Get Your AR and CPR Skills for your Pets Down Pat

Every pet parent should know how to perform Artificial Respiration (AR) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) correctly as these emergency procedures can not only save the life of a human but that of your pet too! If possible, AR and CPR should be performed whilst on the way to your closest veterinarian.

Artificial Respiration is performed when a patient has a pulse but is not breathing. You can check for a pulse by feeling with your fingers (not your thumb) on the inside of your dogs’ hind leg where it joins the body. CPR is performed when you cannot feel a pulse and is the process of performing artificial respiration and chest compressions simultaneously.

Artificial Respiration or Rescue Breathing:

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Confirm your pet is not breathing by conducting the following set of tests:
    • feel for their breath on your hand
    • place a mirror in front of their nose to see if it mists up
    • watch if their chest rises and falls
    • check if the gums are a blue or grey colour due to oxygen starvation
  3. Open the mouth and ensure the air passage is free from any foreign objects. If not, begin with the Heimlich Manoeuvre as instructed in last weeks article Save your Pet from Choking.
  4. Continue with rescue breathing if/when the air passage is unobstructed.
  5. Whilst keeping the pet on its side, open the throat by raising the chin.
  6. Gently clasp the snout closed with one of your hands.
  7. Open your mouth over the entire snout area, gently blowing air into the nose. Only blow until you notice the chest rising. (Note that you will be required to blow softly for cats, smaller dogs, puppies and kittens but harder for larger dogs).
  8. Before attempting to continue rescue breathing, ensure all the air has exited your pet’s lungs.
  9. Give allowance for 20 breaths per minute or one breath for every 3 seconds.
  10. Continue this pattern until your pet is breathing independently.
  11. Monitor the heartbeat closely.
  12. If you’re not already en route, take your furry loved one to the vet immediately.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Begin CPR straight away if you cannot feel your pet’s pulse. It’s ideal to have two of you conducting CPR so, whilst one person performs artificial respiration, the other performs chest compressions. In this case, adhere to the steps discussed above for artificial respiration and interchange with chest compressions in the ratio of one breath for every three compressions. If only one person is available to perform CPR, interchange one breath for every five compressions.

Small dogs and cats weighing under 14 kilograms

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Position the palm of your hand over the heart, on the rib cage. Place your free hand on top of the other one. (Take caution with puppies and kittens by placing your thumb on one side of the chest and station the remaining fingers on the alternate side of the chest.)
  3. Press down on the chest so it compresses approximately one inch. At regular intervals, compress and release for 80 to 100 compressions per minute.

For medium & large dogs over 14 kilograms

  1. Place your pet on a flat surface on their side in a lying position.
  2. Position one hand over the broadest section of the rib cage and place the other hand on top of the first. Ensure your hands don’t cover the heart.
  3. Firmly press down on the rib cage with rigid arms. Press on the chest so it compresses to approximately ¼ of its breadth. At regular intervals, compress and release for 80 compressions per minute.
  4. Persist with CPR until your pet is breathing independently and their heartbeat is constant.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen despite our best efforts to prevent them and sadly, some cases result in the need for either cardiopulmonary resuscitation or artificial respiration or both. Remember that prevention is key so ensure you schedule regular check-ups with your vet to stay abreast of any issues that may cause the need for artificial respiration or CPR to start with.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson


Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.