Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) saves countless lives every year. Many people are familiar with and even trained in CPR, for people. CPR isn’t solely for human use. It can be used on animals too. Dogs and cats become an important part of the family so knowing how to perform pet CPR might just keep them here a little bit longer.
Assess the Situation
The first thing to do is to determine if CPR is necessary. If the animal is just laying on the ground be sure to shake it, tug it, pinch it lightly and talk to it. Try to elicit a response.
If the animal doesn’t respond, check to see if the animal is breathing. Place your hand in front of their mouth and nose and feel for exhaling. While doing this, watch for the chest to rise and fall. You can also check the gums. If they are a bluish color rather than pink, the animal isn’t getting enough oxygen.
If the cat or dog isn’t breathing, quickly check for a heartbeat so you know if you should begin artificial respiration (AR) only or full CPR. One way to feel for a heartbeat on a cat or dog is to place your fingers on the left side of their rib cage just behind the armpit. If there isn’t one, you can begin pet CPR.
Assessing the situation shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to complete.
How to Give a Cat CPR
If you are wondering about how to give a cat CPR, it’s not much different than giving a person CPR. You will give chest compressions and rescue breaths. Here are the detailed steps for how to give a cat CPR:
Step 1: Give Chest Compressions
Make sure the cat is laying on its right side. Use either one hand just behind the left elbow or wrap the hand around the chest so the thumb and fingers are on opposite sides of the rib cage.
If placing one hand on the left side of the rib cage, lock your elbow with your shoulders directly above it. Begin giving chest compressions by forcing down, keeping your elbows locked the entire time. As you come up, make sure the chest fully retracts before giving the next compression.
Give 30 compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 per minute. This is about the speed of the song “Staying Alive” or “Baby Shark”.
Give Rescue Breaths
After doing 30 compressions you need to give rescue breaths to the cat. Make sure the tongue is forward in the mouth so it doesn’t block the airways. Pull the head back slightly so the mouth and neck form a straight line. Then hold the mouth shut by wrapping your hand around the snout. Place your mouth over the nose and end of the muzzle.
Give a slow breath. Out of the corner of your eye watch for the chest to rise and fall. If it doesn’t, reposition the head and try again. Give a total of two successful breaths.
Repeat the Cycle
The CPR cycle consists of the 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths. Continue doing the pet CPR cycles for about two minutes without stopping. This is approximately four cycles.
After the two minutes, recheck for signs of breathing and a heartbeat. If they are present, discontinue CPR, if not, do two more minutes of CPR cycles.
CPR for Dogs
CPR for dogs is very similar, and even the same in some cases, to CPR for cats. The only differences lie in the size of the dog and the shape of their chest.
Differences in CPR for dogs vs. cats
If the dog is small, the steps above for cats should be followed. CPR for dogs that are large should be modified slightly. Instead of using one hand use two. Place one hand in the center of the widest part of the chest (just slightly back from the armpit). Put the other hand on top of the first. Continue with chest compressions as described above.
For dogs that are more barrel-chested, like mastiffs and bulldogs, roll the animal onto it’s back. Place your hands on top of each other directly on the sternum, also known as the breast bone. Do chest compressions as described above.
Finally, when rescue breathing for large dogs you will need to breathe only into their nose. The snout will likely be too large to get a good breath in both the mouth and nose. That is okay.
Final Thoughts on Pet CPR
While performing pet CPR on your cat or dog, have someone drive you to your veterinary clinic if possible. They will be able to continue life-saving techniques in a much better manner than you can. If they revive your pet they will need to check the animal over to find the reason why they went unconscious and quit breathing.
While CPR will give an unconscious, not breathing pet the best chance for survival, it’s not a guarantee they will be revived. And remember, do NOT practice this on your pet that is in good health as you could severely hurt it.
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