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emergency response: dr. kim smyth explains how to perform cpr on pets

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


We never want to imagine a scenario where a pet needs cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but if you find your pet non-responsive without a pulse, knowing how to jump in and help may save your pet’s life. 

 

The goal of CPR is to provide blood flow and oxygen to the brain and major organs of a pet who has experienced cardiac or respiratory arrest (or both).  CPR is meant to support life until medical treatment can be attained.  The breaths you give your pet force air into the lungs and oxygenate the blood, and the chest compressions you give pump that blood through the body.

 

First thing’s first—before you attempt CPR on any animal, make sure he or she is really unconscious and not breathing.  Some pets, especially geriatric pets, sleep very, very soundly.  You could risk serious injury to yourself by trying to perform CPR on an animal who is merely sleeping. 

 

If you come across your pet unconscious, not breathing and without a heartbeat, remain calm but act swiftly.  If you have another person with you, you will need to instruct them on how to help you.  CPR is easiest with two people, but can also be managed with one person if you are alone.

 

CPR consists of rescue breathing and chest compressions. 

 

Rescue breathing (if pet is not breathing):

Open your pet’s airway by opening her mouth and pulling her tongue out so that you can see the back of her mouth.  Remove any vomit or other foreign material by performing a finger sweep with a hooked finger, being careful not to push foreign material deeper into the throat.

 

Close your pet’s mouth and cover her nose with your mouth to blow air into her lungs.  Be sure to hold the corners of her mouth closed as you do this to prevent air from escaping.  As you breathe, watch her chest to make sure it rises when you give her breath.  If it doesn’t check again to make sure that her airway is open.

 

Give three to five full breaths, and then check to see if she is breathing on her own.  If not, continue rescue breathing.

 

For small dogs and cats: give 20-25 breaths per minute

For medium and large dogs: give 12-20 breaths per minute

 

Chest compressions (if pet has no heartbeat):

For small dogs and cats, squeeze the chest with one or two hands, compressing around the chest.  Your goal is to give 100-150 compressions per minute.

 

For medium and large dogs, lay them on their side and use one or both hands to compress the chest firmly 80-120 times per minute.

 

Ideally, chest compressions and rescue breathing can occur simultaneously, but if you’re by yourself, this is an impossible feat.  Instead, you will want to give two breaths for every 12 chest compressions.

 

Sadly, the survival rates for pets who need CPR is dismal. A mere 6-7% of pets will survive, even when CPR is performed in the hospital.  But the chance of survival is always 0% if we don’t try, so having the tools to at least attempt CPR can give your pet some hope.

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Comments
Posted by Pamela Heebner
on May 05 2016 23:45

I never thought I would put my mouth over my cat's mouth and nose but I did. My cat had been stung 5 times by a yellowjacket and went into anaphylactic shock and her tongue swelled up. She literally collapsed at my feet and I picked her up and put her on the table. I told my friends to make a paste out of a meat tenderizer and I breathed into her while they did that. I was lucky - she survived and was healthy and lived another 11 ye ars. This article gave good concise advice and I have copied it and have given it to my sister who has pets.

Posted by Anita Ritchey
on April 27 2016 12:34

Did not know this was possible.

Posted by pat moore
on April 26 2016 21:51

I am glad I read this. I had no idea you could save your own pet this way. My little one is 10 now and I worry about her age. She still jumps around like a 2 yr old ut I have noticed she wishes to sleep a lot more than she did a year ago. Vet says shes in perfect health, all blood tests are great and normal. Guess we both are aging. Thank you for the info hope I Never have to use it but I am at least better prepared.

Posted by Linda O'Brien
on April 26 2016 14:19

Worth mentioning that this is more difficult on dogs as they do not have a sternum (breastbone) which we compress on humans during CPR to stimulate the heart directly underneath. I believe all CPR attempts should aim to press on the heart gently to encourage it to start up - the location will be under the ribs and is not as exact as it is I'm humans...

