The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

How to Give a Dog CPR

By Lea Jaratz

Australian shepherd laying down

As animal lovers, we truly hope we never find ourselves needing to practice CPR on a pet. But, imagine being able to save a life because you took the time to learn how to do canine CPR. The most common reason pet owners need to perform CPR is due to choking, but drowning and other accidents might also require CPR, so take a few minutes to learn canine CPR and it could be the difference between triumph and tragedy.

Before you attempt canine CPR on a dog or puppy, go through the ABCs:

Airway: Check the dog’s airway to make sure there is no obstruction. Clear the airway using your hands, or the Heimlich maneuver if necessary.

Breathing: Verify that the dog is not breathing, by moving the dog onto their right side and watching for chest movement. If it’s hard for you to tell, try holding a flat surface, like your phone screen up in front of their nose to see if you see breathing. If a dog is unconscious, but breathing, do not do CPR, but get them to a vet right away.

Check for a heartbeat: With the dog on their right side, bend their front leg up so that their elbow touches their chest. The place where the elbow makes a point on their ribs is where their heartbeat should be strongest. Look for movement or place your hand over this space to see if the heart is still beating.
If your dog has a heartbeat but is not breathing, you should skip to step 3 and do rescue breathing or artificial respiration, but not chest compressions.

Once you’ve checked the airway, breathing, and heartbeat off your list:

  • Call an emergency vet before starting any CPR or rescue efforts, they may be able to guide you.
  • Yell for help so that a bystander can talk to the emergency clinic while you perform CPR. or transport you to the clinic while you continue CPR.

How to do CPR on an Adult Dog or Older Puppy

Place Your Hands for Chest Compression

  • To give an older puppy or small dog CPR, place one palm on their side, at the ribs space right behind their armpit.
  • For larger dogs, place both hands, stacked on each other, over the rib space behind their armpit.
  • For barrel-chested dogs, place them on their back, place your hands stacked over their sternum.

Locking your elbows, be sure your shoulders are above your hands for full pressure.

Begin Giving Chest Compressions

Pressing firmly down, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 of your pet’s chest depth, give rapid compression at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. It might be easier to remember 2 compressions per second. Stop after 30 compressions. 

If you need a reminder of how fast to pump, the tempo of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” is just right.

Stop and Give 2 Rescue Breaths

Close the dog’s mouth and extend their neck to open the airway. Place your mouth over their nose, and give two deep breaths into their nose. If you see their chest moving, that’s your breath.

Repeat the cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths, stopping every 2 minutes to check to see if the dog has begun to breathe on their own. Check again for heartbeat or chest movement.

When you are switching between chest compressions and rescue breathing, keep calling for help.

How to do CPR on a Puppy (Small Or Newborn)

Because they’re much more fragile, you will do a less intense version of CPR on puppies if they’re very young or newborn.

  1. Place your thumb and forefinger on the sides of their chest for compressions.
  2. Compress the chest once per second.
  3. Exhale into the puppy’s nose once every 6 seconds.

So, it’s 6 small compressions on both sides of the chest, followed by one breath. Repeat these steps for 5 minutes, or until you can get the puppy to a veterinary professional.

While the success rate of canine CPR is quite low (less than 10%) it’s worth making every effort to give a dog every possible chance of survival.

For more information on Dog CPR classes, visit RedCross.org They offer a 35-minute class that could save a pet’s life!

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