CPR For Dogs: A Step-By-Step Guide To Saving Your Dog’s Life

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Dog laying on a table (caption: how to do CPR dog CPR)Seeing your dog in a life-threatening situation can be a frightening and stressful experience, especially if the dog is unresponsive. Equipping yourself with the knowledge to effectively recognize and take action treating your dog’s condition can keep you calm and greatly increase your dog’s chance of survival.

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 artificial respiration or CPR and how to perform those procedures.

Evaluate Their Condition

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Before doing anything, you must evaluate your dog’s condition, so you know what to do.

Is Your Dog Breathing?

  • Hold the back of your hand or your cheek up to their nose and feel for air. Also, watch for the rise and fall of their chest.
  • If they are not breathing, check their airway for any blockage. Pull the tongue forward as far as possible and remove any objects or liquids in the throat or mouth.

Does Your Dog Have A Pulse?

  • The femoral artery, located on the inner thigh, is the easiest place to find your dog’s pulse. Run your hand along the inside of the hind leg until you are almost to the point the leg joins with the body. There you should feel a slight dip where the femoral artery is closest to the skin. Use your fingers (not your thumb) to press down gently and feel for a pulse.
  • If you cannot feel the pulse at the femoral artery, try just above the metacarpal pad (the large, center pad) of your dog’s front paw, or directly on top of the heart.
  • Your dog’s heart is located on the left side of their chest. To find it, lay your dog on its right side and bend the front left leg, so the elbow touches the chest. The point where the elbow touches on the chest is the location of the heart.

If your dog has a pulse but is not breathing, you can perform artificial respiration (Skip down to Step 4 below). If your dog does not have a pulse, you will need to do CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which is a combination of artificial respiration and chest compressions.

How To Do CPR On A Dog

Note: Do NOT practice CPR on a healthy dog. CPR can cause serious physical harm to dogs if performed unnecessarily. If your dog shows any signs of resistance to you performing CPR, then they may not need it!

1. Position Your Dog For Treatment

  • Lay your dog on a stable, flat surface with their right side down.
  • Straighten their head and neck as best you can to create a direct passage for their airway.
  • Pull the tongue forward so that it rests against the back of their teeth and shut their mouth.
  • Position yourself behind their back.

2. Find The Heart And Prep For Compressions

  • Place both of your palms, one over the other, on top of the widest part of the rib cage, near the heart, but not directly over it.
    *For smaller dogs weighing 30lbs (13.6kg) or less, cup your hands around the dog’s rib cage, placing your fingers on one side of the chest and your thumb on the other.

3. Begin Compressions

  • Keeping both elbows straight, push down on the rib cage in firm, quick compressions. Only compress 1/4 to 1/3 of the chest width.
  • Repeat compressions at a quick rate of 15 per 10 seconds.
    *For smaller dogs, use your thumb and fingers to squeeze the chest to about a 1/4 or 1/3 of its width. Repeat this at a slightly quicker pace than for larger dogs, aiming for 17 compressions in 10 seconds.

4. Begin Artificial Respiration

If performing CPR alone, give your dog artificial respiration after each set of 15 compressions.

  • Begin by sealing the dog’s lips. Place your hand over the dog’s muzzle and ensure the mouth is completely closed.
  • Next, place your mouth over the dog’s nostrils and blow gently, watching for the chest to lift and expand. If the chest does not rise, blow harder into the nostrils and check that the mouth is properly sealed.
    *For smaller dogs, place your mouth over their entire muzzle.
  • Remove your mouth from the nose/muzzle between breaths to allow for air return.
  • Administer one breath for every 15 compressions.
    *If there are two people available to perform CPR, have one person do the compressions, while the other gives artificial respiration after every five compressions.

If you are only performing artificial respiration, follow the same procedure as above for sealing your dog’s mouth, and administer one breath every two to three seconds at a steady pace of 20 to 30 breaths per minute.

5. Administer An Abdominal Squeeze

  • Place your left hand under your dog’s abdomen, and your right hand on top. Push down to squeeze the belly and assist in the circulation of blood back to the heart.
  • Give one abdominal squeeze after each set of 15 compressions and one breath.

6. Repeat

Continue CPR or artificial respiration until the dog starts to breathe on its own and has regained a steady pulse. If the dog is not breathing after 20 minutes, it’s time to consider discontinuing treatment, as it is not likely you will have success after this point.

