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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.

In Loving Memory of Tyra

In Loving Memory of Tyra

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 similar success as is achieved 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 electrocution that stops their heart. Drowning in pools and lakes at parks is also common. According to the ASPCA, over 1,000,000 dogs are 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. Knowing CPR can empower you to save the family’s best friend.

Perform the ABCs of CPR

If you discover an unconscious pet, here's what you should do:

  1. Attempt to arouse them by shaking them firmly and shouting loudly.
  2. If your dog doesn’t respond, lay him down on a firm surface on their right side, leaving the left side up.
  3. 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.
The ABCs of CPR

The ABCs of CPR

A. Open the Airway

Carefully straighten the dog's 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.

Mouth to Snout

Mouth to Snout

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.

Heart is Located at the Bend of the Elbow

Heart is Located at the Bend of the Elbow

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. After chest compressions are completed, give two breaths and then resume the chest compressions. The ratio is 30:2.
  4. 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.
80-100 Chest Compressions Per Minute

80-100 Chest Compressions Per Minute

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.

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 two 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 two 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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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 Porter 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+++