How to Perform CPR on Your Dog
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 an 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 experiencing suffocation, 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 counter top 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.
- Note: Be very careful, a confused and frightened pet may awake with the instinct to bite.
Mouth to Snout
B. Deliver Oxygen with 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 over extended.
Heart is Located at the Bend of the Elbow
C. Check for 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 70-160 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 the 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.
80-100 Chest Compressions Per Minute
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
Attempt to Awaken or Arouse Your Dog
1. Open the airway and inspect for obstructive matter in the throat
2. Gently encircle the snout with one hand and give 2 quick breaths
3. 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.
4. Give 2 breaths mouth to snout, and observe for the rise and fall of the chest.
5. 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.
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