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How to Know and When to Give Your Pet CPR

Published on: December 4, 2019  |  Author: Starwood Animal Transport

How to Know and When to Give Your Pet CPR.

It’s a pet parent’s worst nightmare. Your beloved companion collapses. He’s not breathing. You can’t find a pulse. Do you know what to do to save his life?

Do you even know how to check your pet’s pulse? Heaven forbid that anything catastrophic should happen to your precious pup or kitty while you’re out playing or just hanging around home. But the unthinkable can strike out of the blue. You may have an emergency kit and safe medications available for your pet, but it may not always be enough. And there may be no veterinarian available – at least not fast enough to save your pet in this emergency.

Knowing how to perform CPR could be his only hope.

Because CPR works, pet owners are learning how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on their dog or cat. They are also learning when to give their pet CPR – and when it should not be used.

CPR saves pet lives, just as it saves humans

Katy Perry had a scare with her dog Nugget. The singer’s little pooch tried to jump onto the bed but fell and blacked out. Fortunately Katy’s assistant Tamra was nearby and rushed in to perform CPR, saving Nugget’s life.

It’s important to understand, however, that CPR isn’t a cure-all. It may be necessary as an emergency life-saving procedure, but it is hard on your pet’s already-weakened body. That means it can cause further damage. Performing CPR on a pet that does not need it can also cause physical injury or even death.

The biggest difference between CPR for people and CPR for pets is that you will not be giving Fido or Fluffy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But there’s still plenty of personal contact involved. Instead of breathing into his mouth to fill his lungs with air, you will breathe into your pet’s nose. Yep, his nose. (If you have a larger dog, consider how much easier this will be!)

First, check vital signs

  • Is your pet breathing? Look for visible rising and falling of his chest. Check his gums -- white, gray or bluish color indicates poor circulation or lack of oxygen. 
  • Does he have a pulse? Check the femoral artery to find out. You can feel it on the inside of his hind leg, toward the top. You can also feel for a heartbeat on your pet’s chest, behind the elbow on his left front leg.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is designed to restart both the heart and the lungs. Do not use this procedure unless your pet meets both criteria: NOT breathing and NO pulse.

How to administer CPR to your pet

The cardio part:

If your pet is a cat or is a small dog or puppy that weighs less than 30 pounds (14kg, you will want to use a lot less force than for a larger dog. For the tiniest of pooches, think finger massage.

  1. Lay your pet on his right side on a flat surface.
  2. Lay one of your hands over the other and lock your fingers, then use the palm of your hand to compress the pet’s chest over his heart.
  3. If you’re old enough, you may recall how sick you were of hearing the Bee Gees’ song, Stayin’ Alive. Now you’ll be glad the tune is forever stuck in your mind, because it turns out to be aptly named. Humming this song provides perfect timing for your compressions. If you are giving CPR to your cat, tune out the Bee Gees and compress approximately 15 times every 10 seconds. 

The pulmonary part:

After every 5 chest compressions (or 8 seconds), give your pet one breath. Gently hold his muzzle closed with your hands, then breathe into his nose to inflate his lungs. (Smaller pet, smaller breath.) For cats, give one breath every 10 compressions. If there is a second human at hand, one of you can do compressions while the other does the snout breathing.

Sadly, however, just as with humans, CPR does not always work. If your pet has not responded after 10 minutes, there is no point in continuing.

See how it works

While reading these how-to instructions is certainly helpful, it’s a lot easier to get the picture when you can see a live demonstration. This video from Pro Pet Training explains and shows clearly exactly how to check for pulse and breathing and how to perform CPR on larger dogs as well as small dogs and cats.

It’s hard to imagine a pet parent’s nightmare that could be worse than the sudden incapacitation of your dog or cat. CPR may be the best course of action to save your pet. If you’re prepared to accurately check your pet’s vital signs, know if CPR is the right thing to do, and then administer it properly, your pet stands a much greater chance of living. It’s that simple.

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