How to perform CPR on a dog

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dogs photo
Getty Images | Carl Court
It’s a dog parent’s worst nightmare: You’re at home and, suddenly, you hear your dog making strange sounds in the next room. You rush in to see what’s going on, but Fido is no longer breathing. Would you know how to give your dog CPR?

CPR stands for “cardiopulmonary resuscitation.” The procedure involves performing chest compressions and artificial respirations, and it can save your puppy’s life. And while CPR is used on both humans and animals alike, how you perform CPR on a dog or puppy is very different than how you do it with a person.

Before we get into it, it’s important to note that you should always call your vet ASAP in an emergency situation. But once you’ve contacted your pet’s doctor—if your dog’s heart has stopped beating or if he is no longer breathing—you should start CPR immediately. Read on to find out how. Learning the proper technique might just save your pet’s life!

dogs photo
Getty Images | Carl Court

How To Perform CPR On A Dog

Before giving CPR, check to see if the dog responds to touch, or if you can arouse him by yelling. (If you’re not the owner, be very careful to first touch a dog from behind with your foot, as a confused or scared dog may bite you.) Then, do an “ABC” check.

How to do an ABC check:

  • A = Check that the dog’s airway is clear by carefully pulling the tongue forward. If there’s something obstructing it, such as a toy or rock, it’s better to stop and perform the Heimlich maneuver first, as a foreign object lodged in your pup’s throat will interfere with CPR.
  • B = Determine whether the dog is breathing. If you can’t tell if the dog’s chest is rising and falling, put your face close to his mouth and see if you can feel any airflow.
  • C = Check for a pulse. You can feel for a heartbeat by laying your dog down on his right side. The spot where his right elbow meets his chest is the area where his heart is located. Put your hand on that area to feel for movement. You can also put your hand on the underside of their right thigh to check for a pulse.

If you determine that your dog is unconscious and not breathing, then continue with these steps:

  • Lay your dog on a flat surface with his right side down.
  • Begin mouth-to-muzzle rescue breaths. To perform rescue breathing, straighten your dog’s head and neck so there’s a direct passage for air to flow to his lungs. Close your dog’s mouth and carefully ease his tongue back into his mouth. Place your own mouth over his nostrils. Gently breathe 4–5 breaths into his nose and watch his chest to see if it expands with the intake of air. Blow harder if you don’t see the chest rise.
  • Then, begin chest compressions by placing your hands directly over his heart on top of his rib cage.
  • Start pushing hard and fast. Keep a steady beat, and aim for a speed of 100 compressions per minute.
  • Perform at least 30 compressions before switching back to rescue breathing.
  • Continue the cycle of rescue breaths and compressions until you notice your dog breathing on their own.
  • Keep up the CPR for at least 20 minutes, or until you’ve reached an animal hospital or vet’s office.

A Note On Dog Sizes

If you’re performing CPR on a puppy or small dog under 30 pounds, use your thumb and fingers to squeeze the dog’s chest instead of pressing with your hands.

puppy photo
Getty Images | Scott Barbour

If you’re performing CPR on a large breed, gently squeeze the dog’s abdomen after 15 chest compressions and one rescue breath. This will help circulate blood back to the heart. However, it’s important to primarily focus on chest compressions and rescue breathing.

german shepard photo
Getty Images | Drew Angerer

But remember, while being prepared is a good thing, you never want to perform CPR on a healthy dog! So make sure you practice on stuffed animals, and save the real CPR process for an emergency only. And perhaps consider getting your Pet First Aid and CPR certification:

Watch this video to see all of these steps in action:

Animals, Health, Pets

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About the Author
Margeaux Baulch Klein
Margeaux Baulch Klein is a freelance writer and digital strategist based in Los Angeles. She has written for publications like the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Bustle, and HelloGiggles, among others.

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