CPR is a lifesaving technique that can bring a victim of cardiac arrest back from the brink. But did you know that victim doesn’t have to be human? You can also perform CPR on your pets. The American Red Cross even offers a CPR course for pets. But if you already know CPR, chances are you can perform it on a pet as well—as long as you know a few basic rules.
CPR for dogs
CPR techniques for dogs vary slightly depending on the size of the dog. Before starting CPR, it is important to be sure that the dog is in fact suffering cardiac arrest, as a startled dog could bite if you surprise it. Also, be aware that CPR can be dangerous for healthy dogs—and should not be conducted unless you’re sure it’s needed.
To check responsiveness, try to wake the dog up and check breathing and pulse. See if there is anything blocking the airway, such as blood, a chew toy, or pieces of food. If the dog’s tongue, gums, and lips are beginning to turn blue, you know you’ll need to perform CPR.
For dogs that weigh less than 30 pound:
- Place the dog on a flat surface, with the left side up and the right side down.
- Cup your hands and place one palm on either side of the dog’s heart.
- Compress firmly to a depth of one inch to a quarter or a third of the width of the dog’s chest. Hold for one and let go for one. Try to do this about 100 times a minute.
Breathe into the dog’s nose one time for every five compressions if you are working alone; if someone is there to help you, have the second person give rescue breaths once every tow or three compressions.
For dogs that weigh more than 30 pounds:
- Place the dog on a flat surface with the left side up and the right side down. Position yourself by the dog’s back.
- Place one palm on the dog’s chest near the heart, and place your other palm on top of it.
- Keeping your arms straight, compress the chest to a depth of about a quarter to a third of the chest’s width, at a rate of approximately 80 compressions per minute.
- Hold the dog’s muzzle closed and breathe into its nose once per five compressions if you are working alone. If there is a second person with you, have that person deliver one rescue breath for every tow or three compressions
CPR for cats
Like dogs, it is important to be sure that the cat is not conscious and has stopped breathing before administering CPR. This is because a startled, sleeping cat could injure you if you surprise it, and you could risk injuring the cat if it does not need the CPR.
- Place the cat on its side; extend the neck gently and lean the head slightly upwards.
- Check the cat’s airway for blockages; pull the tongue forward to dislodge an object if necessary. Bear in mind that cats have tiny bones in the back of the throat as part of their larynx; do not dislodge these.
- Press your fingertips or a cupped palm around the cat’s chest, just behind its elbows.
- Compress the chest at a depth of half an inch, at an approximate rate of 120 beats per minute or two per second.
- Cover the cat’s entire nose and the front of its muzzle with your lips. Gently exhale with adequate force to cause your cat’s chest to rise. Perform approximately one rescue breath per 12 compressions.
- Pause periodically to press on your cat’s abdomen to drive out air that has built up in the stomach.
CPR for animals is surprisingly similar to CPR for people. There are, however, a few different things to keep in mind when performing CPR on a dog or cat. These include:
Never perform CPR on an animal that is not unconscious
If your dog or cat is seizing, don’t perform CPR. The same goes for dogs and cats that are suffering from an obstructed airway. Performing CPR on a conscious animal can put you in danger of a nasty bite or scratch, and can put the animal in danger as well. Be absolutely sure that the animal is unresponsive before proceeding.
Positioning is different
People need to lie on their backs for CPR, while animals need to lie on their sides. This is because a dog or cat has a deeper chest than a human, and that has to do with the positioning of their hearts. To find the heart of a dog or cat, lie the animal on its side and draw its elbow back toward its ribs. The heart is positioned where the elbow reaches back.
You look for the pulse in a different place
You can find a human’s pulse by checking the wrist or the carotid artery, just under the neck. For a dog or cat, you check the pulse by feeling the femoral artery, just on the inside of the thigh.
Breathing and heartbeat are separate
The heart can continue beating for several minutes after breathing has stopped entirely. It’s still important to make sure the airway isn’t clogged before attempting CPR. Never try to perform rescue breaths before making sure the animal’s airway is clear; if it isn’t, the air won’t reach its lungs.
While some veterinary clinics offer mobile vet services, many pet owners don’t have the same access to medical attention for their pets in an emergency that they would have for themselves. Even so, dogs and cats can suffer from blocked airways and even cardiac arrest like humans can, and CPR can save their lives. Pet owners who learn CPR can prepare themselves to react quickly in case of an emergency and save a pet’s life in an emergency—before the pet can get to the veterinarian’s office.