Emergency Resuscitation: CPR Could Save Your Dog

3 April 2015
 Categories: , Articles

When your dog is like a member of your family, you'll want to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and living for as long as possible. Unfortunately, just like humans, dogs can have unexpected accidents that put their lives in danger. If you learn the basics about dog first aid, you could save the life of your pet or keep them stable enough so that they can get help from a professional. Here are some of the basics of life-saving dog first aid that you should know.


Did you know you can administer CPR to a dog if they have no pulse and are not breathing? Just like human CPR, you need to look for vital signs and use the right procedures in order for CPR to be effective. If you notice that your dog is unconscious, follow these steps for proper resuscitation. 

  1. Check for a pulse. The best places to check for a pulse on a dog are at the wrist (just above the front paw), the inner side of the thigh (back leg), or the elbow (the place where the front leg joins with the body). If you are unsure, check a pulse in multiple places for more accuracy. 
  2. Check for breathing. Hold your hand in front of your pet's nose. If you feel no air, and you do not see the chest rising and falling, you can assume that they are not breathing, especially if you feel no pulse. You can also check blood oxygenation by looking at the gums of the dog. They should be healthy and pink. Grey gums are a sign that the heart and lungs are not working.
  3. Begin rescue breathing. Start by giving your dog air. For very small dogs, place your mouth over the mouth and nose when providing rescue breaths. For larger dogs, just breath over the nose while holding the mouth closed. If the lungs do not expand, this is a sign that the air passage is blocked, and you may need to administer the Heimlich maneuver, as will be detailed below. 
  4. Start compressions. To administer compressions properly, the dog should be positioned on its side. Place your hands over the rib cage where the foreleg meets at the elbow, one hand on top of the other with the palms facing down. You should give about 2 breaths for every 30 compressions. If your dog is small, don't place too much force when giving compressions. The indent of your compressions should be about 1/3 to 1/2 of the total width of the chest. Dogs have different chest shapes. For narrow chested dogs, the hands should be as close to the heart as possible. For large dogs, the hands should be as central to the chest as possible, in order to have a greater impact on pumping the blood. 
  5. Switch hands. If you must perform CPR for longer than two minutes, it is best to trade out the person to prevent tiring. Dogs should receive a total of 100-120 chest compressions per minute.

Heimlich Maneuver

If you can't begin rescue breathing because the airway is blocked, you will need to clear it before continuing. First, look inside the dog's mouth to make sure there are no obstructions. If you see nothing:

  1. Hold your dog upside-down, with the back of the animal against your body. Gravity will help move the obstruction out.
  2. Place both hands around the abdomen, just underneath the rib cage.
  3. Use your arms to give five thrusts to the abdomen, just like you would for humans.
  4. Look for the object in the mouth of your dog, and remove it.
  5. Begin rescue breathing. 

As with all emergencies, you should contact an emergency vet clinic to make sure that trained medical help will be available as soon as possible. With these emergency response practices from your vet clinic in mind, you could save the life of your dog, should the situation ever call for it.