Needing to perform life-saving measures on your dog is probably not something you’ve ever considered as a possibility. Unfortunately, sometimes the need does arise where your dog could need CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Knowing basic life support skills aka pet CPR is an important skill to have as a dog owner, among many other important pet first aid skills.
Dog CPR: What is it?
Dog or puppy CPR is a lifesaving skill that any dog owner would benefit from knowing how to perform. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a skill that’s used when your dog’s airway is compromised or their heart stops beating suddenly for some reason. A similar technique is used on humans, but there are a few differences between the two actions, as you will find out below.
CPR involves a combination of rescue breaths and chest compressions that are needed if your dog stops breathing, or their heart suddenly stops. Without these life-saving measures, your dog's organs could be damaged or begin failing without oxygen or proper blood circulation. If your dog stops breathing or their heart isn’t beating, their body isn’t getting the necessary oxygen and circulation. This is why rescue breaths are needed for oxygenation. Chest compressions help the oxygenated blood get around their body.
Steps in Performing Pet CPR
There are several key steps that need to be taken before and during performing CPR. If your dog requires these life-saving measures at home, it’s very unlikely that you will have medical equipment on hand that an emergency medical personnel might use in such a situation. Even still, you are not completely helpless if your dog requires life-saving measures at home. The steps below will outline best practices for handling dog CPR.
Check for Breathing or Airway Obstructions
The first and most important thing you would learn in a first aid class is the medical ABCs - Airway, Breathing, Circulation. The first thing you should do is check for any signs of breathing. If you find that your dog is not breathing, quickly check the inside of their mouth and see if you can immediately spot anything that’s blocking their airway and quickly remove it.
You’ve covered Airway and Breathing, now to address their circulatory system. The best place to check a pulse on a dog is just above their hip, where their leg attaches to their body. Here, you will find the pulse of their femoral artery. Or no pulse if they are experiencing a medical emergency.
Performing Rescue Breaths
Unlike the way rescue breaths are performed on a human, you want to place your mouth over the nose and mouth of your dog. Although, if you’re working with a larger dog, you should at least cover their nose with your mouth and hold their mouth shut so that the air doesn't escape. Aim to give your dog 20 to 30 breaths per minute.
Chest compressions are one of the most important steps in dog CPR. High-quality compressions will keep the blood circulating through your dog's body while you wait for veterinary medical professionals to intervene.
Unlike with a human, chest compressions on a dog should be performed on the left side of their chest over their heart. If you aren’t sure where their heart is located under their rib cage, take their left arm and bend it upwards towards their head. Where their elbow lies when their arm is bent as high as it will go, should be just above their heart. Although, sometimes with a larger breed, compressions may be performed on their abdomen rather than the chest.
The compression rate that you should be aiming for is 100 to 120 compressions per minute. You will want to have your compressions going in at least ⅓ of their chest’s depth. For every 30 compressions, you should perform 2 rescue breaths.
Recheck for Breathing or a Heartbeat
After performing a few rounds of compressions and breaths, you need to check to see if your dog’s pulse has returned. Checking for breaths is equally as important. If their breath and pulse have returned you will want an emergency veterinarian to take over the care of your dog at this point.
Reasons Why Your Dog May Need CPR
There are a number of emergent health conditions that can arise suddenly with your dog that require CPR and other lifesaving actions. For instance, maybe they are choking on food or a foreign object that has obstructed their airway and you cannot see it to retrieve it. Dogs can also experience sudden cardiac arrest, which would certainly call for CPR immediately.
Knowing how to perform CPR and other life-saving measures on humans and dogs are important skills to have as a dog owner or even as a member of society. Learning how to perform high-quality dog CPR may one day be the thing that saves your canine companion's life.