CPR For Your Dog

CPR For Your Dog

For those of you who know me and those of you who have read my writings, you know that my lifeblood comes from my dog.

I get great pleasure from just sitting and watching my dog. Often during these times, my dog is sleeping. Conversely, there have been times when watching my dog almost causes me to panic. I hate to omit it, but I have intentionally tapped my dog with my foot or called his name loudly or even went to him and picked his head up simply because I was not sure he was breathing.

One of the most awful experiences any of us dog parents could face would be if your dog stops breathing and has no heartbeat.

A dog that goes without breathing for longer than 3 to 5 minutes can suffer permanent brain damage.  After 10 minutes there is essentially no hope of survival.

What would you do if this happened to your dog?  I have these instructions close by in my dog’s cabinet. I wish I could cite where I got them, but they are old and now on just a sheet of paper that is occasionally looked at when searching for something else.

Make sure the dog is in cardiopulmonary arrest (the cessation of breathing and heartbeat) before starting CPR – if he is not in arrest, you could be injured. Watch for the dog’s chest to rise and fall to determine if he is breathing.  If there are no breaths for 10 seconds, stay calm and begin CPR.

The ABCs of CPR:

  • Airway – First, check your pet’s mouth and throat to make sure the airway is open and clean. Lay the dog on his side, extend the head, open the mouth, pull out his tongue and check for obstructions. If you are uncertain, you may need to perform a finger sweep, running your index finger around the dog’s mouth, along the cheek and across the back of the throat.

Try to dislodge whatever is blocking the airway by performing 5 to 10 abdominal thrusts (like the Heimlich maneuver).  If this works, your dog may regain consciousness, or you may still need to perform CPR.

Swelling could also be blocking the airway.  If this is the case, your dog needs to be treated by a veterinarian immediately.


  • Breathing – Once the airway is clear and the dog is still not breathing, begin artificial respirations. Hold the mouth closed tightly and place your mouth around the dog’s nose or nose and mouth (depending on the dog’s size). Create a seal with your lips and/or hand. Give two breaths, watching for the chest to rise and the lungs to expand.  (Be careful not to overinflate, especially in small dogs.) Wait for the air to be released before breathing again.  After giving two breaths, watch for the dog to start breathing on his own.  If not, continue artificial respirations. (For large dogs, administer 12 to 20 breaths per minute, and 20 to 25 breaths for small dogs.)


  • Circulation – While watching for breaths, feel your dog’s chest near the left elbow to check for a heartbeat. If you did not feel a heartbeat, begin cardiac compressions. The process is a little different depending on the dog’s size.
  • For small dogs weighing less than 10 pounds, hold the pet around his chest using your dominant hand. (The thumb should be on one side and four fingers on the other side.) Squeeze 100 to 150 times a minute.
  • For small dogs weighing more than 10 pounds, use the ball of your dominant hand to compress the chest while using the non-dominant hand to support the dog’s back and keep him from sliding. Compress the chest by about 25 to 33 percent of its diameter.
  • In medium and large dogs, use one or two hands to compress the widest part of the chest by 25 to 33 percent of its diameter. Do this 80 to 120 times a minute. To deliver optimal force, lean over the dog and compress his chest with your elbow(s) locked. Compressions can also be delivered over the sternum (breastbone) with the dog on his back.

Coordinate artificial respirations and chest compressions. If you are alone, give two breaths after every 15 compressions.  If you have help, give one breath during every second or third compression.

Get the dog to a veterinarian or emergency clinic as soon as possible. If possible, transport the dog during CPR. (Even if he recovers from CPR a veterinarian should examine him.)

I have never had to use CPR on a dog. And as I mentioned earlier, these instructions are quite old. The American Red Cross has changed their CPR practices for humans. I am not sure if the CPR method for dogs has changed or not. Do you?

Let me know if you have experience giving CPR to a dog or even if you have seen a veterinarian do it. I would love to learn from you.


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