S.O.S Save Our Saints - Learn animal CPR

Lori H. Feldman, D.V.M. Henry J. Feldman, M.D. (c) 1996

Dr. Feldman is a Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York Licensed Veterinarian and a member of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society.

Pet owners should consult their veterinarian for specific details on procedures outlined here.

A. Airway

The first step in animal CPR (like human CPR), after determining non-responsiveness, is to obtain an open airway. You should not continue on, until this step has been achieved!

  1. Carefully pull the tongue straight out of the animal's mouth to open the airway. WARNING: even an unresponsive dog may bite by instinct!!
  2. Make sure that the neck is reasonably straight; try to bring the head in-line with the neck. WARNING: Do not over straighten the neck in cases where neck trauma exists
  3. Attempt 2 rescue breaths, by closing the mouth, and performing mouth-to-nose ventilations. If they go in with no problems continue to B-Breathing.

  1. If not then reposition the neck and try step 3 again.
  2. Visibly inspect the airway by looking into the mouth, and down the throat for foreign objects occluding the airway. Unlike human-CPR, rescuers may reach into the airway and remove foreign objects that are visible
  3. If you still cannot breath into the animal, proceed to the Heimlich maneuver.

A. Heimlich

If you were unable to clear the object from the airway in A. Airway above, you need to preform the Heimlich maneuver :

  1. Turn the animal upside down, with its back against your chest
  2. Hug the animal with your fist in your hand, just below the rib cage (for cats, just squeeze one hand in the same place).

  1. With both arms, give 5 sharp thrusts (bear hugs) to the abdomen. Perform each thrust as if it is the one that will expel the object
  2. Stop, check to see if the object is visible in the airway, if so, remove it and give 2 mouth-nose rescue breaths. If the breaths do not go in, go back to step 1

Do not proceed with CPR, even if the animal goes into cardiac arrest. You must clear the airway first.


B. Breathing

After achieving a patent airway, one must determine whether the animal is breathing, and whether this breathing is effective:

  1. Carefully pull the tongue straight out of the animal's mouth WARNING: even an unresponsive dog may bite by instinct!!
  2. Make sure that the neck is reasonably straight; try to bring the head in-line with the neck. WARNING: Do not over-straighten the neck in cases where neck trauma exists

  1. Breath at 12 breaths per minute (1 breath every 5 seconds) by closing the mouth, and performing mouth-to-nose ventilations. If they do not go in with ease go to A-Airway

With each breath just make sure the chest rises. (Do not overinflate - especially on a small animal.) Important - If the breaths do not go in, STOP and go back to A. AIRWAY.

  1. Proceed to C. Circulation, while continuing breathing support as necessary.

C. Circulation

This is the final step of CPR and should only be started after the airway and breathing steps have been completed:

  1. Make sure that there are no major (pooling/spurting blood) points of bleeding. Control as necessary by applying pressure with your hand.
  2. Check for a pulse in the animal's groin. (Check carefully on a conscious dog or cat.)

  1. Lay the animal on its right side
  2. Locate your hands where its left elbow touches the chest. Approximately the middle of the rib-cage (for cats use one hand in a squeezing motion).

  1. Compress the chest 15 times followed by 2 rescue breaths (3 compressions every 2 seconds) Compress
    • 1/2" - small dogs
    • 1" - medium dogs
    • 1.5" - large dogs
  2. Repeat as necessary

E. Extra

During an emergency it is very important that you remain calm. Animals can sense your unease, but cannot understand what is happening and you cannot tell them. Your body language is very important. Be calm, yet deliberate in your actions.

When you determine that you either have corrected the life-threatening problem, or are unable to stabilize the animal, you should transport to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.

Notify your emergency clinic that you are coming in with a dog in respiratory arrest with a foreign body airway obstruction and/or cardiac arrest.

Give them the following information via phone if possible:

  • Your name
  • Your estimated time of arrival
  • Steps taken (CPR, removal of object...)
  • Breed/size (dog/cat)
  • If a foreign body, what the suspected object is
  • If a poison or medication has been ingested
  • Mechanism of injury (hit by car...)
  • Relevant medical history (diabetes...)

Write the phone number of the 24 hour animal hospital nearest you here: