No pet owner ever hopes for a chance to use their lifesaving skills, but in the case of a nightmarish pet emergency, knowing if a pet needs CPR – and being able to administer it – can make all the difference. This relatively simple course of action can buy time before you can get to our hospital, and improves their chances of recovery and survival. Ready to learn?

Check the Signs

Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on an animal with a heartbeat can be extremely detrimental and even fatal. Pet CPR should only be used when there’s no breathing and no pulse.

The femoral artery in the hind leg (toward the abdomen) is an ideal place to check for a pulse. Also, place an ear directly on the heart, or feel the paw for any signs of a heartbeat.

Look, Listen, Feel

Assessing whether a pet is breathing is as easy as looking at the rise and fall of the chest with every breath. You can also place a finger just outside the nostrils for any possible exhales. If the gums are blue, white or grey, they aren’t getting enough (or any) oxygen.

It’s also critical to rule out any obstructions to the airway. Gently extend the neck and open the mouth. If you see something stuck in the throat, try to remove it with your fingers, a pair of tweezers, or a small pair of pliers.


Performing pet CPR correctly means knowing the basic steps:

  • Place your pet on their right side, preferably on a flat surface.
  • Find their heart with one palm and then place your other hand on top, interlacing the fingers.
  • Some pets may require different placement of your hands. For example, deep chested dogs need chest compressions on the widest part of the chest. Barrel chested dogs need compressions directly on the sternum.
  • Lock your elbows and check to see if your shoulders are directly over them.
  • Push down firmly at the rate of 100-120 chest compressions per minute. Try to push in as much as ⅓-½ the width of your pet’s chest.
  • After you push in, check to see if the chest springs back to its normal position before your repeat 30 times.

Rescue Breathing

Artificial respiration involves gently wrapping one hand around the snout to keep the mouth closed. Cover your pet’s entire mouth and nose and blow into their nostrils. Watch the chest rise and fall before giving another breath.

The pattern of pet CPR is 30 compressions and 2 breaths. Check for pulse and independent breathing every 2 minutes. For smaller pets, give 10 compressions and 1 breath. Stop If there is no response after 10 minutes.

A Little Prep Goes a Long Way

The Pet Experts understand that preparing to help your pet through a life threatening situation can be very emotional and challenging. However, the more you do to prepare for the worst, their chances are greatly improved.

Always keep our after hours phone number handy. Also, research emergency veterinary hospitals in any areas you plan on travelling to.

If we can assist you with additional questions or concerns, Wheaton Animal Hospital is always here for you.