Precautions

CPR is a physically intense procedure that, when performed, can cause additional injury to your dog. These injuries can include broken ribs, pneumothorax (also known as a collapsed lung), and overall stress to your dog’s body. However, these injuries are treatable by a veterinarian, so it is not necessary to stop CPR for fear of harming your pet further. If you suspect that you may have broken a rib or otherwise injured your dog, simply continue with softer compressions.

Again, CPR and artificial respiration are NOT to be practiced on a healthy dog. However, it is recommended that you review some of the basics of the procedures so you will know how to perform them should your dog encounter one of the life-threatening situations. Go ahead and practice finding your dogs pulse and location of the heart, but do not perform compressions! In addition, have a list of local emergency veterinarian offices in an accessible site in your home or saved on your phone. Know their locations and which would be most convenient in an emergency.

Classes And Training

If you want hands-on training or more in-depth, visual demonstrations, there are many options available.

  • Watch a dog CPR video, like this one, in which Elaine Acker, CEO of Pets America, demonstrates CPR for dogs, in detail.

  • Take a dog CPR class. Many pet-focused companies offer courses to learn pet first aid, including dog CPR. Pet Tech may offer an 8-hour program in your area, taught by a certified instructor that teaches a variety of first aid skills and offers a certificate once the program is completed. The Red Cross also offers courses, many of which are online and free.
  • Talk to your veterinarian. At your next appointment, ask to go over the pulse points on your dog and discuss emergency best practices for your specific breed, size and weight.

Additional Pet Safety Prep Tips

Preparation can be the difference between saving your dog’s life and running out of time. Save this guide and share with other dog owners to ensure that every dog has the chance to enjoy another day. It is also crucial to be prepared for if and when an emergency strikes. Here’s a helpful disaster prep guide for pet owners and be sure to have a dog first aid kit ready.

Have you had to perform CPR on a dog before?

The information contained in this article and website is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional safety advice; it is provided for educational purposes only.

About The Author:

Michelle holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and has worked in marketing at Bank of America, Mattel and Hanes. She is the proud co-founder of Canine Journal and a dog lover through and through. Since the day she was born, she has lived in a home full of dogs. Her adult home is no exception where she and her husband live with Bella and Lily, their two adorable rescue pups. In addition to her love for snuggling with dogs, she also has enjoyed working professionally in the canine field since 1999 when she started her first dog-related job at a dog bakery.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Brian
Last year my 7yo Aussie shepherd (Sophie) collapsed on my patio while barking at a passerby. She let out an awful cry and then stopped breathing. Needless to say I was in a panic but tried my best to resuscitate her. I swept her throat with my fingers and then gave her a couple rescue breaths. I didn’t think to check for a pulse before starting compressions. I’m not sure how long I did CPR, or what the ratio of compressions to breaths was, it all went by so fast, and so slow at the same time. She took a couple of gasping breaths during my efforts but in hindsight I think this was reflex/agonal breathing.

I honestly don’t think there is anything I could have done because she passed so quickly (assuming a ruptured aneurism or some other congenital ticking time-bomb) but I still wish I had been more prepared.

Thank you for this post, and to those of you amazing pet owners that are reading it so that you are prepared for the worst case scenario. It can happen.

