Dog CPR refers to the act of a person doing CPR on a dog in an emergency situation such as drowning or other cardiac condition. It doesn’t refer to a dog doing CPR on a person and while there may be a few service dogs that do this, every dog owner should take the time to learn Dog CPR. The American Red Cross offers dog CPR classes with certification.
If you know CPR for humans, you already know half the things necessary to perform CPR on a dog. Dogs naturally have a faster heart rate than humans. It’s wise to take your dog’s pulse when he is resting and after he has been playing. This gives you a good baseline for his normal heart rate. You’ll want this when evaluating the situation.
Performing dog CPR could save your dog’s life and is a key part of pet first aid that every dog and cat owners should know. It isn’t that hard and by taking the time to locate the right places on your dog, you will be better prepared in an emergency situation.
Evaluate Before Performing Dog CPR
Just like with human emergency situations, you want to evaluate what is happening if your dog falls unconscious for any reason.
Here are the first things to do in evaluating an emergency situation:
- Is your dog breathing: Put your hand in front of your dog’s nose to see if you can feel any breath. Look for a rise and fall in his chest.
- Check for obstructions: If your dog is not breathing, pull his tongue from his mouth (it can come out a good way) and look for an obstruction. Do an abdominal thrust if he is choking.
- Find his pulse: The femoral artery is the easiest place to find a dog’s pulse. This is located on his inner thigh where the hind leg meets the body.
NOTE: If your dog has a pulse, DO NOT PERFORM CPR. Provide artificial respiration only!
- Prepare to Perform CPR: If your dog is not laying on his right side (with is left side exposed to you), roll him over. This is where you will be able to access his heart.
Doing Dog CPR
WARNING: Please do not practice actual CPR on a healthy dog. The chest compressions can seriously injure your dog. It is fine to locate the right body parts, but DO NOT do compressions.
Step 1: Properly Position Dog – CPR Preparation
Lay your dog on a hard, flat surface with his RIGHT side on the table. You will work on the LEFT side where his heart is better exposed.
Align his spine as much as possible by straightening his head and neck. This opens the airway.
Pull his tongue forward handing out of his mouth and shut his mouth.
Position yourself behind your dog. If you are kneeling, your thighs should be against his back.
Step 2: Locate the Heart
Locate the heart by gently bending his front leg as far as it will go. Where his elbow rests is the location of his heart.
Lock you palms, one hand over the other with the base of the palm at the WIDEST part of the rib cage. This is NEAR the heart but not directly over it.
Straighten your elbows and keep your arms strong.
NOTE: Smaller dogs can be can be held from behind with your thumbs on his back. Cupping your hands on his rib cage will be where you perform compressions.
Step 3: Dog CPR Compressions
Keep arms firm and straight. Push down on the rib cage in quick thrusts. You should go down approximately ¼ of his chest width.
Perform 15 chest compressions quickly. The rate is 15 compressions in 10 seconds. Smaller dogs have a faster heart rate and need 17 compressions in 10 seconds.
Step 4: Give an Artificial Respiration Breath
After 15 chest compressions, give your dog one artificial respiration breath.
Hold your dog’s muzzle closed, sealing his lips with both of your hands. Place your mouth over his nostrils and blow gently.
Look for his chest to expand.
Note: Smaller dogs require placing your mouth over the entire muzzle.
Step 5: Give an Abdominal Squeeze
With your left hand on your dog’s abdomen, use your right hand to push down on the left. An abdominal squeeze helps blood circulate back to your dog’s heart. This move only takes a moment and is akin to giving your dog a forceful gut-hug with your hand. Not too harsh, but enough to compress his abdomen.
Step 6: Repeat Compressions, Artificial Breath and Abdominal Squeeze
Continue dog CPR by repeating steps 3-5. For every 15-17 compressions, perform one artificial breath and one abdominal squeeze.
Repeat until your dog is either breathing or 20 minutes have passed. After this duration, it is unlikely you will resuscitate your dog.
After Dog CPR
It is imperative to take any dog, even after being resuscitated, to an animal emergency clinic or your veterinarian for a full examination.
Dog CPR is extremely hard on a dog’s body on top of the trauma that led to the emergency incident. Performing dog CPR can result in broken ribs, collapsed lungs and stress for your dog. Get them medical attention immediately and also evaluate the issue that led to the collapse.
Potential Reasons for Dog First Aid
Your dog may require dog first aid or dog CPR for any number of health or environmental reasons. Common problems include dog drowning where a dog falls in a pool or lake and is unable to swim or tires before being rescued.
Another common problem is congenital heart conditions that could lead to cardiac arrest. It is also possible that your dog has an allergic reaction to an insect bite or is bitten by a snake or other venomous predator. Learn pet first aid and have a pet first aid kit on hand for various medical emergencies and pet injuries.
When evaluating, do your best to assess what causes your dog to fall unconscious and stop breathing. This will help your veterinarian better treat him when he gets to the animal hospital.
REMEMBER: NEVER PERFORM DOG CPR ON A HEALTHY DOG. It is fine to locate his pulse and where his heart is, but doing compressions could lead to injury and is dangerous.