Can I Perform CPR On My Dog Or Cat?

CPR for Pets

Can I Perform CPR On My Dog Or Cat?

There’s no doubt that you love your pet. They are the one thing that will love you no matter
what. For many people, their pet is part of the family, and in the unfortunate event that they
suddenly collapse and their heart stops, you might not feel sure about what you can do for
them. That’s why you might want to know if you can actually perform CPR on your dog or
cat. The good news is yes, but you should follow the right steps to ensure you increase their
chances of survival.

Start With The ABC’s

Cardiac arrest isn’t something that can only happen to humans. The unfortunate news is that
just around one in every 10 dogs survive. This includes cases where they are given
emergency treatment. There is some good news, though. While no consensus is found
among veterinary practitioners regarding the use of CPR on these animals, it is known that
using the technique does increase chances for survival.

If you’re ever in a situation where your dog or cat becomes unconscious, then the first step
is to start with the ABC’s, so let’s take a look at them:

A. Airway: Start by looking at their airways. Try to see if they have anything stuck in
their throat. Also, check their chest. Is their chest wall rising and falling?

B. Breathing: Next, you need to determine if they are breathing. For this, you’ll bring
your head, ear facing down, toward their mouth.

C. Cardiac: Checking your pet’s pulse is also important. It helps you understand if their
heart is still beating or not. If you have a dog, then place a finger in the inner side of
their mid-thigh. For a cat, on the other hand, your finger goes onto the left side of
their front leg.


When you check the ABC’s and determine that your dog or cat isn’t breathing and their heart
has stopped, then time is critical. You need to start performing CPR. With this said, it’s also
important to get your vet on the line. There are emergency vet services, which can be helpful
if this happens after hours. If you’re not alone, ask someone else to call the emergency vet
services while you prepare your pet for CPR.

You should get your pet into the appropriate position. For cats and small-breed dogs, this
would be on their side. If you have a larger dog breed, you should try to get them onto their
backs. This will give you an easier way of working with them while performing CPR.

Now, one thing to keep in mind, especially if you have a cat or a dog that is rather small –
they have a narrow chest. This means that their ribcage is more vulnerable compared to an
adult human. If you’ve got a PALS certification, you might want to use a similar technique as
you would on an infant or toddler who stopped breathing. You’ll still need to use pressure
when pressing down on their chest, but not as hard as you would with a human or large dog.
You need to compress about one-quarter to a half of the chest’s width. Try to perform about
100 to 120 compressions every minute. The opinions of various veterinary practitioners do
differ in terms of the compressions, but this is a good goal to strive for. You should make
sure your pet’s chest expands fully before you do the next compression.

You can also attempt to provide breathing support for your pet. In this case, you should
create a seal over their mouth with your hands. Make sure your hands cover their nostrils,
too. About two breaths for every 30 compressions is usually the standard.
Regularly check the ABCs that we’ve covered before again. This can help you determine
when your dog’s heart restarted or it began breathing again. The idea is to continue
performing CPR until your dog or cat is able to breathe on their own. You can also let go
once emergency vet services arrive, as they will be able to take over.


While the procedure itself is quite similar between cats and dogs, you do need to take the
size of your pet into account. That’s because some pets may have a ribcage that’s more
vulnerable than others. This particularly accounts for cats, as they tend to be small. Smaller
dog breeds also need the same special considerations when you perform CPR on them.
In these cases, you’ll want to focus your hands directly on your pet’s heart. Another
suggestion is to use a single hand for the compressions. This can help to ensure you don’t
push down too hard on their chest.

Recognizing Signs Of Illness In Dogs And Cats
Knowing when to take your dog or cat to the vet can be incredibly useful when it comes to
avoiding a scenario where you’d have to perform CPR on them. Regularly checking up on
your dog or cat can help. You should also monitor their movement, eating habits, and more.
The goal here is to keep your pet healthy and out of the veterinary hospital.

Some common signs that signal the need for a vet visit include:
● A pet that has difficulty getting up and moving around
● A loss of consciousness
● Experiencing seizures
● Rapid breathing
● An abdomen that is visibly swollen
● Bleeding that does not stop
● Sudden changes in their behavior
Can An ACLS Or PALS Certification Help With Dog Or Cat

If you decide to take up a course to get a PALS or ACLS certification, then you’ll notice that
the entirety of the content focuses on humans. These courses are meant to teach you how
to perform life-saving cardiovascular techniques on patients who go into cardiac arrest or
who suddenly stop breathing.
However, if you decide to take an online course and get your ACLS or PALS certification,
then you’ll likely also feel more prepared for cases where you face a pet that goes into one
of these states.

If you are working with a small dog or a cat, then take advantage of the techniques you
picked up while going through the PALS certification. For larger dog breeds, more pressure
can be applied, according to the education you get with an ACLS course.

While CPR classes generally focus on humans, it’s possible to use these techniques on
certain pets too. With this said you should be careful when performing CPR on your cat or
dog. Using the right methods not only increases the likeliness that they’ll survive but can
also help to avoid causing damage to their ribcage. Follow the instructions we provided to
help you be prepared for any situation.

Cardiac Arrest in Dogs. petMD. Published 15 April 2010.

New guidelines for CPR in dogs, cats. AVMA.