Knowing How To Perform CPR for Your Cats And Dogs Could Save Their Lives When You Are Not Near A Veterinary Practice

Your pet can stop breathing at any time just as humans can. Knowing how to perform CPR could save them.

Knowing the few steps it takes is simple to learn and the action of performing CPR will preserve their brain function until they are breathing again and you can get them to a vet who can then carry out further checks and look for the cause as to why your pet stopped breathing if you have no clear cause for why they did.

The indication that CPR is required is unconsciousness, lack of arousal, lack of physical movement and even eye blinking but not responding to you when you speak to them.

There are many causes as to why they may be unresponsive such as an electric shock, drowning and choking.

Before commencing CPR check that there isn’t a foreign object in their throat if there is try to remove it.

Performing mouth-to-snout resuscitation

The following information is from the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER). The study recommends a few updates to past manual CPR practices on dogs which were published in 2012.

The primary new recommendations are:

Perform a compression to mouth-to-snout ventilation ratio of 30 compressions followed by 2 breaths

Perform cardiac massage/chest compressions according to the different chest types and sizes of dogs (see diagrams below).

The key to CPR is remembering the ABCs, which is exactly the same procedure with human;

Breathing, and
Cardiac compression.

To perform the three techniques, follow these steps.

Lay the dog on a flat surface and extend the head back to create an airway. (Current practices recommend laying the dog on his/her right side (heart facing up), however, the latest recommended guidelines state that either the left or right lateral recumbency are acceptable.)

Open the jaws to check for obstructions, and if any exist and are not easily removed, try to dislodge the object. 

Cup your hands around the muzzle of the dog’s mouth so that only the nostrils are clear. Blow air into the nostrils with five or six quick breaths, again, depending on the size of the dog. Small dogs and puppies and require short and shallow breaths. Larger dogs need longer and deeper breaths. Continue the quick breaths at a rate of one breath every three seconds or 20 breaths per minute.

Check for a heartbeat by using your finger on the inside of the thigh, just above the knee. If you don’t feel a pulse, put your hand over the dog’s chest cavity where the elbow touches the middle of the chest. If you still don’t find a pulse, have one person continue breathing into the nostrils (mouth to snout), while another gives chest compressions / cardiac massage. If you are alone, do the compression and mouth-to-snout ventilation yourself.

Give the dog chest compressions (cardiac massage) by placing both hands palms down on the chest cavity of the dog. For most dogs, chest compressions can be performed on the widest part of the chest while the dog is lying on his side.

For dogs with keel-shaped chests (i.e. deep, narrow chests) in breeds such as greyhounds push down closer to the dog’s armpit, directly over the heart.

For dogs with barrel-chested dogs like English bulldogs lay the dog on its back and compress on the sternum (directly over the heart), like people.

For smaller dogs and cat’s chest-compressions scan be done with one hand wrapped around the sternum, encircling the heart or two-handed on the ribs.

For large dogs, place your hands on top of each other.

For tiny dogs or puppies, place one hand or thumb on the chest.

Use the heel of your hand(s)to push down for 30 quick compressions followed by 2 breaths of air (ventilation) and then check to see if consciousness has been restored. If consciousness has not been restored, continue the compressions in cycles of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute (the same rhythm administered for people).

Perform CPR in 2-minute cycles checking to see if breathing and consciousness have been restored.

Ideally, CPR is performed while on route to emergency veterinarian care. If this is not possible, contact a veterinarian once the dog has started breathing.

The following diagrams illustrate how to perform chest compressions on dogs with different chest types.

Figure (A) illustrates the technique for most dogs. You can apply chest compressions to the widest part of the chest while the dog lies on its side.

Figure (B) illustrates the technique for dogs with keel-shaped chests.

Figure (C) illustrates the technique for barrel-chested dogs.

For small dogs and cat’s chest compressions can be administered two ways.

Figure (A) illustrates wrapping one hand around the sternum while supporting the back.

Figure (B) illustrates a two-handed compression.

Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care 22. Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation: Evidence and Knowledge Gap Analysis on Veterinary CPR published June 2012.