Animal Writes
From 20 February 2005 Issue

CPR For Your Companion Animal
By Michelle A. Rivera - [email protected]

There you are, walking along with your dog when suddenly he slips and falls into the river and drowns. Would you know what to do?

Or maybe you come upon a dog having just been injured in a canine vs. car accident and you want desperately to help. Would you know what to do?

There are approximately *68 million dogs and 73 million cats residing with American families. The majority of people with companion animals polled said that they consider their dog or cat a member of the family. Dogs and cats may find themselves in the water and unable to rescue themselves. They may be victims of a car vs. animal mishap or toxicity, suffocation or other injury, accidental or intentional. Pet CPR classes and workshops are now being offered around the country to help save the lives of the four-footed family members in their time of need.

Here is a brief primer on the A,B,C's of CPR for your dog or cat. Keep in mind that the following basic instruction is not intended to take the place of a visit to your veterinary clinic or pet emergency hospital, which should always be your first plan in an emergency. However, if treatment can be started on the scene or en route to an emergency veterinarian, a life may very well be saved.

Any animal, no matter how docile and sweet, can become fiercely protective of himself when in pain so your safety should be your first concern. Do not attempt CPR unless the animal is unconscious, both for safety and for the health of the animal. CPR should never be performed on a conscience, combative animal.

Airway: First: Call your pet's name to see if there is any response. If no response, carefully lean down close and look, feel and listen.

Look at the chest to see if there is a rise and fall, feel on your cheek or the back of your hand for breath coming from the nose or mouth, listen for breath sounds.

Breathing: If the animal is not breathing, pull the tongue out just a little, close the mouth and tilt their head back slightly to open the airway. Administer 4-5 breaths mouth to snout. That is, close their mouth and breathe into their snout through your mouth. If squeamish about this, cover the nose with a light tissue, gauze or other flimsy material. You want to breath out just enough to make the chest rise. Larger dogs will need more breath, little dogs and felines will need much less. Don't give too much or you will injure the lungs.

Circulation: Check to see if their heart is beating. Check for a heartbeat (pulse). The pulse points on a dog is on the inside of the rear leg, towards the top of the leg. This is the femoral pulse. For cats, the pulse point is on the outside of the left front leg, just behind the shoulder, this is the apical pulse.

If there is a pulse but no breathing, continue to perform mouth to snout resuscitation at the rate of 1 breath every 3 seconds. For small dogs or cats give 1 breath every two seconds. If there is no pulse, begin CPR.

For a dog, place the dog on the ground or other hard surface with his right side down. Bend the left front leg at the elbow, pushing the shoulder back. The point on the rib cage where the elbow touches the body is where you place your hands for compression. Place one hand over the other and clasp fingers together. Lock your elbows and perform compressions approximately 2-3 inches deep. Do compressions first, then a breath at the following rates:

Giant Dogs: 1 breath for every ten compressions, check for pulse
Small, medium and large dogs: 1 breath for every five compressions, check for pulse

For cats or toy breed dogs, the technique is a little different. Place the animal flat on the ground but place your hands on either side of the chest directly behind the shoulder blades. Your palms should be over the heart, sandwiching the animals' chest between both hands. Begin compressions at only -1 inch deep and give one breath for every three compressions, check for pulse.

For more information on pet cpr and first aid, visit and follow the links for CPR or register for a cpr workshop.

* American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 2001-2002 National Pet Owners Survey.

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