Feb 10

Dog CPR – save your dogs life

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.

Dog CPR – save your dogs life

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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.

Dog CPR – Airway

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.

Dog CPR – Breathing

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.

Dog CPR – Circulation

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?

Find dog pulseThe 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.

Practice practice practice

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.


8 Responses to “Dog CPR – save your dogs life”

  1. Susie says:

    Great article and really useful information. I nver knew how to find my dogs pulse, thank you. :)

  2. planetbowwow says:

    great post. Always wondered whether ti would be the same as with humans. Great post to keep, thanks

  3. Kate says:

    I never knew how CPR on a dog differed to that applied to a human. I figured the amount of breaths & chest compressions would vary depending on size of said dog, but otherwise if i (God forbid) came into a situation, I would’ve just tried the usual way.

    So thanks for this! I am curious now though, does this mean there are a variety of CPR methods for different animals then? Or would it be as simple as a four-legged creature VS a two-legged human?

    My father once gave my childhood goldfish mouth to mouth (honest to God) and where as chest compressions obviously weren’t possible, two barely there blows across its mouth (not IN, more like the technique you use to emit a whistling sound across a bottle neck), and believe it or not, it genuinely worked. It lived to swim another three months before it finally died at around 8 years old. We thought he was our amazing, little, miracle fish, until we realised goldfish can live for up to twenty years, haha!

    • Play Fetch says:

      Hi Kate

      Thanks for your comment, it is a great skill to have but I hope we never have to use it.

      I’m not a vet so can’t really say if that would work on all four legged animals, although I guess so. I will ask a vet and get back to you.

      Well done to your dad, you must have been very proud of him! I remember when I was a child and there was a bang on the wall, our budgie just dropped whilst flying, we had a Yorkshire Terrier at the time and he raced over and ever so carefully picked him up in his mouth and rushed him over to us. My dad rubbed the budgies chest and he came around. We have no idea why the budgie suddenly dropped or what happened but Sindy our Yorkie was amazing.

  4. Jacky Ward says:

    My business as an animal carer at home, means I come into contact with all shapes, sizes and ages of dog on a daily basis, so I was really pleased to come accross this information! Thank you so much for the post (but let’s hope I never have to use it!!

    • Play Fetch says:

      Thanks for your comment Jacky, you could also put it on your literature that you know dog CPR. I know I would have better piece of mind when leaving my dogs with someone if they knew how to help my dog should they need it.

  5. Katie B says:

    I saw a dog collapse on a field quite a few years ago, had I known this at the time I could have done something. Great post thanks.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this very informative post, I have never thought about learning cpr for my dog

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