karishma
my dog is taking sort breath and some time long breath and haven’t ate any thing for two days. what should i do for it?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Sorry, Karishma, we aren’t vets, so we can’t diagnose what is wrong with your dog. We always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help. Best of luck and we hope your dog is ok!!
Alicia
I’m wondering how hard you push for the chest compressions. I have a 14 yr old miniature schnauzer who has sick sinus syndrome. He presents syncope when he gets excited and the vet said his heart stops causing the syncope. That’s why I’m looking at dog CPR. Thanks
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Alicia, sorry your dog is dealing with this. You want to compress 1/4 to 1/3 of the chest width. Pump to the tune of the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees (the “ah ah ah ah” part). By compressing the appropriate depth and to that rhythm, the amount of pressure will naturally come to you. If you need further help, I suggest asking your vet for guidance.
Alicia
Thank you Kim.
Angie
My dog nearly died tonight. He was tied up on the porch due to a neighbors dog in heat. He’s not neutered so when she’s in heat he joins the party of other dogs and gets real beat up. I heard noise outside and went to check and I looked over and my poor boy had jumped over the porch railing and was hanging there almost lifeless. I immediately pulled him up and lay him down. My boy was not breathing and had no pulse. I did my best to perform cpr although i wasn’t sure how to do it on a dog. Luckily he began breathing again and survived. I’m scheduling an appt to neuter him as soon as possible and although I just now read this article it’ll sure be helpful if at any other time something similar happens. Let’s hope not
Frank
Ffathers day we lost our 5yr old pit Jackie on our evening walk. Jack (95lb) began pulling aggressively as an unleashed chihuahua charged us and continued to bait Jack (and Jack in turn was aggressively pulling to meet the challenge). I (@150lb)managed to maneuver Jack beyond that property when he suddenly lay down, rolled to side and ceased breathing. I do not know canine cpr but made the attempt as best I could imagine what might be effective, to no avail. I do not use a choke collar as Jack had become very accustomed to heel and our walks lately were usually uneventful. In her grief, my wife reminded me that our vet had determined that Jack as a puppy had a heart murmur, We assume his heart was the underlying factor for Jacks dying so young.
In spite of current LEASH LAW and successful animal control, people still allow their animals to roam. Had I lost control, that chihuahua would have been severely damaged.
Thank you for the informative guide to canine CPR.
Linda
It makes me so sad and angry at the same time to read your post. SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS! I have a 12 yr old pit and she is my world.Everyone knows there are leash laws, but in my little town it doesn’t seem to matter. Nothing is ever done about those that don’t comply. I live on a street with a public park and pool 2 blocks down. The same situation happens almost daily, and we are in our own yard! I have pretty much given up, and keep her in the back yard, to keep her from being so stressed. It seems no matter what happens it is always the fault of the pit bull! I came home from work one day to find my daughter crying on the front porch.There had been one of those dogs and my dog snapped the cable she was on. The lady walking with the other dog screamed and screamed till my daughter got our dog. A few minutes later the police showed up. Now my dog is classified a “potentially dangerous dog”. I offered to pay any vet bill. There was none because the dog wasn’t hurt at all! That lady was so worried that her dog “could have been killed”, yet they still walk by my house and there’s still no leash on her dog! My dog has been labled a killer! Something’s not right here.
Daniel Hudson
I walk my dog daily praying the entire time that some irresponsible dog owner hasn’t let their dog off leash and it comes running up to me and my beautiful 100 lb pit .He has had this happen multiple times and he has never done anything to any of these dogs who are sometimes vicious. I lived in a town and I had my female outside and a man who lived next door walked by with his little dog and my female pit barked after his dog barked, causing my male Caleb INSIDE the house to jump on the sliding glass door and bark.The man called animal control, even though nothing happened but a few barks, and said he wanted both my dogs put down!!!!! I received a ticket to go to court for my female because he said she attacked his dog!!! Complete lie and the dog officer knew this because his dog was TINY and my girl was 80 lb of muscle , but she said he knew her boss, don’t worry about it just go to court and tell your side..A month later she came back and said she needed to give me a ticket to go to court for Caleb!!! I said he was never outside!!! and she said I know, my boss is all over me,that man keeps calling every day and they’ve known each other for years.Just tell the judge Caleb was never outside… I went to court, the neighbor lied, the dog officer just kept saying”I don’t recall”at my questions of was caleb Outside?did you give me a ticket for one or two dogs?..There was a report from the vet that said the little dog hadn’t been touched..End of story because my babies were pits they were labeled as out of control and vicious and I had to pay 850$…My boy is 9 and has never hurt anyone and loves children but I worry every time we walk some dog off leash will come and no matter what happens it will be his fault ☹️ I go up to NH to a private property of 50 acres and stay at a yurt so my boy can run free with no fear…he’s having some medical issues now,we think it’s ACL tear and he’s going to orthopedic surgeon this week but I am so scared for him , I want to know everything I can in case of anything!
Teresa Green
Our 2 year old male Boxer just recently started having cluster seizures and it scares me that he could stop breathing during a seizure. Our local vet is 15-20 minutes away, but our nearest ER Vet is about an hour drive! This really helps and I’m going to try to find a nearby class. We have 7 dogs and a kitty! But I hope it never goes that far .
Johanna Crupi
My dog has cancer a tumor in her need lesson on how to perform CPR the gave her many 8 month but the tumor could bust again and the internal bleeding could start again in days month the don’t know she is my service dog
Evonne
Thank you on the information on CPR for dogs. I wasn’t sure how to perform it, but do now. I hope I don’t have to use it on my fur babies or any one else’s. Again thank you.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
You’re welcome, Evonne. We totally agree, CPR is something we never want to use on any living being but it’s always good to be prepared!