You toss your dog's favorite toy to him...
he's distracted and having a good time, so you leave the room...
When you get back, you find your dog unresponsive on the floor.
Your canine companion is choking!
What do you do?
Are you prepared to perform CPR?
It's not a scenario any dog owner wants to imagine.
However, it's more common than people think.
So, what can you do to keep your dog safe?
Learn dog CPR!
In this post, you’re going to learn:
- What dog CPR is
- How to determine if your dog needs CPR
- How to perform canine CPR
Read on to learn some potentially life-saving tips!
What Exactly is CPR?
First things first, let's talk about what CPR is.
There's a good chance that you're vaguely familiar with the technique. It's taught in many schools around the world. You may even be certified to perform CPR on humans!
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. What it entails is all in the name.
Here's how it works:
The "cardio" portion involves stimulating the heart through compressions. The goal is to simulate natural heartbeats. Chest compressions keep the blood flowing, which may encourage essential organs to continue functioning.
The "pulmonary" part of CPR comes in the form of rescue breathes. Breathing into your pup's mouth can deliver critical oxygen to the lungs and brain. It can preserve brain function and prevent the onslaught of organ failure that occurs after oxygen flow stops.
CPR is an emergency procedure that has the potential to save a dog's life.
Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to efficiency.
Knowing how and when to perform CPR can buy you time until your pooch can get proper veterinary care.
Evaluating Whether Your Dog Needs CPR
I get it:
The thought of having to perform CPR on your precious pup is something that will make any dedicated dog owner shudder.
But it's better to prepare for the worst-case scenario than to go into panic mode!
Puppy CPR is all about acting fast and jumping into action when your furry friend is in need. But, you need to make sure your dog needs CPR first.
Performing CPR on a pet that doesn't need it can cause physical injury or death!
The chest compressions can put a real strain on a heart that's already pumping efficiently. Pair that with the risk of broken bones around the chest cavity, and you have a recipe for disaster if you're not careful.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to determine if CPR is the best route to take.
Check for Breathing
The first thing to do is determine if your dog is breathing.
If choking is to blame for their sudden unresponsiveness, there's a good chance that something is preventing them from breathing efficiently.
Use the back of the hand to feel for air coming out of their nose as they exhale. You can also use the side of your cheek if you're unsure. Breaths could be tiny and difficult to register, so pay close attention to the chest.
If you see the chest rise and fall, it means that your pup is breathing.
If you don't, look for any blockages.
You don't want to perform dog CPR if there's a foreign object lodged in the throat. Doing so would be a fruitless effort.
How can you deliver life-saving oxygen if your dog can't breathe at all?
Take a moment to do a quick visual inspection. Pull the tongue forward as much as possible and look for the offending item.
When you see it, gently remove the object to clear the airway. Make sure that you don't push the choking hazard further into the throat! Exercise caution and be extra gentle.
If your dog doesn't start breathing right away, you'll need to perform CPR. Because breathing is the main issue here, you'll need to begin the process with artificial respiration.
More on that later!
Find a Pulse
The next evaluation to make?
Figure out if your dog's heart is beating.
The go-to for most is to feel the heart with the hand. You can give that a try by placing a hand on the left side of the chest.
However, it may be easier to search for a pulse in other critical areas of the body.
One of the most accessible spots to find a pulse is on the femoral artery. To locate this blood vessel, run your hand along the inside of the hind leg. Just before the joint where the appendage connects to the body, you should feel a tangible dip.
You've found the area where the femoral artery is closest to the skin. If your dog's heart is beating, you should feel the rhythmic beating here.
Can't find a pulse there?
Try the metacarpal pad on one of the front legs.
It's the large, centrally located pad under the paw. Press your finger directly in the center to find a pulse.
Like before, whether or not your dog's heart is beating can change how you proceed.
If your dog experienced cardiac arrest, you need to act fast and focus on chest compressions to get the blood flowing.
How to Perform Dog CPR
So, you've discovered that your pup indeed needs CPR.
Performing CPR can be daunting. But, it's a manageable feat for anyone.
All you need is some basic knowledge.
Step 1: Call for Emergency Care
Before you do anything else, call emergency vet services. At the very least, have someone make arrangements while you focus on providing CPR.
Puppy CPR is a great emergency maneuver.
