Canine CPR

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a method that is used to breath life back into a person who is not breathing on their own. While most of us think of using CPR to revive the beloved people in our lives, this process can also be used effectively with our pets, including our canine companions. CPR should only be used when there is no evidence of breathing in an unconscious dog, and can treat heart stoppage caused by drowning, electrical shock, choking and more.

CPR, in both people and dogs, involves three overall actions, called the ABC’s of CPR. These are airway, breathing, and cardiac compression. Airway refers to ensuring that any blockage or obstruction (whole food, toy, etc.) is removed from the airway. Breathing is about checking for breathing, then breathing for the patient if no breathing is detected. Finally, cardiac compression involves checking for a heartbeat, then compressing the chest to stimulate heartbeat, if no heartbeat was detected.

Performing CPR in a dog can be challenging, but when effective, it is very rewarding. To perform canine CPR, follow these steps:

1) Lay the canine down gently on a flat, stable surface. Extend the head straight back, to stretch out the airway, creating a channel for air to flow to the lungs.
If you know that the dog has stopped breathing due to electrocution, drowning, or something other than choking, proceed straight to step 4.

2) Gently open the dogs jaws, and look for any object that may have become lodged in the throat. If you see an obstruction, remove it by sweeping your finger behind the obstruction and pulling it out, taking great care not to push it further in. With small dogs, you can hold the dog upside down, in an effort to dislodge the object, shaking them vigorously. You can also use tweezers or needle nosed pliers to grasp the object, and pull it out.

3) Once the airway is clear, check for breathing. If you cannot see the chest rise, or cannot detect air escaping the mouth or nose, then you will need to begin breathing for the dog.
4) Breath for the dog, by closing the mouth and cupping your hands around the entire muzzle, so that only the nostrils are clear. Then, blow air into the nostrils; blow 5 to 6 quick breaths into the dogs nose. Continue breathing in this way with one breath every 3 seconds – about 20 breaths per minute. For smaller dogs or puppies, use short and shallow breaths. For larger dogs, use longer, deeper breaths.

5) After the first 20 breaths, pause and check for a heartbeat. You can detect a heartbeat just above the knee, on the inside of the thigh. In dogs with very short hair, you can sometimes see this femoral artery beating. If you do not feel a pulse in the thigh, place your hand on the middle of the chest, feeling carefully for the heartbeat. If the heartbeat is still not detected, then continue breathing while adding cardiac message.

6) If another person is available, have them continue to apply breaths, through the nose, about 1 every 3 seconds, while you begin cardiac message. If there is no one else available, then alternate 10 breaths with 10 heart compressions, per the next step.

7) Begin cardiac message (also called compressions) by placing both hands, palm down, between the third and sixth ribs. For very small dogs or puppies, use only one hand, even just your thumb. For larger dogs, use both hands, one on top of the other.
Using the heal of your hand, push down quickly, then release, then push down and release, for a total of 10 quick compressions. After 10 compressions, check to see if the dog is consciousness. If the dog is still unconscious and not breathing, repeat the compressions, at a pace of 10 cycles per minute, or 1 compression for each 2 breaths.

8) Continue this cycle until the dog is conscious, or at least breathing. Once the pet is breathing on their own, take them to a veterinarian immediately.