How to Perform CPR on Your Dog

How to Perform CPR on Your Dog

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I have worked as an RN for over 25 years—performing CPR saved my dog's life after an electrocution.

CPR Can Save Your Dog's Life

Many years ago, my beautiful German Shepherd dog chewed threw the wire on a lamp in the living room and was electrocuted. I was alerted by the sound of a loud “pop,” and the quick flash of the light bulb caught the corner of my eye. I found him unconscious and not breathing.

On further inspection, I found his heart had stopped beating and essentially he had died. I was an intensive care nurse at the time, and although I’d never really thought about resuscitation on an animal before, I began CPR on my dog.

CPR Saved My Dog

Fortunately, with the use of CPR, my dog lived another 10 years of a happy and healthy life. Besides an extensive burn on his mouth, he was relatively unharmed on awakening. As I cried after the stress of almost losing my good friend to electrocution, he ran into the garage and returned with his favorite tennis ball.

CPR can be performed on pets with the similar success that is performed on humans; you can also save your pet’s life with these guidelines.

Dogs are Prone to Accidents

Every year, dogs and puppies chew on wires in the home and suffer an electrocution that stops their heart. Drowning in pools and lakes at parks are also common. According to the ASPCA, over 1,000,000 dogs get hit by cars every year, and many could be saved by applying CPR.

In addition, puppies get into all kinds of trouble, such as getting wrapped up in plastic bags and suffocating, and eating harmful chemicals that may cause dangerous and lethal heart arrhythmias. Having the knowledge of CPR can empower you to save the family’s best friend.

Perform the ABCs of CPR

If you discover an unconscious pet, attempt to arouse them by shaking them firmly and shouting loudly. If your dog doesn’t respond, lay him down on a firm surface on their right side, leaving the left side up. Kneel down by their head and begin the steps of CPR. If you have a puppy or a small breed, place them on a countertop or table.

ABC's of CPR

A. Open the Airway

Carefully straighten the dogs head and neck to open the airway. Gently open your pet’s mouth and pull the tongue outward. Often an unconscious dog will breathe when the airway is opened. Look, listen and feel for breathing:

  • Look for the rise and fall of the chest
  • Listen for breath sounds from your pet’s mouth and snout
  • Feel for air movement against your face

Inspect your dog’s throat for signs of obstruction. Common objects found are toys, chew bones, food and bones. If matter is blocking the airway, carefully remove it with your fingers and take care not to push it further down the throat.

Important: Be very careful, a confused and frightened pet may awake with the instinct to bite.

B. Deliver Oxygen via Mouth-to-Snout

If your pet is not breathing, gently but firmly close your pet’s mouth, cup your hand around the snout and give two quick breaths in a mouth-to-snout fashion. If your pet is a puppy or a small dog, provide gentle “blows” of air.

Ensure that each breath creates a rise and fall of the chest. If you feel an obstruction and air is not entering the lungs, straighten your pet’s head and neck and give two breaths again. Do not bend the head too far back; you can actually occlude the airway if the neck is overextended.

C. Check for a Heartbeat and Pulse

To take the pulse on your dog, press your flat hand against the ribs on the left chest just behind the bend of the elbow. If you can’t feel the heartbeat, take a second and adjust the placement or pressure of your palm and palpate the heartbeat again. Dogs have a range of 60-140 beats per minute. A large dog will have a slower heart rate compared to a smaller dog or puppy. If no pulse is located, begin the chest compressions.

Begin Chest Compressions to Circulate the Oxygen

Locate the middle of the 4th and 6th ribs on the left chest, or again, where the bent elbow touches the chest. For medium to large dogs, place one hand over the other and intertwine your fingers. Start compressing the dog’s chest at a depth of one to three inches for 30 chest compressions at a rate of 80-100 times a minute. After chest compressions are completed, give two breaths and then resume the chest compressions. Ratio is 30:2.

For puppies or small dogs, use one hand to encircle the chest and produce a squeezing motion around the rib cage with one thumb over the heart. Compress the chest 80-100 times per minute followed by the delivery of two breaths mouth-to-snout.

