Pet CPR

Sometimes accidents happen when you have a pet at your home—and sometimes your pet simply stops breathing. If you find your dog or cat unconscious on your living room floor or in your backyard, stay calm. Then, take these steps to help revive them by performing CPR. If you have another person with you, let them call the veterinarian immediately.

In June 2012, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University published the first set of evidence-based guidelines for CPR on cats and dogs in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Below is an outline of the recommended procedure. Access the complete guidelines here.

If you’re interested in becoming First Aid, CPR and AED Certified, visit RedCross.org to find a certification center in your area. (Yes, the Red Cross offers Pet First Aid courses.)

General Guidelines

  • In dogs and cats, chest compressions should be performed while the animal is laying on its side.
  • The proper rate for chest compressions in dogs and cats is 100-120 compressions per minute. (The Mayo Clinic recommends 100 chest compressions per minute in humans.) (Some people recommend singing Bee Gees disco hit Stayin’ Alive because studies show it aids medical students in performing chest compressions.)
  • While performing chest compressions, push down on a cat or dog at a depth of 1/3 to 1/2 inches. (The Mayo Clinic recommends a depth of at least 2 inches in humans.)
  • Do not lean on the chest and allow it to expand briefly between compressions, just like you would for a human.
  • Perform CPR in 2 minute cycles without interruption.
  • If one person is performing CPR, a C:V ratio of 30:2 is recommended. 30 compressions for every 2 breaths.
  • Use the mouth-to-snout breathing technique—hold the pet’s mouth closed with one hand, create a seal over its nostrils with your mouth and blow into both nostrils until the pet’s chest rises normally. Remember 2 breaths for every 30 compressions.
  • Rotate CPR performers every 2 minutes to reduce fatigue among resuscitators.
  • If one person is performing CPR, they should rotate positions every cycle to reduce their fatigue and injury to the pet.
  • To perform CPR effectively, it’s always best to be trained by a professional and become CPR certified.

Guidelines for Dogs

  • In large breeds of dogs, perform chest compressions with the hands placed over the widest part of the chest.
  • In breeds with a keel-chest (like Greyhounds), perform chest compressions with the hands directly over the heart, close to the armpit.
  • In breeds with a barrel-chest (like English Bulldogs), perform chest compressions with the dog laid on its back and hands directly over the sternum, like a person.
  • In small breeds of dogs, perform chest compressions with one hand wrapped around the sternum, encircling the heart or two-handed on the ribs.

Guidelines for Cats

  • In cats, perform chest compressions with one hand wrapped around the sternum, encircling the heart or two-handed on the ribs.