If your pet collapses, do you know what to do?
Have you been touched by the stories of First Responders saving pets’ lives, like this one in Georgia? Douglas County firefighters reunite with dog they saved from house fire?
Did you know that you can modify the CPR techniques you learned for humans to save your animal companion’s life?
While Golden State CPR’s courses focus on human lifesaving, several of us have beloved pets. They enrich our lives in many ways. In this article, we share some tips that have helped us and can help you be prepared to save a pet’s life.
Signs Your Pet Needs Help
How do you know if you need to perform pet CPR? If you see any of these symptoms, your pet needs help immediately:
- Rapid, irregular pulse.
- No or low heartbeat rate.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Difficulty breathing, gulping for air, or breathing has stopped.
What Do I Do?
First, calmly assess the situation. Are there any dangers in the area for your pet or you? Does your pet have any major bleeding that needs to be controlled? If possible, enlist the help of a second person.
Just as you learned for human first aid, remember the ABC’s:
- A = Airway: If the airway is obstructed, the lungs cannot get oxygen. Sweep the mouth and throat with your finger to dislodge anything that is blocking the airway. Be careful; if your pet is conscious, they might bite down.
- B = Breathing: Perform rescue breathing if your pet is not breathing or you do not feel a pulse. Be aware that injured animals may be frightened and bite you out of fear. See below for how to perform rescue breathing.
- C = Cardiac function: Check for a heartbeat or pulse. You may be able to detect a heartbeat by feeling the chest behind the left front leg. You may be able to feel a femoral pulse in the groin region inside the leg. If you do not detect a heartbeat, or if the pulse seems slow and weak, begin CPR. Elevate the lower body to help blood flow to the brain. See below for how to perform chest compressions.
How to Perform Rescue Breathing on Pets
If your pet is unresponsive, follow these steps to perform mouth-to-nose rescue breathing:
- Extend the head and neck, carefully pulling the tongue out. If the tongue is slippery, use a piece of gauze, napkin, or paper towel to help you grasp it.
- Look inside the mouth for any obstructions. Carefully do a finger sweep to remove anything blocking the airway. Be careful not to try to pull out the epiglottis.
- Close the mouth and cover the nose with your mouth.
- Blow 2-3 breaths into the nostrils, watching for the chest to rise. If the chest doesn’t expand, try repositioning the neck. You may need to check again for an obstruction or perform a modified Heimlich maneuver on your pet.
- Give 20 breaths per minute if you are only performing rescue breathing for your pet.
Acupressure technique: If your pet fails to breathe on its own, you can try an acupressure maneuver. In the space just below the nose on the upper lip, press firmly with your fingernail or another hard, dull object. Maintain pressure for 10–30 seconds.
How to Perform Chest Compressions on Your Dog or Cat
If your pet is still unresponsive, you may need to perform chest compressions. Here are the steps:
- Place your pet on their right side.
- Bend their left front leg to see where the elbow touches the chest. This is approximately where the heart is located.
- Compress the chest by at least 30%–50% in that location.
- Small Pets (Cats, Small Dogs): Use one hand to compress the chest about 1 inch.
- Medium to Large Dogs: Using 2 hands, compress about 2”.
- If you are alone, alternate between 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths.
- If you have a helper, perform 100–1200 chest compressions per minute. Switch between
Every 2 minutes, briefly check for breathing and a heartbeat. Keep going until:
- You’re completely exhausted.
- You go to a veterinarian.
- Your pet’s heartbeat and breathing appear to have returned to normal.
Always Seek Veterinary Care
Always have your pet examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible after any traumatic event. This is true even if your pet appears to have recovered. You will want to know if your pet needs continuing medical care.
The Value of Pet CPR Training
As with human CPR, formal pet first aid training can improve your skills. Training can give you confidence to respond to an emergency. Your local Red Cross, veterinarian, or humane society may offer pet CPR and first aid training.
Recovering from an Emergency Situation
Responding to an emergency can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
- Follow up with a veterinarian, even if your pet seems okay.
- Provide a calm and comforting environment for your animal companion while they are recovering. Keep them warm and limit activity until they are fully recovered or released from veterinary care.
- Take care of your own well-being, too. Remember that if you collapse, you cannot be there for your pet.
You Can Be the Lifesaver—For Pets and Humans
Being prepared for emergencies is a gift you can give your animal companions. Mastering pet CPR and first aid isn’t just about the techniques. It’s about being able to respond when they need you most.
CPR saves lives—for pets and for humans. How long has it been since you took a CPR course?
At Golden State CPR, we believe in emergency preparedness for owners as well as pets. We’re a team of trained CPR & First Aid instructors with extensive real-life experience saving lives. Every instructor aims to provide effective training in a low-stress, highly effective environment. We use the latest technology to give our students the most comprehensive training possible. We want you to feel confident in their life-saving skills.
Register today for one of our virtual or hands-on human CPR training courses. We also offer group training at your business or our office in Concord, CA.