Continue CPR

Continue compressions and breaths until your pet resumes responsiveness or help arrives. If an emergency veterinary service is not available, continue CPR while someone drives you and your pet to your veterinarian’s office. Also, call ahead and notify your veterinarian that you are arriving and explain the situation in as much detail as possible.

Save Your Dog's Life With CPR

A Quick Look-Up Guide to CPR on Your Dog

  1. Attempt to awaken or arouse your dog.
  2. Open the airway and inspect for obstructive matter in the throat.
  3. Gently encircle the snout with one hand and give 2 quick breaths.
  4. Locate the bend of the elbow against the chest and give 80-100 compressions per minute at a depth of 1 to 3 inches, depending on the size of the dog.
  5. Give 2 breaths mouth to snout, and observe for the rise and fall of the chest.
  6. Continue the cycles of CPR until the dog awakens, or have a friend drive you to the veterinary hospital and call ahead to alert them to your arrival.

Take the CPR on Your Dog Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How many breaths do you give your dog during CPR?
    • 2 Breaths Mouth to Snout
    • 1 Breath Mouth to Snout
  2. If your dog responds, I must start CPR right away
    • No, never interfere with a dog who is breathing with a normal heartbeat
    • Yes, I want to be sure they get oxygen and circulation
  3. A confused dog may bite out of instinct, so I must be careful when doing CPR
    • Yes, my dog may be scared or confused and may bite me.
    • No, my dog knows me no matter what
  4. How many compressions due you give your dog a minute?
    • 30 Compressions at a rate of 80-100 per minute will circulate the blood and deliver the oxygen.
    • About 20 compressions to increase blood flow to the body.
  5. Where is a dog's heart located?
    • On the left chest where the elbow touches when it's bent
    • In the middle of the chest below the chin

Answer Key

  1. 2 Breaths Mouth to Snout
  2. No, never interfere with a dog who is breathing with a normal heartbeat
  3. Yes, my dog may be scared or confused and may bite me.
  4. 30 Compressions at a rate of 80-100 per minute will circulate the blood and deliver the oxygen.
  5. On the left chest where the elbow touches when it's bent

Carol Bass on January 31, 2017:

I just thought I'd share your very important information on FB again. Thank you for writing it. Miss you!

Asalina from Alabama on March 01, 2015:

This is the informative information I read all day. must say very interesting.

Insightful Tiger on May 28, 2013:

Thank you for sharing this important information. I really like the way you explained the directions; it was very easy to follow:) Voted up and pinned.

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on October 29, 2012:

Hi Mary, that is a great story and we should link our hubs! Great Idea, I will link yours as well.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on October 28, 2012:

I have given CPR to my Miniature Schnauzer after she encountered a Cane Toad. In fact the Hub I wrote about that experience and it is a related one to this one (I just saw it). I've also administered mouth to mouth on a puppy to try to save it. I didn't make it, though.

May I link this Hub into mine about the Cane Toad?

Great Hub. I voted it UP and will share.

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on October 05, 2012:

Thanks sunset, I hope this hub helps people to save their best friend's life. But on the other hand, I hope they never have to use it! thanks for visiting and I appreciate your support.

SunsetSky from USA on October 05, 2012:

What a great hub! I've wondered how to locate a dog's heart and give CPR in the past, so this is very much appreciated and useful. Thank you!

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on September 27, 2012:

Thank you Nanderson, I appreciate your comments and hope you never have to use! lol!

nanderson500 from Seattle, WA on September 27, 2012:

Great hub. I am a dog owner too. Very useful information. Voted up and shared.

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on September 20, 2012:

Thanks Glimmer, I hope it helps people when they need it. I appreciate your comments and support. See ya!

Claudia Mitchell on September 20, 2012:

Awesome hub! People (me included) tend to not think about this kind of thing, but obviously it happens. Voted up!

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on September 19, 2012:

Hi ESPeck1919, that's my 18 year old Sabrina. She is so used to being my model that she just goes along with it. She's very docile and accommodating. Thanks for reading and I appreciate your comments :)

Emilie S Peck from Minneapolis, MN on September 19, 2012:

Wonderful hub. I don't have dogs myself, but I grew up in households with them. Very good information on a sorely under addressed topic. I'm also very impressed with your pictures!