But here's the problem:
It's not the end-all-be-all for your pup's care. Whether you can revive your dog or not, it will need medical attention.
CPR may hold your dog over until caretakers get there. But, they'll only come if you remember to call!
Step 2: Clear the Airways
Remember how I said that providing CPR when something is blocking your dog's throat is useless?
I can't stress enough how important it is to clear all airways. Pull the tongue back, remove any mucus or blood, and prepare your dog for the breath of life.
Tilt the head back and straighten the neck, too. That way, there's a direct passage from the nose and mouth to the lungs.
Step 3: Position Your Dog Correctly
Do you remember which side of the body your dog's heart is on?
It's on the left side of the chest. So, you'll want to lay your dog on its right side.
Place your canine companion on a flat and stable surface. Then, position yourself behind their back.
Step 4: Place Your Hands on the Heart
At this stage, you need to prepare for chest compressions. The technique for stimulating the heart is the same across the board.
How you position your hands for dog CPR depends on a couple of factors. The size of your dog and the shape of their chest will make a difference.
For big, barrel-chested puppies, place one hand on the widest part of the sternum. You may need to roll your dog a bit to put them on their back for easier access.
With deep-chested breeds, put the heel of one hand over the widest part of the chest. Then, place your other hand directly on top.
Smaller breeds are a bit trickier to treat. You'll need to put your thumbs and forefingers around the chest just behind the front legs.
Step 5: Start Chest Compressions
To perform a successful compression, push down hard and fast. The body should sink about a quarter of the width of the chest. Push down quickly as if you were pumping a tire.
Before doing the subsequent compression, allow the chest to recoil completely.
The question is:
How fast do you pump?
The preferred rate is 100 to 120 beats per minute.
Do you remember that old Bee Gees song "Staying Alive?"
Well, the lyrics have a whole new meaning here!
Many CPR experts recommend reciting the chorus in your head to find the beat. It's right where you want to be.
You can also try other songs with a similar tempo, such as "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga or "Dancing Queen" by ABBA.
Whatever song you choose, use it to perform 30 chest compressions before moving onto the "pulmonary" part of puppy CPR.
Step 6: Provide Artificial Respiration
Grab your dog's muzzle with your hand. Form a barrel shape with your fist to seal your dog's lips and ensure that the mouth is closed.
Now, place your mouth over your pup's nostrils and blow gently. You want to make sure that your dog is getting a full breath of life.
How can you tell?
Pay attention to the chest! It should lift and expand. If it doesn't, try again and blow harder.
You should provide two rescue breaths for every 30 compressions you do.
Step 7: Alternate Between Compressions and Breaths
Here's the hard part.
It's not easy waiting for your dog to spring back to life.
CPR requires you to repeat the compression and breath cycle until your dog responds.
Be vigilant and don't fall off course!
Alternate between 30 compressions and two breathes. The only time you can pause is to monitor your pup's condition.
This leads us to the next step...
Step 8: Check for Breathing and a Pulse
Look for signs of life every two minutes.
Check those pulse points, feel for exhaling breaths, and watch the chest. If you don't see any improvement, go back to the compression and breathing cycle.
Continue this process until your dog recovers or emergency help arrives.
Giving CPR to Newborns and Young Puppies
Young puppies can, unfortunately, suffer from breathing difficulties and cardiac arrest, too.
But here's the issue:
Their bodies are too small and delicate to perform robust chest compressions.
You can follow the same steps as bigger pups. But, you'll need to use a gentler hand.
Instead of doing full-on chest pumps, wrap one hand around the chest just below the front legs. Squeeze your thumb and forefingers together to perform rapid and gentle compressions.
When performing CPR, try to hold the puppy's rear higher than the head.
You see, clearing the airways is more challenging with a puppy that's only a few days or weeks old. Tilting the head down will let gravity do the heavy lifting.
Over to You
Hopefully, you'll never be in a situation where you have to employ CPR to save your dog.
But in the off chance that you do...
Remember this post! Drill those step-by-step instructions into your head.
While we don't recommend trying CPR on your healthy dog, you can get a feel for the process.
Try putting your dog in the correct position. You can also practice feeling for breath, figuring out where to put your hands, and finding a pulse.
That bit of practice can come in handy and extend your dog's life.
Have any questions about dog CPR? Leave us a comment below!