How to Give Your Pet CPR


There will be instances where you might have to perform a CPR on your pet. What? CPR on your pet? Are you serious? Yes, it is serious – serious enough that it may save your pet’s life.

There are some instances where a pet may accidentally get something stuck in its airway.

This will cause choking and ultimately, death. Also, pet CPR will prove vital in cases where the pet has lost breathing or pulse. This is the case of most pets that go into arrest. If this happens, it is urgent that the pet’s airway, breathing, and circulation is maintained.

To perform such, owners must be aware of the proper procedure of performing a CPR. Most trained veterinarians will be knowledgeable in this procedure. You may want to consult with them for proper advice on the procedures outlined here.

A. Airway

After determining that the animal is non-responsive, step one in performing animal CPR is obtaining a patent airway. This is a very important step. One should seek to achieve this first before continuing on.

Remember that making sure your pet has a clear airway is the most important aspect of CPR. Without oxygen your pet could die within minutes.

Pull out the tongue of your pet carefully. The emphasis here is on carefully. Pets, even when unconscious can bite by instinct. Keep the pet’s neck straight, and line up the neck and the back. In case there is neck trauma, do not hyperextend the neck.

Afterwards, try giving the animal two rescue breaths. Perform this by putting your mouth to its nose, and keeping the animals mouth closed. If your breaths go in then you can continue. However, if they do not go in, it means that there is an obstruction in the animals airway.

In this case, inspect the animals airway, and try to extract the obstructing objects. If you cannot, try doing a modified Heimlich maneuver. Turn the animal over with its back against your chest and its head towards the ground in a bear hug. Deliver five thrusts to the abdomen; imagine making each thrust dislodge the object. Be careful that you do not deliver too much pressure as it may cause damage if overdone.

Do not stop until you are able to clear the airway. Even if the animal goes into arrest, the primary concern for you is to keep the airway clear.

B. Breathing

With the airway is cleared, determine if the animal is breathing on its own. Pull out its tongue again (again very carefully) so that the tongue does not itself obstruct the airway, and perform mouth to nose respiration. Do this twenty times a minute. If the animal begins to breathe on its own, use a high-flow blowby.

C. Circulation

The last step of animal CPR should only be done if the airway and breathing are stabilized. First of all make sure there are no pools of blood or spurting. If there is, control these as necessary.

Lay the animal on its right side, now put your hands on the part where the animals left elbow touches its chest. This is the marker for the middle of the animals rib cage. Compress this part fifteen times then administer two rescue breaths per minute. This rate may have to change according to the size of the animal. If the pet is small use compressions that are half an inch deep, for medium dogs one inch, and for large dogs, one and a half inches. Repeat this as necessary until emergency assistance arrives.

When administering animal CPR, you must make a deliberate decision to be calm and collected. Doing such in panic will only result in wrong decisions that may further imperil the life of the animal. Your pet may not have a strong carotid pulse, so you might have to rely on its femoral pulse when assessing circulation.

Remember that your CPR actions are first-at-the scene maneuvers, and that your pet will still need expert medical attention. Make sure that the veterinarian has already been alerted as soon as the problem arises.

Pet CPR is a very important skill for those who deal with emergency medical cases concerning dogs. Although not everyone learns it, those who do are a vital factor in saving the lives of many beloved pets. 

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.