CPR FOR YOUR PET – You May Save a Life!

We never want to imagine a scenario where a pet needs cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but if you find your pet non-responsive without a pulse, knowing how to jump in and help can make the critical difference.

The goal of CPR is to provide blood flow and oxygen to the brain and major organs in the event of cardiac and/or respiratory arrest.

CPR is meant to support life until medical treatment can be attained. The breaths you give your pet force air into the lungs and oxygenate the blood, and the chest compressions you give pump that blood through the body. It’s National Pet First Aid Month and here are the easy to follow steps for you to know.


Before you attempt CPR, make sure your pet is really unconscious and not breathing. Geriatric pets can sleep very soundly. You could risk serious injury to yourself by trying to perform CPR on a sleeping animal. However, if your pet is unconscious, not breathing, and without a heartbeat, you must remain calm, but act swiftly. If another person is with you, instruct them rapidly on how to assist because CPR is easier with two people, although still manageable alone.


Open your pet’s airway by opening the mouth and pulling the tongue out so that you can see the back of the mouth. Remove any vomit or foreign material by using your curved finger to sweep out anything there. Close your pet’s mouth and cover her nose with your mouth to blow air into her lungs. Be sure to hold her lips closed at the corners of her mouth to prevent air from escaping. As you breathe, watch her chest to make sure it rises when you exhale. If it doesn’t check the back of her mouth to make sure there is no obstruction. Give five full breaths, then check to see if your pet is breathing on her own. If not, continue rescue breathing about 20 breaths per minute for small pets, and 15-20 for large pets.


If no heartbeat. For small dogs and cats, squeeze both sides of the chest firmly with one or two hands. Your goal is to give 125 compressions per minute. It’s helpful to sing the Bee Gees’ song “Staying Alive” (ironically) in your mind to keep the correct tempo going.

For medium and large dogs, lay them on their side ON A FIRM SURFACE (not a couch or bed) and use the palm of one or both hands on one side of chest to compress the chest firmly at the same rate as above. It’s helpful to have the dog’s back against a solid object to provide resistance to him sliding away from you.

Ideally chest compressions and rescue breathing can occur simultaneously, but if you’re by yourself, this is an impossible feat. Instead you will want to give two breaths for every twelve compressions.

It’s can be difficult for one person to sustain CPR for more than twenty minutes, and in my opinion, if your pet hasn’t revived by then the chances for success are very small. In reality, the long term prognosis for pets who have had cardiopulmonary arrest are not good, but the chance of survival is 0% if we don’t try CPR, so having the knowledge and tools to at least attempt CPR can give your pet some hope.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

Joinn Our Mailing List!