It looks like your canine friend there was very tolerant. :)

Deborah (author) from Las Vegas on September 19, 2012:

Thank you Jaye, I appreciate your comments and value your opinion. I hope it helps people who love their dogs, and I am so glad the photos help!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on September 19, 2012:

Great hub--a public service for people who love their dogs. The instructions and photos are excellent. Very well organized. Voted Up+++


How To Do CPR On A Dog

Note: Do NOT practice CPR on a healthy dog. CPR can cause serious physical harm to dogs if performed unnecessarily. If your dog shows any signs of resistance to you performing CPR, then they may not need it!

1. Position Your Dog For Treatment

  • Lay your dog on a stable, flat surface with their right side down.
  • Straighten their head and neck as best you can to create a direct passage for their airway.
  • Pull the tongue forward so that it rests against the back of their teeth and shut their mouth.
  • Position yourself behind their back.

2. Find The Heart And Prep For Compressions

  • Place both of your palms, one over the other, on top of the widest part of the rib cage, near the heart, but not directly over it.
    *For smaller dogs weighing 30lbs (13.6kg) or less, cup your hands around the dog’s rib cage, placing your fingers on one side of the chest and your thumb on the other.

3. Begin Compressions

  • Keeping both elbows straight, push down on the rib cage in firm, quick compressions. Only compress 1/4 to 1/3 of the chest width.
  • Repeat compressions at a quick rate of 15 per 10 seconds.
    *For smaller dogs, use your thumb and fingers to squeeze the chest to about a 1/4 or 1/3 of its width. Repeat this at a slightly quicker pace than for larger dogs, aiming for 17 compressions in 10 seconds.

4. Begin Artificial Respiration

If performing CPR alone, give your dog artificial respiration after each set of 15 compressions.

  • Begin by sealing the dog’s lips. Place your hand over the dog’s muzzle and ensure the mouth is completely closed.
  • Next, place your mouth over the dog’s nostrils and blow gently, watching for the chest to lift and expand. If the chest does not rise, blow harder into the nostrils and check that the mouth is properly sealed.
    *For smaller dogs, place your mouth over their entire muzzle.
  • Remove your mouth from the nose/muzzle between breaths to allow for air return.
  • Administer one breath for every 15 compressions.
    *If there are two people available to perform CPR, have one person do the compressions, while the other gives artificial respiration after every five compressions.

If you are only performing artificial respiration, follow the same procedure as above for sealing your dog’s mouth, and administer one breath every two to three seconds at a steady pace of 20 to 30 breaths per minute.

5. Administer An Abdominal Squeeze

  • Place your left hand under your dog’s abdomen, and your right hand on top. Push down to squeeze the belly and assist in the circulation of blood back to the heart.
  • Give one abdominal squeeze after each set of 15 compressions and one breath.

6. Repeat

Continue CPR or artificial respiration until the dog starts to breathe on its own and has regained a steady pulse. If the dog is not breathing after 20 minutes, it’s time to consider discontinuing treatment, as it is not likely you will have success after this point.

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.

Giving CPR to pets: our vet’s advice

We would always advise owners to take veterinary advice, or attend a veterinary-led first aid course, to learn how to deliver CPR in the safest way.

Unfortunately, CPR usually isn’t appropriate or successful for pets. Pets who have an underlying illness or disease are unlikely to recover, even if given CPR. However, CPR can save lives in some situations – for example, if a healthy pet’s heart has stopped due to a specific cause, like electrocution, drowning or choking.

Checking if your pet needs CPR:


  • Pull the tongue forward.
  • Check there is nothing in the throat.
  • If there is something blocking the airway, remove it.


  • Look and listen. Are they breathing? Can you see the chest rising and falling of feel breath coming from the nostrils?
  • If they’re not breathing, immediately check for a heartbeat.


  • Place your hand or ear over the chest, where the elbow meets the ribcage. Can you feel/hear a heartbeat?
  • If you are sure there is no heartbeat, start CPR.

Performing CPR

  • Place your pet on their right side on a firm, flat surface. Dogs with barrel-shaped chests need to be lying on their backs and CPR compressions are done at the midpoint of the chest.
  • Compress the chest at 2 per second at the widest part of the chest. (Remember the song ‘Staying Alive’ – doing it to this beat is about right.)

For large dogs, use both hands interlocked.

