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How to do CPR on a dog

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Do you know the difference between humans and dogs for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? It’s not something that I like to think about; nonetheless, the thought crossed my mind that I wasn’t sure the specifics for chest compressions in a dog. Being a nurse, I know that humans have different requirements, but how did that apply to dogs? This is by no means a certification for CPR. I hope to bring you knowledge on what to do if your animal does go down. Always ensure that the scene around you is safe and contact an emergency 24-hour vet. It is best to have your regular and emergency vet number readily available for quick contact in an urgent situation.


The first step is to check for a pulse and breathing status. If there is a pulse, but the dog is not breathing, do not administer CPR. Instead, you will start resuscitation breaths. CPR can be harmful/fatal and should only be used when no pulse is felt or heard. To give rescue breaths, hold the snout close with one hand, place your mouth around the nose, and deliver a breath. If resistance is felt, it is possible that the airway is obstructed and needs to be cleared. The best way to unblock an airway is by using the Heimlich maneuver. To do this, the dog should be picked upside down with it’s back to your chest. You should then place your arms under the rib cage and provide 5 purposeful thrusts. After, check the mouth for the possible obstructing item. If it is safe to do so and you can visibly see the objects, use a finger sweep motion to remove the item. Next, reassess the breathing status of the dog.


Like a human, if the dog cannot breathe, the cardiac status will soon follow the same suit. If a pulse is lost at any time, begin CPR. The dog should be on its right side, and your hands should be placed on the chest approximately where the arms touch the chest, as shown in the picture. For a dog that is less than 30 pounds, give two rescue breaths every 10-15 compressions. Ensure that your compressions are effective by having a depth of at least 1-2.5 inches of the chest. For a dog larger than 30 pounds, the CPR to breath ratio can be the same, but the depth increases from 1-3 inches.


Don’t forget to allow for recoil! This allows the heart time to fill with blood to be pumped to the vital organs. The compression rate should be 100-120 per minute. While performing high-quality CPR, having a second rescuer can minimize time spent switching from breaths to chest compressions. The less time in between is vital when trying to save organs. After the first minute of CPR, check the pulse. If the pulse has resumed, stop CPR. After the first check, check the pulse every 2 minutes. During a pulse check, it is a good idea to switch roles for CPR. Giving high-quality CPR can be fatiguing, which means you are doing a good job! While it pains me to say it, if 15-20 minutes have passed without a response from the dog, it is most likely the dog will not be revived without permanent brain damage, and the best thing to do is to stop and provide comfort for the animal. I hope you never have to use these skills, but in a time of need, I hope you can recall some critical information in possibly saving a furry friend!


Essential take away differences from adult CPR:

Hold upside down during Heimlich.

Lie dog on the right side for CPR

Every 10-15 compressions, give 2 rescue breaths



Trust me, I'm a Dog-tor!

Just Kidding. From your friendly dog mom and nurse,

The Pawsitive Writer 🐾💕





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