Recognizing Breathing Difficulties in Pets: When to Use CPR

Our furry friends are cherished members of our families, and their health and safety are of utmost importance. Just as knowing CPR for humans is a valuable skill, understanding when and how to perform CPR on pets can be crucial in life-threatening situations. This guide will help you recognize signs of breathing difficulties in your pet and provide you with the knowledge and steps to administer CPR if necessary. However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian or enroll in a pet CPR course for hands-on training.

Signs of Breathing Difficulties in Pets:

Recognizing the signs of breathing difficulties in pets is essential for knowing when to take action. Common signs include:

  1. Labored Breathing: Your pet may struggle to breathe, with increased effort or noisy breathing.
  2. Cyanosis: Look for bluish or grayish discoloration of the gums, tongue, or lips, which can indicate a lack of oxygen.
  3. Coughing or Gagging: Persistent coughing, choking, or gagging can be a sign of respiratory distress.
  4. Gasping: If your pet is gasping for breath or making choking sounds, it's a clear sign of breathing difficulties.
  5. Unconsciousness: If your pet loses consciousness and stops breathing, immediate CPR is crucial.

Pet CPR Steps:

Performing CPR on a pet requires a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration. Follow these steps:

1. Check for Responsiveness:

Before starting CPR, ensure that the environment is safe for both you and your pet. Gently tap your pet or call their name to check for responsiveness.

2. Assess Breathing:

Place your ear close to your pet's nostrils to listen for breath sounds. Observe the rise and fall of their chest to see if they're breathing.

3. Begin Chest Compressions:

If your pet is unresponsive and not breathing, initiate chest compressions:

  • Place your pet on a firm, flat surface, preferably on their right side.
  • For dogs weighing over 30 pounds, position your hands on the ribcage just behind the front legs. For smaller dogs and cats, use one hand.
  • Compress the chest at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  • Depress the chest by one-third to one-half its width for dogs and one-third for cats.
  • Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions.

4. Provide Artificial Respiration:

After every 30 chest compressions, provide artificial respiration:

  • For dogs, close their mouth and breathe into their nose, creating a seal.
  • For cats, cover both the mouth and nose with your mouth to provide rescue breaths.
  • Administer one breath every 2-3 seconds, enough to make the chest rise.

5. Continue CPR:

Continue the cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths until your pet starts breathing on their own or shows signs of life. If your pet remains unresponsive after 20 minutes of CPR, it's unlikely that they will recover.

6. Seek Immediate Veterinary Care:

Even if your pet regains consciousness and starts breathing, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary care. CPR is not a substitute for professional medical attention.

Pet CPR Tips:

  • Size Matters: Adjust the force of chest compressions based on your pet's size. Smaller animals require gentler pressure.
  • Breathing Rate: The recommended breathing rate for pets is one breath every 2-3 seconds.
  • Stay Calm: In an emergency, it's essential to remain as calm as possible. Your pet can sense your anxiety, which can affect their response.
  • Check for a Pulse: If you're uncertain whether your pet has a pulse, check the femoral artery (inside the hind leg) for dogs and the femoral artery near the groin for cats.

Pet CPR Training:

While this guide provides an overview of pet CPR, hands-on training from a certified instructor is highly recommended. Many organizations and veterinary clinics offer pet CPR courses that teach you the techniques and allow you to practice on manikins. These courses provide valuable experience and increase your confidence in performing pet CPR effectively.

Knowing how to perform pet CPR is a valuable skill that can save your pet's life in an emergency. However, it should not replace professional veterinary care. In any life-threatening situation, always seek immediate veterinary assistance after providing initial CPR. By being prepared and knowledgeable, you can be the lifeline your pet needs in a critical moment.

 Pet CPR + First Aid Certification

Back to blog