For small dogs, use one hand.

For cats use one hand to compress the chest from both sides while they are lying on their side.

  • Each compression should depress the chest by a half to two thirds and the chest should be allowed to return to the normal position after each compression
  • Keep your arms straight and if you have someone with you, swap regularly as the process is very tiring.
  • After 30 compressions, extend their neck, close the mouth and blow down their nose. Give 2 breaths of 1 second, allowing 1 second for the chest to fall.
  • It is possible to create a seal with your mouth around small dog’s noses, but for larger dogs you need to close the sides of the nostrils with your hand and blow down the nostrils from the front.
  • Check for a heartbeat
  • If the dog is still not breathing and there is no heartbeat, repeat the process - giving 30 compressions and 2 breaths - until veterinary help arrives or until the heartbeat and breathing return.

Even if your pet’s heartbeat and breathing return, you should take your pet to the vet as an emergency.

How To Perform CPR On Your Pet

This is Dr. B from Pet Health and Lifetime Care Center on Desert Inn and today we will be discussing CPR in pets.

Giving your pet CPR is a situation that you never want to face but you should be prepared for in the case of an emergency. CPR for pets follows the same ABC Guidelines as does CPR for humans. A stands for Airway, B Stands for Breathing, and C stands for Circulation.

If your pet collapses, the first thing to look for is an airway obstruction. Open your pet’s mouth and visually inspect it for any signs of a foreign object or obstruction. Be careful placing your finger inside your pet’s mouth because of the possibility of getting bit – even if your pet is unconscious.

The next step is to determine if your pet is breathing. This can be done by watching your pet’s chest to see if it moves up and down or by placing your hand on your pet’s chest in order to feel for movement. If your pet is breathing – you need to get your pet to the nearest veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your pet is not breathing you need to give your pet breathes.In pets we use a mouth to nose technique in order to give breathes. For large dogs the mouth will be closed tightly in order to make a seal and then breathes will be delivered into the nose. For small dogs and cats your mouth can cover the entire nose and mouth.

Give 2 large breathes at a time. If you are doing it correctly – you should see your pet’s chest rise after each breathe.

The next step is to see if your pet has a pulse. The first technique to do this is by placing your hand directly over your pet’s heart and feeling for a heartbeat. In order to find the location of your pet’s heart – place them on their right side and bring their elbow directly back. When the leg is pulled back – the point of the elbow will be directly over the heart.

The second way to see if your pet has a heartbeat is to tryfeeling for a pulse. The location to find a pulse for a dog or cat is on the inside of the hind leg where the femoral artery is located.

Try for 5-10 seconds to see if your pet has a heartbeat. If you can’t get one and your pet is still not breathing – don’t waste time and go ahead and start CPR.

The location to perform chest compressions depends on the size of your pet. For large dogs that are over 50 pounds – you will perform compressions over the widest part of the chest. For medium dogs between 10 and 50 pounds – the chest compressions will be directly over the heart.

For small dogs and cats that are less than 10 pounds – the location is directly over the heart using either the two-handed or one-handed technique.

The rate of compressions will also be determined by the size of your pet. Large dogs over 50 pounds should be given 60 compressions per minute. Medium dogs that are between 10 and 50 pounds should be given 80-100 compressions per minute. Finally, small dogs and cats that are less than 10 pounds should be given 120 compressions per minute.

Chest compressions should be a full 1/3 to ½ of the width of the chest.

Chest compressions cannot be delivered simultaneously with breathing because the air will be diverted into the gastrointestinal tract. You will want to alternate between chest compressions and breathing in the following fashion.

30 compressions and then 2 quick breathes . 30 compressions and then 2 quick breaths – continuing this pattern until a change in your pet’s status is noted

Finally, don’t forget to call for help. If you are in a public area- have someone dial the number of a veterinarian or a neighbor may be able to help drive you to the nearest veterinary clinic.

If you have any questions about pet CPR or would like to schedule a lifetime care exam for your pet – please give us a call at 702-910-4500.

You can also text us by using [email protected] as a mobile contact number.

We have both referral and new patient lifetime care rewards and second opinions are always free.

Watch the video: Canine LifeSaver CPR Workshop - Training a dog to learn rescue breathing