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Artificial Respiration and CPR

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Know How to Save your Dog's Life

If your dog becomes unconscious, respiratory arrest may occur, and usually occurs before cardiac arrest. The heart may continue to beat for several minutes after the breathing stops. Artificial respiration, or rescue breathing, must begin immediately to save your dog's life. If the heart stops, chest compressions must be given right away to keep the blood pumping. Artificial respiration and chest compressions given together are called cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

Artificial Respiration

If your dog has gone into respiratory arrest, begin artificial respiration immediately.

  1. Lay your dog on his side on a flat surface.

  2. Be sure your dog has stopped breathing: Watch for the rise and fall of the chest, feel for breath on your hand, look at the gums - they will turn blue from lack of oxygen.

  3. Check the airway - it must be clear. Open the mouth and look for a foreign object. If an object is blocking the airway, grab the tongue and pull it outward. If this does not dislodge the object, use your fingers, pliers, or tongs to grasp it. If the object cannot be reached or pulled out, use the Heimlich maneuver.

  4. Once the airway is clear, begin rescue breathing.

  5. With your dog on his side, lift his chin to straighten out his throat.

  6. Use one hand to grasp his muzzle and hold his mouth shut.

  7. Put your mouth completely over the nose and blow gently; the chest should expand. Blow just enough to move his chest (blow harder for large dogs, gently for cats and small dogs).

  8. Wait for the air to leave the lungs before breathing again.

  9. Continue this, giving 20 breaths per minute (one breath every three seconds), until your dog breathes on his own or as long as the heart beats.

  10. Continue to monitor the heartbeat.


If your dog's heart has stopped beating, CPR must begin immediately. It is best to have two people performing CPR - one continuing artificial respiration while the other does chest compressions. Follow the instructions for artificial respiration, alternating with chest compressions. For two people performing CPR, alternate one breath with three compressions. For one person performing CPR, alternate one breath with five compressions.

For Small Dogs (under 30 pounds)

  1. Lay your dog on his side on a flat surface.

  2. Place the palm of your hand on the rib cage over the heart. Place your other hand on top of the first. (For puppies and kittens, put your thumb on one side of the chest and the rest of your fingers on the other side.)

  3. Compress the chest about one inch. Squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 to 100 compressions per minute.

For Medium & Large Dogs (over 30 pounds)

  1. Lay your dog on his side on a flat surface.

  2. Place one hand on top of the other over the widest portion of the rib cage, not over the heart.

  3. Keeping your arms straight, push down on the rib cage. Compress the chest ¼ of its width. Squeeze and release rhythmically at a rate of 80 compressions per minute.

  4. Continue CPR until your dog breathes on his own and has a steady heartbeat.

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