By Dr. Laura Noaker VERGI;

We’ve probably all seen cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) being performed on a T.V. show but have you ever seen it performed on a dog or cat? Chances are you may never have to perform CPR on one of your pets, but in case you do, here are some guidelines. 

First, you’ll have to check for breathing and a heartbeat.  With your pet lying down on its right side, look at the chest to see if it is moving up and down.  Next, put your palm on the left side of the chest to feel for a heartbeat. If you bend their left front leg at the elbow and then pull it backwards, the heart will be under the left elbow. You can also lay your head on your pets chest to listen for a heartbeat. If you do not see your pet’s chest moving and cannot find a heartbeat, begin CPR. 

Starting with chest compressions,  place the heel of one hand directly over the heart and place your other hand directly over the first hand.  If your dog is deep chested, place the heel of one hand over the widest part of the chest and place your other hand directly over the first hand. Lock your elbows and keep your shoulders directly above your hands.  If your dog is more barrel chested, place the dog on its back, place one hand over the widest part of the sternum, and place your other hand directly over the first hand.  You will have to push fairly hard and at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 the width of the chest. Make sure the chest comes back fully (recoils) before compressing again.

If you have a cat, small dog or a pediatric patient, you will have to adjust how hard you compress the chest. In many cases, you can use just one hand or two fingers. 

After 30 chest compressions, you will need to give rescue breaths. Close the pet’s mouth and extend the neck to open the airway. Cover your pet’s nose with your mouth and exhale until you see the chest rise. Alternately, you can shut one nostril and blow through the other one. Give two rescue breaths for every 30 chest compressions. Every two minutes, check for spontaneous return of the heartbeat and breathing. 

Have your veterinarian or emergency hospital phone number handy and let them know you will be bringing in your pet. It is imperative to get professional help. 

If you’d like to know more, the Red Cross has an online course on Dog and Cat First Aid, including CPR. 

To register for this online course, visit

Hopefully, you will never have to perform CPR on your pet. It can be quite scary and traumatic, but it is important to be prepared in the event of an emergency.