Many of us know how to perform CPR on a person, but could you perform CPR on your dog? Here we run through the dog CPR basics, I hope you never have to use it but it is great to know.
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Whilst this article will describe CPR in dogs, where possible prevention is better than cure. Be wary of what your dog chews or where he/she plays for example. Lets get on with dog CPR;Dog CPR follows the same pattern as human CPR utilising the ABC structure. ABC stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation. Make sure that your dog requires CPR prior to initiating it as performing CPR on a dog that doesn’t need it can harm the dog.
Firstly we need to make sure the airway is free from obstruction. Open your dogs mouth, locate the tongue and move to the side, if you can see any other obstruction such as a toy, bone or chew reach in and pull it out. Be careful during this stage as the dog may have a natural instinct to bite.
Once the airway is clear we need to create a straight path for the air. Move your dogs head back gently so that the mouth is in line with the neck.
Now we differ from human CPR. With a human you cover their nose and breath into the mouth, dog CPR is reversed. Close your dogs mouth and perform two breaths through the nose. The breaths should be considerate of the size of your dog, obviously a Great Dane will require human size breathes whereas a Chihuahua will need a much shorter breath. A correct sized breath will make the chest rise slightly.
Did the dogs lungs inflate with the blow? If yes then great, the airway is clear and air is getting into the lungs and you can move onto Circulation. If your dogs lungs didn’t inflate, perform the checks above to ensure a clear passage. Check again for an obstruction and ensure the tongue is not in the throat. Perform two more breaths, if the lungs still fail to inflate you may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
By now you should have cleared the dogs airway and performed two breaths. Often this will instigate breathing in your dog. If not, we need to move onto more breathing exercises. Perform these first and move onto Circulation in conjunction with breathing if necessary.
Ensure you are maintaining a clear airway and perform one breath every 5 seconds for 1 minute. If you dog begins breathing stop and move onto Circulation, if your dog is still not breathing we shall move onto Circulation in conjunction with Breathing.
So far you should have ensured a clear airway, performed two breaths and/or assisted your dog to breathe. Now we need to make sure your dogs heart is beating. Firstly we need to check for a pulse, there are many ways to do this easily on a human but would you be able to find a pulse on a dog?
The pulse in a dog is most readily found on the inside of the rear thigh where the leg joins the body. Don’t press too hard as you will feel your own pulse in your finger. The pulse of a dog ranges from 70 – 180bpm, smaller dogs have a faster heart beat whereas large dogs have a slower heart beat. A dogs pulse is also not regular like a human pulse. Most dogs hearts beat faster when taking in air and slower when breathing out.
If your dog has no pulse we need to start compressions. In humans we should compress in the center of the chest at the bottom of the rib cage. To find the best place to compress a dogs chest, lay the dog on its right hand side with the dogs legs facing away from you. Raise your dogs left front leg until the elbow touches the chest, this is where you perform the compression.
Compress your dogs chest 12 times, again match the strength of the compressions to the size of your dog. Be hard enough to flex the ribs which should be roughly ½inch for small dogs – 1½inches for large dogs. Follow the compressions with 2 breaths if required.
Check your dogs breathing and pulse, if required repeat the compressions and breathing.
Hopefully the ABC you performed should have your dog breathing again. Take your dog straight to a vet for a thorough check over. Give your vet as much information as you can including the cause of the problem for example choking or electrocution and how long you performed CPR.
I’m not saying you actually perform full CPR on your dog as this can be harmful, but do practice the methods involved, for example whilst stroking your dogs belly use your other hand (keep stroking :)) to feel for a pulse.
Just a quick note to state that I am in no way a veterinarian nor I am I in the veterinary profession. There are a lot of people out there with a lot more knowledge than me on the subject, the purpose of the post is to encourage you to learn dog CPR and to start a debate on the subject. To me knowing dog CPR is just as important to me as knowing human CPR, I hope that I never have to use neither but the knowledge is there should the need arise.