Knowing how to do pet CPR can save an animal’s life and allow you time to reach veterinary care. Pet CPR courses are offered periodically through the American Red Cross. In addition, you can ask your veterinarian to review CPR technique with you during your pet’s next visit.
Similar to human CPR, there are certain guidelines that are as simple as ABC: A=Airway, B=Breathing, C=Circulation…. However, first things first: Before rushing in, check the scene and make sure it is safe for you to assist the animal – Don’t become a victim. Next, check if the animal is conscious. If it is, you will have to proceed with caution so that you do not get bitten. Lay the animal on its side to proceed.
A – Check if the animal has a patent airway and is able to breathe on its own. Carefully place your hand in front of its nose and mouth to feel for breathing. If the animal is not breathing, pull the tongue out and make sure nothing is caught in its throat. Even if the animal is not conscious, it still may reflexively bite down. Move the head to straighten the neck and open the airway.
B – Hold the animals mouth closed with your hand and breathe into its nose until you see the side of the chest rising. Give a second breath. If the chest does not rise, try again. If it still doesn’t rise, there may be something further down the throat blocking the airway. Check the mouth and throat again. If the animal is small enough, you can lift it head down with its back against your body and give a few sharp squeezes to the abdomen to try to force any lodged item out (Animal Heimlich Maneuver). Lay the animal back down and check the mouth and throat again. Repeat the breathing technique.
C – The heart is more easily felt from the left side of the chest cavity behind the elbow of the left foreleg. It is difficult to check for pulses elsewhere. If you do not detect a heartbeat, place one hand under the chest cavity for support. Press down on the heart with the other hand 15 times. You are not pressing as hard as you would for an adult person – the compressions should be ½ inch for tiny dogs, 1 inch for small dogs, ½ inch to 1 inch for cats, and 1 ½ inches for larger dogs. For smaller pocket pets such as rodents, just use your thumb and forefinger on either side of the chest instead of your two hands. You will need to pump 80 -120 beats per minute for larger animals and 100 -150 beats per minute for smaller pets.
Repeat steps C and B until the pet begins breathing or you reach a veterinary hospital or determine that the animal has passed. Don’t wait for a real emergency to find out where the nearest Animal Emergency Hospital is located.