The American Red Cross conducts local pet CPR classes for dog and cat owners, pet caretakers, and anyone who is interested in saving the lives of animals.  I participated in this training and I would highly encourage any animal lover to do is time well spent!

Their formula makes the technique simple to remember in the event of an emergency:

  • A is for Airway
  • B is for Breathing
  • C is for Circulation and Chest Compressions

Dr. Becker’s Comments:

The need to resuscitate your beloved pet in an emergency isn’t something most pet owners want to think about.

But it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to saving the life of your dog or cat.

The American Red Cross’s ABC’s of Pet CPRdog CPR Nose

A = Airway

If you find your pet unconscious and you don’t know the cause, it’s very likely he has choked on food, a toy, or a foreign object.

Open his mouth and check for a visible obstruction. Try to remove it, but take care not to put your fingers in the mouth of a conscious, panicked dog that might bite you. Instead, try to use a tool to remove the object – pliers or perhaps tweezers.

If you can’t see an obstruction or can’t get to it, use abdominal thrusts or back blows to try to dislodge it.

Place a hand on each side of the animal’s rib cage and apply quick, firm pressure in three to four bursts.

You can also place your pet on his side and strike the side of the ribcage firmly with the palm of your hand three to four times. Repeat these three to four count bursts until hopefully, the object is dislodged.

B = Breathing

If your pet isn’t choking but also isn’t getting air into her lungs, you’ll need to breathe for her.

If the animal is a cat or a small dog with a muzzle (nose and mouth) small enough to fit entirely in your mouth, put your mouth over your pet’s muzzle. Exhale and watch for the chest to rise.

If your dog’s muzzle won’t fit in your mouth, hold her mouth closed, put your mouth over her nose and exhale into her nostrils, again watching for the chest to rise as you breathe air into her lungs.

C = Circulation followed by chest compressions if necessaryDog chest compressions

If your pet is unconscious or unresponsive, check for a heartbeat where the elbow of the left front leg contacts the chest. You should only perform chest compressions in the absence of a heartbeat.

If you can’t detect a heartbeat, lay your pet on his right side. For an animal 30 pounds or smaller, place a hand on each side of the ribs where the elbows contact the chest. Squeeze or press gently several times in rapid succession.

For a dog over 30 pounds, you’ll need to cup your hands and place them over the widest area of the chest. Perform rapid chest compressions of one to three inches, depending on the size of the dog.

For an animal under 90 pounds, you’ll need to give one breath as described under B, above, for every five chest compressions so the animal is getting 30 breaths per minute.

For a giant dog 90 pounds or heavier, you’ll need to do one breath for every 10 chest compressions, which will give him 20 breaths per minute.

This is a lot of fast work in a short amount of time. If there’s another person available to help, one of you should do the compressions while the other does the breathing.

Preparation is Priceless

If you want to be prepared for any emergency with your pet, I recommend attendance at a local American Red Cross pet CPR class so you can receive hands-on training using a mannequin.

When you get home to your own pet, you can get familiar with finding her heartbeat and practice placing your hands in the proper position for chest compressions. You don’t want to practice breathing or actual compressions on a healthy animal, however.

You can find other resources on the Red Cross website as well, including dog and cat first aid handbooks.

You can also view an instructional pet CPR video here.


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