CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation in pets is an emergency technique used when your pet has stopped breathing and they have no heartbeat. It involves rescue breathing or mouth-to-snout resuscitation and chest compressions.

Seeing your dog in a life-threatening situation can be a terrifying and stressful experience, especially if your dog is unresponsive. Arming yourself with the knowledge to effectively recognise and take action to treat your dog’s condition can help to keep you calm and greatly increase your dog’s chance of survival.

The two life-saving procedures you need to know are artificial respiration and CPR for dogs. This article will outline how to identify whether your dog needs CPR and how to perform those procedures.

Infographic showing where to check on your pet for a pulse before commencing CPR

1. Check For a Pulse and Breathing

 Use your middle finger to find a pulse in one of the following locations:

  •   Below Wrist
  •   Inner Thigh 
  •   Below Ankle or 
  •   Where the elbow touches the chest

Check your pet for other warning signs like do their gums or lips appear white or grey or are their pupils dilated and unresponsive to light

2. Check for Other Warning Signs

  •    Do Gums and lips appear white / gray in color?
  •    Are Pupils dilated and unresponsive to light? 

NOTE:  If there is no breathing and no pulse, begin CPR immediately.

NEVER practice CPR on a healthy dog. This can cause serious physical harm to your dog if performed unnecessarily. If your dog shows any signs of resistance to you performing CPR, then they may not need it!

3. Give Your Pet a Rescue Breath

Cats and Small Dogs:

  • Place your mouth over your pet's nose and mouth and blow air in.

   Medium to Large Dogs:

  •  Place your mouth over their nose and blow air in, making sure your pet's mouth is kept shut. If you are finding it hard to force a breath into your pet, their airway might be blocked; perform the Heimlich Maneuver to remove any obstruction.

An infographic showing how to give rescue breath to a cat/small dog and a medium/large dog

4. Heimlich Maneuver

  • Turn your pet upside down and hold them with their back to your chest
  • Clasp your hand together just below your pet's rib cage on their abdomen
  • Give 5 short thrusts to their abdomen with both of your arms
  • Check their airway for an obstruction and remove it
  • Give your pet two or more rescue breaths

An infographic showing how to perform the Heimlich maneuver

5. Start Compression

  • Lay your pet on their right side
  • Place your hands over their ribs where the elbow touches the chest
  • Begin compressing on their chest

An infographic showing where to place your hands and the direction to provide compressions

6. Repeat Compression Procedure

  • Check for a pulse after 1 minute of compressions, then every few minutes
  • Continue CPR until the animal has a pulse and is breathing
  • Stop CPR after 20 minutes
  • Contact your vet after completing compressions

An infographic showing how much you should compress your pets chest, how many fingers or hands you should use to perform the compressions and how many compressions you should give per breath

In this short video, Dr Erica Tinson, senior resident in veterinary emergency and critical care at the U-Vet Animal Hospital in Werribee provides instructions to pet owners how to respond. In under 5 minutes, Dr Tinson explains how to recognize cardiopulmonary arrest and how to perform CPR in a dog following the newest pet CPR guidelines.

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