Would you know what to do if you found your dog unconscious?  While we would be terrified, taking fast action can improve their chance of survival. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is one potential life-saving intervention.

We all know that CPR can be performed on a human, but it can also be used on dogs and other animals when the breathing or the heart has stopped.

It consists of a combination of chest compressions and artificial respirations and can save your precious canine companion’s life. An essential skill is knowing how to perform CPR on your beloved one–whether human or pet.


Action Steps:

If your dog is unconscious, place him on his right side and place yourself with your knees touching his backbone.

First, check to see if he is breathing.  You can check by holding your hand in front of his nose and feel for air or watching his chest rise and fall.

If he isn’t breathing, you need to check to see if something is blocking the airway. Do this by opening his mouth, pulling his tongue out, sweeping the mouth and trying to remove the object.

Second, check for a pulse. This can be done putting your fingers on the inner thigh near where the hind leg joins the body. Other areas where a pulse can be felt is directly above the heart or the leg just before the large part of the paw.

Third, if your dog has a pulse but is not breathing, start artificial respiration by pointing pulling his nose out to try to get his nose in line with his spine.  Then hold his mouth and breath into his nostrils giving two quick breaths.

Watch the chest rise and fall while doing this.  Do this every 5 seconds. Be sure to check for a pulse every 30 seconds to make sure one is still present. If not, begin chest compressions.

If not sure that you feel a pulse, go ahead and start chest compressions.

Compression Technique:

If there is no pulse, start chest compressions. This is done by placing one hand on the chest at the location of the heart, then place your other hand on top interlocking your fingers.

The heart location varies depending on the chest shape.

  • For round chested dogs (Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers), place your hands on the widest and highest part of the chest. This is the most common chest shape.
  • For deep-chested dogs (German Shepherds, Dobermans, Greyhounds), a bent left elbow toward the chest will point to the heart.
  • For barrel-chested dogs (English Bulldog, Pug), lay him on his back and place your hands on the breastbone.
  • For small dogs, wrap one hand around the chest and squeeze. Use the other hand for support along the back.

Lock your elbows. You will want to put your shoulders directly over the chest to provide adequate force for compressions.

Compress the chest about one-third to one-half the width of the chest at a rate of two compressions per second. Compressions need to fast and hard. The rate is the same beat as the song “Staying Alive”, which is fast.

Do this for a count of 30, give 2 breaths, then start another round of 30 compressions to 2 breaths. Check for a pulse after 2 cycles, but not waiting longer than 10-15 seconds to do this. Resume CPR if no pulse.

If another person is available, allow them to help with CPR by rotating chest compressions and respirations with you every few minutes or having them drive to an emergency animal hospital while you do CPR in the car.

Important Points:

  • NEVER practice CPR on a healthy dog. You could seriously injure your dog.
  • Be aware that CPR can cause rib injury during compressions. This is an acceptable alternative to no action at all.
  • CPR should be stopped if your dog resumes spontaneous breathing or has a pulse OR if there has been no response after 10 minutes as the likelihood of recovery is very slim.

Dog CPR classes and access to a dog mannequin for practice is available through the Red Cross.

If you have no access to this, rehearsing this in your mind can save time and keep you calm in case you find your furry friend in need of this potentially life-saving intervention.

Watch the video below to see how it is done.

Video courtesy of YouTube by Melanie Monteiro who is a pet first aid instructor.



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