranted into AED use in dogs, particularly in general practices.”

So it can work and has worked in some cases, but honestly, a lot more study is still needed in this area. A few important points:

  • Shaving the dog’s coat was really important for the AED to work properly
  • This was tested by veterinary professionals, not just bystanders
  • Using an AED on a dog is definitely an “off-label” use case

Now, I don’t know how the local cafe owner would feel if you nabbed their AED to use on Fido and they had to spend money replacing the pads and battery afterwards. But hey, if you’re willing to foot the bill, it could be worth a shot in a life or death situation, right?

Just keep in mind this was a pretty controlled veterinary study. Whether an AED would work as well in the hands of a panicked pet owner is another question entirely. Though I suppose the ending to Old Yeller would have been a lot more positive if they had easy access to a defibrillator back then!

In all seriousness though, saving a beloved furry family member’s life is understandably a big deal. Just don’t expect the human AEDs to be optimized for our canine pals quite yet. But it’s good to know defibrillation could potentially be an option when every second counts. File this one under “worth asking your vet about” for sure.

If you want to learn more about how defibrillators work, check out our guide.

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