Can you perform CPR on a dog in an emergency? Hopefully, you will never find yourself in this situation. However, you may need to step in to help if you are with a dog that stops breathing and no longer has a pulse.
What Is Dog CPR?
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a technique used to reverse cardiopulmonary arrest, a condition that occurs when the heart stops beating and involuntary breathing ceases. Lack of oxygen delivery to the organs, brain, and tissues of the body will quickly lead to death. CPR is often called CPCR, or cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation, because its goal is to restore circulation and breathing so oxygen can be delivered to the brain and throughout the body.
In a clinical setting, CPR is administered by a team of veterinary staff that includes veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and assistants. Team members perform chest compressions in an attempt to restore circulation. A breathing tube is placed and connected to oxygen and a breathing bag so that team members can inflate the lungs with oxygen. An intravenous catheter is placed to administer fluids and drugs to stimulate the heart to start beating again.
If a dog is in need of CPR, a veterinary facility is the best place to be. However, there may be cases where a seemingly healthy dog suddenly experiences cardiopulmonary arrest and people on the scene need to perform CPR.
How to Perform CPR on a Dog
CPR is not a one-person job; it is best performed by a team of veterinary professionals in a clinical setting. Even under ideal circumstances, CPR is often unsuccessful due to the underlying cause of cardiopulmonary arrest. Sadly, fewer than six percent of animals that undergo CPR will recover fully.
If you are attempting CPR on a dog yourself, try to get help from other people in the area if possible. Try to find someone to help transport the dog to a veterinarian while CPR is performed en route.
Assess the Situation
Try to get your dog's attention by calling his name and touching him. If your dog is unresponsive, look for breathing watching to see if his chest rises and falls. You can also hold your hand in front of the dog's nose to feel for breath. Next, check for a pulse by placing your fingers on the center of the inner thigh near the abdomen. You can also place your hand on the dog's chest near the heart to feel for a heartbeat. If you cannot detect breathing and pulse, CPR may be needed.
Check the Airway
Open the dog's mouth and carefully pull the tongue out as far as possible to look for an object obstructing the airway. Use caution as the dog may bite. If the dog reacts, stop and rush to the nearest veterinarian for assistance. If the dog does not respond and an object is seen, use your fingers or a tool (like a pencil or stick) to sweep the object out of the way.
Position the Dog
Place the dog right side down on a flat surface like the floor. For barrel-chested dogs like Bulldogs and Pugs, the dog can be put on his back. Extend the dog's neck so the airway is in a straight line from the nose to the chest. This will promote maximum airflow to the lungs.
Kneel or stand behind the dog to perform chest compressions. If you have help, another person should be positioned at the head of the dog to give breaths.
Begin Chest Compressions
Locate the dog's heart by bending the front leg back towards the chest. The tip of the elbow lines up to the approximate location of the heart in the chest. The heart may be closer to the front of the chest in deep-chested dogs like Greyhounds.
Medium and Large Dogs: Cross your hands into an "X" with your palms down and place them over the chest beside the dog's heart. Straighten your arms, lock your elbows, and bend at the waist. Push on the chest over the heart to compress the chest one-third to one-half of the way down.
Small Dogs (about 30 pounds and under): Use your hand to cup the chest near the heart with your fingers on one side and your thumb on the other. Squeeze your hand to compress the chest one-third to one-half of the way down. Be careful not to squeeze too hard on small animals.
Repeat chest compressions at a rate of approximately 100 to 120 beats per minute.
It is exhausting to give chest compressions. If there are other people present, switch places about every two minutes. Check for pulse and breathing during the switch.
Hold your hands around the dog's muzzle to create a seal, then place your mouth over the nose and blow into the dog's airway until you see the chest rise. If you are attempting CPR on your own, perform chest compressions, then stop to give a breath approximately every 15 compressions. If you have help, one person should continue chest compressions and the other should give a breath about every five compressions.
Continue all steps until you arrive at the veterinary facility or you detect a pulse and breathing. The dog will need emergency veterinary care even if the heartbeat and breathing resume.
CPR may cause injuries like fractured ribs and bruising. Never practice CPR on a healthy dog as you may cause serious and irreversible damage.
When to Perform CPR on a Dog
CPR is necessary when a dog stops breathing and no longer has a pulse. Ideally, the dog should be rushed to the nearest open veterinary facility for CPR and additional treatments. Dogs with traumatic injuries or chronic medical conditions are unlikely to respond to CPR. Success is even less likely if CPR is done outside of a clinical setting.
Of course, time is of the essence during cardiopulmonary arrest. You may decide to attempt CPR on a healthy dog after sudden collapse due to choking, drowning, electrocution, or an unknown incident.
Signs Your Dog Needs Emergency Care
You may be able to get your dog to a veterinary facility before CPR is needed if you are able to recognize an emergency situation. Bring your dog to the nearest open veterinary facility immediately if you notice any of the following signs:
- Pale or blueish gums
- Trouble breathing
- High or low body temperature
Watch your dog closely while traveling to the veterinarian. You may need to administer first aid or CPR on the way to the veterinary clinic.