- If your pet has a cardiac arrest, you can help save his or her life by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- By distributing much-needed oxygen and blood throughout a pet’s body, CPR can help do the work that the lungs and heart have stopped doing.
- If you think that your pet’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, if possible, have someone call your veterinarian while you perform CPR.
Cardiac arrest means that the heart is not beating and breathing has stopped, resulting in a lack of oxygen and blood throughout the body. If your pet has a cardiac arrest, you may be able to help save his or her life by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is sometimes called cardiopulmonary–cerebral resuscitation (CPCR), until help arrives or you can get your pet to your veterinarian. By distributing much-needed oxygen and blood throughout a pet’s body, CPR can help do the work that the lungs and heart have stopped doing.
If you think that your pet’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, it is important to stay calm. If someone is with you, have him or her call your veterinarian while you do the following:
Step 1: Check for Responsiveness
First, check your pet’s breathing by placing your hand in front of his or her nose and mouth, but do not cover them and block the airway. Check for a heartbeat by placing your ear against the area where your pet’s left elbow touches the chest.
Step 2: Clear the Airway
If you don’t see or feel your pet breathing, immediately ensure that the airway is clear. Pull the tongue forward out of the mouth, but be careful: even an unresponsive animal can bite. Look into the throat for a foreign object or obstruction. If you find one, remove it carefully. Move your pet’s chin away from the chest until the neck is straight, but don’t move the neck if you suspect it is injured.
Step 3: Artificial Respiration
Place your pet on his or her right side, straighten the head and neck, close the mouth, and breathe directly into the nose, but not the mouth, until the chest expands. If the chest doesn’t expand, check again for a foreign object in the throat and straighten the airway. When you get the chest to expand, perform artificial respirationby holding the jaws closed and blowing into the nostrils once every 3 seconds. Ensure that no air escapes between your mouth and your pet’s nose.
For cats and small dogs, be sure to take very small breaths so the chest moves only a little bit. You can injure small lungs by forcing too much air (under pressure) into them.
Step 4: Chest Compressions
Do not begin chest compressions until you’ve cleared the airway, started artificial respiration, and then confirmed that there is no heartbeat. Your pet’s heart is located in the lower half of the chest on the left side, behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand under your pet, below the heart, to support the chest; place the palm of the other hand over the heart. Press down gently on your pet’s heart. Press down about 1 inch for medium-sized dogs; press harder for larger dogs and with less force for smaller dogs. For cats and tiny pets, compress the chest with the thumb and forefingers of one hand. Perform three quick, firm chest compressions between every breath while continuing artificial respiration until you can hear a heartbeat and feel regular breathing. Then call your veterinarian immediately if someone else hasn’t.
Determining Your Pet’s Heart Rate or Pulse
Your pet’s heartbeat can be felt around the area where the left elbow touches the chest (between the third and fourth ribs). Place your hand or a stethoscope over this area and count the heartbeats. You can determine your pet’s heart rate per minute by counting the number of beats in 6 seconds and then multiplying the number by 10.
Your pet’s pulse can be felt by lightly touching (1) the inner thigh about half way from the hip to the knee, (2) the artery just above an outer ankle on a rear limb, or (3) the artery just below an inner wrist and above a large footpad on a front limb.
Normal Heart or Pulse Rates
Puppies (up to 1 year of age): 60–220 beats per minute
Small-breed dogs (less than 30 lb): 100–220 beats per minute
Medium- and large-breed dogs (30 lb or more): 60–180 beats per minute
Cats: 140–220 beats per minute
Normal Breathing Rates
Dogs: 10–30 breaths per minute, and up to 200 pants per minute
Cats: 24–42 breaths per minute; in cats, panting can be a sign of serious illness and requires immediate veterinary attention