Did you know that April is First Aid Awareness Month? You can save your dog or cat’s life by knowing how to do pet CPR and how to perform rescue breathing. Pets suffer brain injury and death if oxygen is cut off for only a few minutes. When minutes count, rescue breathing can save your pet’s life.
How To Perform Pet Rescue Breathing
- First check to be sure nothing blocks the airway before you begin. Cradle small cats, puppies and dogs in your lap, but lay a large dog on the floor on his side. Straighten his neck by lifting his chin. The airway must be a straight shot into the lungs to ensure your breath is not blocked.
- Muzzles won’t seal well enough for mouth-to-mouth breathing to work. Instead, hold his mouth closed with one or both hands to seal his lips. Then place your mouth entirely over his nose. Your mouth will cover both the mouth and nose of most small pets, and for large dogs may simply cover his nose.
- Blow two quick breaths just hard enough to move his sides, and watch to see if his chest expands. Blowing into his nose directs air to the lungs when the lips are properly sealed. For small pets, think of blowing up a paper bag—gently does it!—or you could over-inflate and damage the lungs. However, you’ll need to blow pretty hard to expand the lungs of larger dogs.
- Between breaths, pull your mouth away to let the air naturally escape before giving another breath. Continue rescue breathing at a rate of about 30 breaths per minute (one every two seconds), and check for a pulse. If there’s no pulse, perform CPR.
How to Give Pet CPR
Pets CPR combines rescue breathing with external heart compressions and stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The compressions help the blood move through the body even though the heart has stopped. To perform CPR on your puppy, alternate rescue breathing with chest compressions, giving one breath for every five compressions for any size puppy. It’s most effective to have one person handle the breathing while a second person performs the compressions. Continue CPR until you reach the veterinary clinic or your pet revives, whichever comes first.
Determine your puppy’s heart has stopped by listening with your ear flat to her side directly behind the left elbow, or feel the place with the flat of your hand. If you still can’t tell for sure, use the blink test. Tap her closed eyelid. Even unconscious pups will blink unless the heart has stopped, so if there’s no movement, start CPR immediately.
For Pets Under 15 Pounds
The size of the pet and his body conformation rules how you administer CPR. For cats and dogs under 15 pounds, perform the cardiac pump technique with compressions over the heart. That squeezes the motionless heart so that it pumps blood. Veterinarians recommend 100 to 120 compressions each minute, of 1/3rd to 1/2 of the chest width. It’s also highly recommended to perform CPR in 2-minute cycles, and switch who does the compressor in each cycle, so you don’t wear yourself out.
- Find the heart by flexing your pet’s front foreleg backwards. The center of the heart falls directly beneath where the point of the elbow crosses her chest.
- Situate your pet on her right side on a flat, firm surface. Cup your hand over the heart, and squeeze firmly. Press in about ½ inch with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other.
- For very small pets that fit in the palm of your hand, perform compressions between your fingers. Cradle her in the palm of your hand, with your thumb over the heart and fingers on the other side, and squeeze rhythmically.
For Pets Over 20 Pounds
Once the pet weighs more than 20 pounds, the space between the strong ribs and heart interferes with successful compressions. So instead, use the thoracic pump method. When she’s on her side, place your hands over the highest part of the chest and compress. That changes the chest cavity interior pressure, which can move blood forward. Place one hand flat on her chest, and the other over top of the first hand, and press down 30 to 50 percent.
Place barrel chested dogs and those with pushed-in faces like Bulldogs on their back before compressing the chest. Cross her paws over the breast and kneel with her between your legs—tummy up. Hold her paws and perform compressions downward directly over the breastbone.
Needling For Life
When the pet’s breathing and heart has stopped and resuscitation methods have failed, veterinarians suggest stimulating an acupuncture “alarm point.” That prompts the body to release natural adrenaline (epinephrine), a drug commonly used in human and veterinary medicine in cardiac arrests to stimulate the heart and breathing.
The alarm point is in the center (midway point) of the slit found between your puppy’s nose and upper lip. Stick a needle, safety pin, paperclip, or even your clean fingernail into this point. Jab deeply to the bone, and repeatedly wiggle back and forth.
Don’t be squeamish—this is your puppy’s life you hold in your hands! Continue administering the emergency acupuncture treatment for at least twenty minutes, until the pet revives or you reach the hospital.
Puppies and kittens dead at birth treated with this method have been revived more than an hour later, and survived to live long, healthy lives. A needle jab, with rescue breathing, can ensure your puppy survives.
Refer to this CPR Infrographic(below) for details, and for more information about first aid that can save your pet’s life, refer to The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!