Every one of us has a human obligation to learn CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Few of us give much, if any, thought to how we would resuscitate our pet if necessary – but sadly there are times it is all that stands between saving our pet and losing him.
Resuscitation simply means artificially breathing for and/or performing cardiac massage for another. In a pet, you may need to do this if there is no heartbeat or no breathing.
If any pet stops breathing for between three and five minutes, brain damage is likely to occur, and survival is unlikely.
If you discover your dog (or cat) is not breathing, perform artificial respiration in the following way:
1. Lay your pet on its right side on a firm surface
2. Ensure there is nothing obstructing the mouth or throat
3. Pull the tongue out of the mouth as far as possible, then gently hold the mouth closed without harming the tongue
4. Cup your hands around the pet’s nose
5. For small dogs, cats, and other small animals, cover the nose and mouth with your own and gently blow into the nostrils until the chest rises.
6. For larger dogs, hold the mouth closed to reduce air lost that way, and cover their nose with your own mouth. Gently blow into the nostrils until the chest rises.
7. Modify the strength and volume of the breaths you provide so that the chest rises but is not overblown.
8. Blow once each three to five seconds for a minute, then check whether breathing has restarted and that there is still a heartbeat.
9. Continue a breath each six seconds, regularly checking – and transport the pet to the vet immediately.
10. Ideally, continue breathing for your pet while in transit if another driver is available.
If your pet has no heartbeat, you will need to provide CPR.
1. Follow steps 1-2 as above
2. The heart is located in the lower half of the left side of the chest, just behind the elbow of the dog or cat’s front left leg. Place one hand underneath the pet’s chest for support and place the other hand over the heart.
3. For dogs, press down gently on your pet’s heart to a depth of about two and a half centimetres for medium-sized dogs; press harder for larger dogs and more lightly for smaller dogs.
4. Press down between 80-120 times per minute for larger dogs and 100-150 times per minute for smaller ones (the smaller the animal, the faster their heartbeat).
5. Don’t perform artificial respiration and chest compressions at the same exact time; alternate the chest compressions with the rescue breaths (compressions are more important; without a heartbeat the breaths will do little good), or work with another person so one person performs chest compressions for 4-5 seconds and stops long enough to allow the other person to give one rescue breath.
6. Continue CPR until you arrive at the vet or animal emergency hospital and the staff can take over.
To perform cardiac massage on and other small pets, cradle your hand around the chest so your thumb is on the left side of the chest and your fingers are on the right side of the chest, and compress the chest by squeezing it gently between your thumb and fingers.
The likelihood of a pet surviving with CPR is very low, though it does happen. In an emergency it may be your pet’s only chance of survival – and as such it is always worth the attempt. Staff at any good dog day care will be trained in pet first aid, including CPR.