They are often considered our best friends, but sometimes we aren't prepared to treat them in case of an accident or emergency. Today's lesson, on performing CPR on a dog or cat, will be the first article in our pet safety series.
Although you should take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible, you may need to determine if your pet needs CPR, and perform CPR on it, until you can get help from your vet. Before the worst happens, find out if there is a vet near you that operates 24/7, or ask your vet if they recommend anyone who provides emergency services. You may also want to consider crafting a pet emergency kit or buying an affordable first aid kit made for pets. (In the future, we will go over how to prepare one for yourself!)
Performing CPR on a Dog or Cat
Performing CPR on a pet is similar to performing CPR on a person. Note that instructions may vary from source to source, but the general concept will be the same.
- Check if the animal is breathing. Usually, you can determine this by movement of its chest as it inhales and exhales. Also check for a pulse by place two fingers on the inner thigh, right where the leg meets the body.
- If the animal is not breathing, check inside its mouth for any obstructions. If you can't see anything, gently move your finger around the inside to feel for any foreign objects. Note that cats have tiny bones near the back of their mouth—this is part of their larynx, do not try to remove them.
- If there is nothing in the airway, lay the animal on its side in preparation for performing CPR.
- If the animal is not breathing, perform two rescue breaths by holding their head out so their neck is straight, holding their mouth closed, and blowing directly into their nostrils. If you cannot feel your breath going in, you may need to straighten the neck out more or check again for an obstruction in the airway.
- If your animal has a pulse, but is still not breathing, continue performing rescue breaths at a rate of 10 breaths per minute. Do not stop until your pet starts breathing on its own or you reach help.
- If the animal does not have a pulse, perform chest compressions.
- For large dogs, face the belly of the dog and place one hand so that the "heel" of the palm is against the rib cage, then place your other hand on top. Perform 5 compressions, pushing the chest inwards to about 1/4 to 1/3 normal depth, at a rate of 80 per minute.
- For small dogs, face the belly of the dog and place one hand so that the "heel" of the palm is against the rib cage. Perform 5 compressions, pushing the chest inwards to about 1/4 to 1/3 normal depth, at a rate of 100 per minute.
- For cats, face the back of the animal as it is lying down and rest one hand on its chest so that your "heel" of the palm is against the rib cage and your fingers are along the belly. If your hand spans wide enough, you can perform the compressions by squeezing them lightly. If not, then you will use the palm of your hand to push. Perform 30 compressions, pushing the chest inwards to about 1/3 to 1/2 normal depth, at a rate of about 100 per minute.
- To keep a good pace for compressions, most people use the beat of the song "Stayin' Alive."
- If the animal is still not breathing on its own, perform another rescue breath followed by another 5 (dog) or 10 (cat) compressions. Do not stop until your pet starts breathing on its own or you reach help.
You can also view this helpful video to see various techniques for performing CPR on your pet.