A sheltie being given cpr

The animals we share our lives with are family members, soul mates, and best friends.

They give so much to us, and we turn to them for comfort, entertainment, and companionship. In exchange, we do our best to ensure they have everything they need (and most things they want!). However, because it’s so terrifying to think of your pet in a life-threatening situation, most owners fall a little short in the pet emergency department.

That’s why The Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center want to take a moment to review the basics of pet CPR.

Never Miss a Beat

Despite the fact that pets are beloved members of the family, many owners don’t know how to perform pet CPR. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration. Although we hope you never need to use pet CPR, knowing the basic steps could save your pet’s life someday.

Look, Listen, Feel

Performing pet CPR on a healthy animal can be dangerous or even fatal, so it’s important to confirm that your pet has, in fact, stopped breathing. Verify this by watching their chest and by placing your hand just outside their nostrils to feel for any exhalations. If their gums are blue, they aren’t getting enough (or any) oxygen.

Once you’ve determined your pet isn’t breathing, check the airway to see if something is obstructing their windpipe. If so, gently remove the object using tweezers, pliers, or your fingers.

Also check your pet for a pulse by feeling for the heart (located on the left side of the chest), the femoral artery inside the hind leg, or check above the metacarpal pad on the paw.

Performing Pet CPR

If your pet has no pulse and isn’t breathing, begin chest compressions immediately. Lay your pet on their right side on a flat surface. Depending on your pet’s size and species, place your hands accordingly:

  • For small dogs and cats, place one palm directly over the heart and place your other hand on top.  
  • For a deep-chested dog, put the palm of one hand over the widest part of the chest and place your other hand on top.
  • Barrel-chested dogs should be placed on their back with your hands stacked directly on top of their sternum.

Once you’ve found the proper hand position, lock your elbows and align your shoulders with your hands. You want to push fairly hard and fast (a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute). Check to see that you’re pressing in about ⅓-½ the width of the chest; make sure the chest returns to normal before compressing again.

After 30 chest compressions, give two rescue breaths. Extend the neck slightly and close your pet’s mouth with one hand. Cover their entire snout with your mouth, and exhale until you see the chest rise. Check for a pulse and breathing every two minutes.

Seek Help

If possible, work with someone to administer pet CPR; you can tire out pretty easily doing both chest compressions and rescue breathing. Obviously, this type of pet emergency situation is incredibly stressful. You may not be in an area where help is nearby, but if you’re at or near your home, please contact The Pet Experts immediately for assistance.

The American Red Cross also offers pet CPR classes online and in person. Check them out for more life-saving skills, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.