Since the official introduction of modern cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in 1946, countless human lives have been saved. The same principles of CPR, specifically the artificial inflation of lungs as well as the jumpstarting of a heartbeat, can be applied to dogs as well. In an emergency situation, knowing how to perform CPR on a dog can be the literal difference between life and death.
Assess the Situation
Immediately upon discovering your dog as unresponsive, assess his or her condition. If a friend or family member is nearby ask him or her to call an emergency veterinarian so that you can prepare the clinic for your arrival, as well as have them guide you through the process of reviving the animal, if necessary.
Is the dog breathing?
First check to see whether the dog is breathing by observing whether the chest is rising up and down. Also feel whether air is being passed through the nasal or oral cavities. Ensure that the dog’s airways are free of debris, such as food, phlegm, vomit, or mucous.
Is the dog’s heart beating?
With the dog lying on its side, check for a pulse by moving the dog’s leg away from its body and placing your fingers in the area where the dog’s leg meets the chest. If no heart beat is detected, check for a pulse in the dog’s wrist. This can be found right above the uppermost pad on your dog’s paw.
If the dog is not breathing, but has a heartbeat, begin breathing for the dog immediately.
Place dog in position
Position the dog so that its head is in line with its body and that airways are not restricted due to positioning.
Place your mouth over the dog’s nose
For a large dog, hold the dog’s snout closed while placing your mouth over its nostrils. Breathe into the dog’s nose and watch for the chest to rise. For a small dog, place your mouth over the entire nose and mouth.
Count your breaths
Administer breaths to the dog every 2 – 3 seconds, aiming for 20 – 30 breaths per minute. Do not breathe too forcefully, as damage could be done to the lungs. Reassess the dog every minute to determine whether or not independent breathing has returned.
If the dog does not have a heartbeat, chest compressions should be started immediately.
Find the heart
Place the dog on its side and find the location of the heart (beneath the armpit). Place your palms on the dog’s chest and firmly apply compression, then release, in a rapid movement. The compress-release action should be repeated 10 – 12 times every 5 seconds. After each 5 second cycle, an artificial breath should be administered to the dog. Every two minutes, reassess the dog’s condition by checking for a heartbeat. Once the dog is stabilized, take him or her to a veterinarian immediately. Chest compressions and artificial breathing should be continued for up to 10 minutes before determining the dog unresponsive.