Posted by deirdre lango
on April 26 2016 13:03

Wow! Just yesterday I had to perform CPR on my neighbor's small dog. He was playing with my dog and the leash got wrapped around his neck. When I found him laying on the sidewalk I thought he was dead! Immediately, I picked him up and open his mouth to move his tongue out the way and started breathing into his mouth and hitting him on his stomach. I gave mouth to mouth CPR! Thank God it worked! Eventually he came around but I didn't know about CPR..just that I did not want to take to my neighbor their dog dead. Today, because of the experience I was going to goggle CPR for dogs, but instead got this email from you. Thanks for the information. If a CPR rescue ever occurs again, I'll know how to perform the correct procedure.

Posted by Melissa
on April 26 2016 10:30

The article is informative but it only touches the tip of the iceberg. Where do you EXACTLY do chest compressions? That is a vital part of CPR. At least show us readers a diagram of the area to compress. I now know how to and how many rescue breaths to give to my dog which I am grateful for.

Posted by Yuki
on April 26 2016 10:23

I am trained in CPR/rescue breathing due to lifeguard and First Aid certification. I would note that it's important to watch your pet's chest as you rescue breathe. Gauge how much air to puff into their lungs by watching their chest rise. Do not give "full breaths" of your own lung capacity--you could be hurting your cat or small-to-medium sized dog by forcing way too much air in. With infants, rescue breathing consists of "puffs" not full breaths. I think it would be useful to approach rescue breathing the same way with small dogs and all cats. Wondering if you could speak to your vet expert and amend this story is necessary to avoid confusion? Thx for an important article for all pet lovers!

Posted by MARGARET OWENS
on April 26 2016 10:13

I was told by Dr. Joe and he kind of showed me but I will keep this handy. Want all info for my baby girl Angel that i can get. Thanks again

Posted by VIRGINIA PODOBNIK
on April 26 2016 09:26

THANK YOU FOR POSTING AN ARTICLE LIKE THIS. I DID NOT KNOW THIS COULD BE DONE. IT WOULD EVEN BE MORE HELPFUL IF THERE WAS A SHORT VIDEO TO EXACTLY SHOW HOW THIS IS DONE. I HAVE 2 YOUNG CATS, 1 & 2 YEARS OLD. I HAVE HAD CATS MY WHOLE LIFE, I JUST LOVE THEM. MY NEWEST LITTLE ONE WAS A RESCUE FROM A VETS OFFICE AND THEY TELL ME HE IS A FERAL CAT. HE HAD A ROUGH START IN HIS LIFE AND I AM TRYING MY BEST TO MAKE HIM HAPPY. HE IS SO SHY AND SKIDDISH, I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING TO MAKE HIM FEEL SECURE THAT NO ONE HERE IS GOING TO HURT HIM, BUT HE STILL RUNS AND HIDES FROM ME. HE COMES OUT TO EAT AND GET TREATS. HE LOVES MY HUSBAND BUT LOOKS AT ME AND RUNS. ANY SUGGESTIONS? THEY ARE STRICTLY INDOOR KITTIES, AND I HAVE LOTS OF TOYS AND THINGS TO CONTENT THEM. CALLI, MY OTHER KITTY IS VERY SOCIAL AND LOVES ME. THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO FOR US. SINCERELY, VIRGINIA

Posted by Travis
on April 26 2016 02:21

Good info. I'd assume similar procedures in the event an animal were drowning/taken on too much water and unconscious (or not unconscious)?

Posted by Geri Hernandez
on April 25 2016 16:17

Thank you so much this was most information I needed to know about. Last yr. our one dog was bite by a bull blue frog and I did not know what to do,so every time I can learn something new I will read about it.

Posted by Sue Vandervoort
on April 25 2016 15:30

Thank you for this.. I printed it and its going on my fridge. Hope I never need it but if I do and it saves one of my fur babies I will ask God to bless you for the info.

Posted by Deb
on April 25 2016 11:55

Great article, thanks for the information. I am CPR certified for human and wondered how you do it for your pet. Thank you !

Posted by Patti Lounsbury
on April 25 2016 11:19

Thank you so much for this article. Anything we can learn to try to help our furry family when disaster strikes is always welcome.

Posted by George Suplee
on April 25 2016 10:09

excellent information for the layperson Thank you

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