CPR for Pets – Pet First Aid Guidelines

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, is an emergency procedure that must be performed on any pet that does not have a heartbeat. CPR is characterized as a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration.

CPR for Pets

Assess Your Pet First

Performing CPR on a dog or cat that does not require it can be dangerous for the pet. Be sure to verify that a pet is not breathing before administering artificial respiration. If your pet is not breathing you will notice these signs:

  • You will not observe the pet’s chest rising and falling.
  • When placing your hand in front of your pet’s face, you will not feel air coming from its nose.
  • Your pet’s gums will appear blue in color.

Cardiac arrest occurs after respiratory arrest. If artificial respiration must be performed, it is imperative to check for a heartbeat in between breath cycles. You can feel for a heartbeat on the left side of the pet’s body. Additionally, a femoral pulse can be felt on the inside surface of the pet’s rear leg near the groin. If a heartbeat cannot be detected at any point, then chest compressions must be commenced immediately in addition to artificial respiration.

CPR for Dogs: Artificial Respiration

Begin by opening the dog’s mouth and pulling the tongue forward. Make a quick inspection of the oral cavity, including the back of the dog’s throat, to confirm that a foreign object is not obstructing the airway. If a foreign object is seen, grasp the object with your fingers, pliers or tweezers to pull it free and clear the airway. If this attempt is not successful, begin performing the Heimlich maneuver for dogs. Once the airway has been cleared, proceed with artificial respiration. Learn here what to do when your dog is choking.

  • Lay the dog on its right side.
  • Position the dog’s head all the way forward to extend the neck and straighten the airway.
  • Use one hand to hold the dog’s mouth completely closed, keeping the other hand free to feel for a heartbeat.
  • Place and seal your mouth completely over the dog’s nose.
  • Blow into the dog’s nose with just enough force to see the chest start to expand or rise. Wait until the chest falls again to provide another breath.
  • Give the dog a breath every three seconds, using the three seconds in between breaths to monitor for a heartbeat.

Dog CPR: Chest Compressions

If your dog’s heartbeat stops, you must initiate chest compressions at once. CPR for dogs is administered differently if you are the only person present, and there is some variation between small CPR dogs and larger CPR dogs. All dog CPR should be performed while the dog is positioned with the left side facing upward.

If your dog weighs less than 30 pounds, place one of your palms directly on top of the rib cage. Place your other palm on top of the first palm, and press approximately one inch downward on the dog’s chest with both hands.
Repeat the compressions at a steady rhythm for a rate of 80 to 100 times per minute.

If your dog weighs more than 30 pounds (medium-sized to large dog), position the dog and your hands similarly to the above description. Straighten your arms. Without bending your elbows, press downward as far as one-quarter to one-third of the width of the dog’s chest. Repeat these compressions at a steady rhythm for a rate of 80 times per minute.

If two people are performing dog CPR, one person should provide one breath after every third chest compression. If you are performing CPR alone, then you will need to provide one breath after every fifth chest compression. Monitor for a heartbeat in between chest compression cycles.

Cat CPR

Artificial respiration for cats is administered in exactly the same manner as when performed on a small dog. To administer chest compressions on a large cat, follow the same procedure as that for a small dog. For a smaller cat or a kitten, lay the cat on its right side. Place your thumb on the left side of the ribcage, and place your fingers of the same hand underneath the cat on the right side of the ribcage. This will appear as if you are holding both sides of the cat’s chest in one hand. Squeeze the chest between your thumb and fingers for approximately one inch, and then release. Continue to repeat these compressions at a steady rhythm for a rate of 80 to 100 times per minute.

Continue to perform dog CPR or cat CPR until the pet is breathing on its own and its heart is beating steadily. Transport the pet to a veterinarian immediately for an examination and further treatment.

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