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How to Give Your Pet CPR

Published on: December 4, 2019  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Yellow labrador retriever

It’s every pet parent’s worst nightmare – the moment when your beloved companion collapses and stops breathing. The panic sets in as you frantically search for a pulse, desperately trying to save their life. But do you know what to do in this terrifying situation?

Have you ever even checked your pet’s pulse before? We hope that nothing catastrophic ever happens to your precious dog or cat, but unfortunately, emergencies can strike without warning. While you may have an emergency kit and safe medications on hand, sometimes it simply isn't enough. And in some cases, there may not be a veterinarian available in time to save your pet's life.

This is where knowing how to perform CPR can make all the difference.

CPR saves pet lives, just as it saves humans

CPR has proven to be a life-saving procedure, not just for humans but also for our furry friends. Pet owners are now learning the essential skill of performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on their dogs and cats. They are also learning when it is appropriate to administer CPR and when it should not be used.

One such pet parent who experienced the importance of CPR firsthand is Katy Perry. Her dog Nugget had a terrifying incident when he tried to jump onto the bed but instead collapsed and lost consciousness. Luckily, Katy's quick-thinking assistant Tamra performed CPR, ultimately saving Nugget's life.

However, it's crucial to understand that CPR is not a cure-all solution. While it can be a necessary emergency procedure, it can also place additional strain on your pet's already weakened body, potentially causing further harm. Administering CPR to a pet who doesn't actually need it can also lead to physical injuries or even death.

The main difference between CPR for humans and pets is that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is not required for our furry companions. Instead, you will need to breathe into your pet's nose to provide the necessary air for their lungs. It may sound unusual, but it's an essential part of the process. (And if you have a larger dog, you'll appreciate how much easier this can be!)

How to administer CPR to your cat or dog

Before starting CPR, it's crucial to check your pet's vital signs. Is your pet breathing? Look for visible movements of their chest as a sign of breathing. Check their gums – a white, gray, or bluish color indicates poor circulation or lack of oxygen. And most importantly, check for a pulse. You can feel the femoral artery on the inside of their hind leg, near the top. Alternatively, you can try to detect a heartbeat on your pet's chest, just behind the elbow on their left front leg.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is designed to restart both the heart and the lungs. Only perform this procedure if your pet is not breathing and does not have a pulse.

Now, let's dive into the steps of administering CPR to your pet.

If your pet is a cat or a small dog weighing less than 30 pounds (14kg), you will need to use less force compared to a larger dog. For the tiniest of pooches, think of it as a gentle finger massage.

  1. Place your pet on their right side on a flat surface.
  2. Stack one hand over the other and lock your fingers, using the palm of your hand to compress their chest over their heart.
  3. Remember the Bee Gees' song, "Stayin' Alive"? As much as you may have grown tired of it, it turns out that the tune is perfectly suited for performing CPR. Humming this song can help you maintain the ideal rhythm for chest compressions. If you're performing CPR on a cat, ignore the Bee Gees and aim for approximately 15 compressions every 10 seconds.
  4. After every 5 chest compressions (or 8 seconds), give your pet one breath. Gently hold their muzzle closed with your hands and breathe into their nose to inflate their lungs. Remember, for smaller pets, you'll need to provide a smaller breath. If there's another person present, one of you can focus on chest compressions while the other handles the snout breathing.

Unfortunately, just like with humans, CPR doesn't always work. If your pet hasn't responded after 10 minutes, it's unlikely that further attempts will be successful.

While reading these instructions can be helpful, watching a live demonstration can make all the difference. Check out this video from Good Morning America for a clear visual guide on checking for pulse and breathing and administering CPR to both larger dogs and smaller cats and dogs.

It's difficult to imagine a more terrifying scenario for a pet parent than the sudden collapse of their beloved companion. In these moments, knowing how to perform CPR can be the difference between life and death for your pet. By being prepared to accurately assess vital signs, determining if CPR is necessary, and administering it correctly, you significantly increase your pet's chances of survival. It's that simple.

Starwood Animal Transport has rebranded to Starwood Pet Travel. We are still the same great company with the best team, just now with a slightly different name.