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Dog CPR: 5 Life Saving Steps

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One of the most important and often overlooked skills that a pet owner needs is the knowledge and ability to save their dog during an emergency. 

A pet medical emergency happens every 2.5 seconds in the U.S. (1). This means that every household pet has a 1 in 3 chance of needing emergency veterinary care (2). Medical costs from these events can often balloon past the $10,000 mark. While these numbers seem scary, the good news is that many of these events are preventable and treatable if you know canine first aid and CPR training.

The most important factor is having the right mindset and preparedness for an emergency event with your dog. Remaining calm, using a quiet, even-toned voice, and steady hands are all helpful steps when dealing with your pup’s emergency. Here are three important things you can do to prevent and be prepared for an emergency event:

  • Have an emergency medical kit for your dog in your house and car.
  • Manage your environment (don’t leave out harmful chemicals or choking hazards, etc.).
  • Know how and when to respond with lifesaving CPR.

Can You Give a Dog CPR?

Yes, the process is very similar to giving CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to humans. CPR is usually given to a dog when they are not breathing and don’t have a pulse.

How to Tell if Your Dog Needs CPR

Dog laying down and owner checking on them

When conducting a quick assessment of a dog to determine if they need CPR, be sure to recite your ABCs:

Airway: Can you feel their breath?

Breathing: Is their chest moving up and down?

Circulation: Is a pulse present in their inguinal artery? (The inguinal artery is at the groin area on the underside of the pelvic region.)

If you find your dog unresponsive and not responding to your calls or touch, conduct your ABCs quickly and then be ready to move on to CPR. Every second is critical in saving your dog’s life, and you will want to begin CPR as quickly as possible. 

How to Give a Dog CPR in 5 Steps

Dog CPR steps
Canine Police Officer Paul teaches PupCamp’s Canine First Aid course

Once you’ve determined that your dog needs CPR, here are five steps to follow:

Step 1: Tilt your dog’s head upward and open the airway. Check the mouth and remove any obstructions.

Step 2: With your dog laying on their right side, locate the heart. The location of compressions can vary by dog breed.

Step 3: Begin chest compressions with your fingers interlocked and one hand over the other. Lock your elbows and use your body weight to compress the ribs 1/3 to 1/2 inches. Compressions should be performed at 100-125 compressions per minute (about 2 compressions per second). One cycle should last for 30 compressions.

Step 4: Give 2 deep breaths. Secure the dog’s tongue inside the mouth and close their mouth by wrapping your hands around the snout. The breaths should be given through the dog’s nose.

Inguinal artery check in a dog showing how to
Canine Police Officer Paul teaches PupCamp’s Canine First Aid course

Step 5: Repeat 30 compressions and 2 breath cycles until your dog recovers consciousness. You can re-check for a pulse after each full cycle, which takes about 2 minutes. Once they recover consciousness or continue breathing with a pulse, transport them immediately to veterinary care while monitoring them.

Dog CPR: Tips and Advice

Dog laying on ground with paw being held

Every scenario is different, and safety should always be the number one concern when giving a dog CPR. Investing in the training for these lifesaving skills is important so that you can conduct them properly and safely. 

Remember: Never perform CPR on an alert dog! Instead, grab a pillow or stuffed animal to practice your technique. 

Keep in mind that dogs can vary greatly in size based on their breed. While the CPR process is the same, the techniques may change for the individual dog. For example, on a Chihuahua, you may only use 2 fingers for compressions, whereas on a Rottweiler, you would use both of your hands with fingers interlocked. Research your specific dog’s anatomy in conjunction with your vet to be prepared before an event occurs.

Giving CPR is physically demanding, even when performing it on a dog, so practice is a vital piece of future success, as is self-assessment of your own fitness, which can impact your ability to provide CPR successfully.

Dog CPR Class and General Preparedness

It is important to have the right mindset when facing the reality of a situation where you need to give CPR to a pet. If your dog is unresponsive and stops breathing, CPR is the best chance at saving their life. 

Finding a reputable training class is a key element to learning and practicing the techniques needed for those situations. With virtual training options like PupCamp, you can learn canine first aid and CPR at your own pace from the comfort of your home.

The most important thing to remember is that CPR and first aid are perishable skills. This means that you need to frequently brush up on your skills, stay current on new techniques, and regularly check the status of all canine first aid kits to remain prepared to save your dog’s life. 

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