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CANINE CPR & Heimlich Maneuver




First, determine which basic life-support techniques will be required in an unconscious dog:

Steps in CPR:

Is the dog breathing? Observe the rise and fall of the chest. Feel for air against your cheek.

If YES - Pull the tongue and clear the airway and observe the animal. If NO - Feel for a Pulse.

Feel PulseDoes the dog have a pulse?



Feel for the femoral artery located in the midthigh.
Use either your index finger or your middle or ring fingers.
If you use your thumb you may feel a pulse which is your own
and not your dogs.

If YES - Start rescue breathing.

If NO - Begin CPR.

Rescue Breathing (Mouth to Nose/Muzzle Breathing)

Lay the dog on a flat surface with his right side down.  Open his mouth and pull his tongue as far forward as possible.  Clear the airway of any secretions with a cloth or handkerchief, then check for any foreign bodies.  If present, remove it if possible.  If it is impossible to dislodge the foreign bodies, perform the Heimlich Maneuver as described later.

For puppies and small dogs under 30 pounds:

  1. Pull the tongue forward so it is even with the canine teeth.  Close the mouth.

  2. Place your mouth over the dog's nose.  Blow gently into the dog's nostrils.  The chest will expand.

  3. Release your mouth to let the air return.  Excess air will escape through the dog's lips, preventing over inflation of the lungs and over-distention of the stomach.

  4. If the chest does not rise and fall, blow more forcefully or seal the lips.

  5. Continue at a rate of 20 - 30 breaths per minute (one breath every 2 - 3 seconds).

  6. Continue until the dog breathes on his own, or as long as the heart beats.

For medium and large dogs:

  1. Proceed as for small dogs, but seal the lips by placing a hand around the muzzle to prevent the escape of air.

  2. If the chest does not rise and fall, blow more forcefully.

  3. The breathing rate is 20 breaths per minute ( once every 3 seconds).

  4. Continue until the dog breaths on its own, or as long as the heart beats.

Open airwayOnce you have cleared the dog's airway of secretions using your fingers and some cloth, grasp the tip of the dog's tongue and pull it forward just past the front teeth to ensure an open airway.

Artifical respirationsThis is the proper way to administer artificial respiration to a dog. On brachycephalic dogs such Pugs, Bulldogs, and Pekingese breeds, it may be a bit more difficult to make a seal with your mouth, but it can be done.

CPR (Artificial Breathing and Heart Massage)

For puppies and small dogs under 30 pounds:

  1. Place the dog on a flat surface right side down.


  2. Place your cupped hands on either side of the rib cage over the heart, immediately behind the point of the elbow.  (For puppies use the thumb on one side of the chest and the rest of the fingers on the other side of the chest.


  3. Compress the chest 1" to 1 1/2" (1/4  to 1/3 the width of the chest).  Squeeze for a count of 1, then release for a count of 1.  Continue at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.


  4. With one person CPR, administer a breath after every 5 compressions. With two person CPR, administer a breath after every 2 to 3 compressions

Small Dog CPRThis is the proper way to administer chest compressions to small dogs and puppies

For medium and large dogs:

  1. Place the dog on a flat surface right side down. Position yourself behind the dog's back.

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


  3. Keep both elbows straight and push down firmly on the rib cage.  Compress the chest 1/4 to 1/3 of its width.  Compress for a count of 1,  then release for a count of 1.  Continue at a rate of 80 compression per minute.


  4. With one person CPR, administer a breath after every 5 compressions.  With two person CPR, administer a breath after every 2 to 3 compressions



2Person CPRNotice in 2 person CPR, your hands never leave contact with the dog's chest, even when artificial respirations are being delivered.

* Continue CPR until the dog breathes on his own and has a steady pulse.  If vital signs do not return after 10 minutes of CPR, the likelihood of success is remote.  Consider stopping CPR.

*Note that CPR is associated wit potential complications including broken ribs, and pneumothorax (collapsing of the lungs).  Also never practice rescue breathing or heart massage on a healthy dog; you can seriously injure the dog.

Heimlich Maneuver

  1. Abdominal compressions.  It may be easiest to hold the dog in your lap upside down with his back against your chest.  Place your arms around the dogs waist from behind.  Make a fist and grasp it with the other hand.  Place your fist in the dog's upper mid-abdomen close to the breast bone at the apex of the V formed by the rib cage.  Compress the abdomen by forcefully thrusting up and in with the fist four times in quick succession.  This maneuver pushes the diaphragm upward and forces a burst of air through the larynx.  This usually dislodges the object.
  2. Finger sweeps.  Pull out the tongue and sweep the mouth.  Remove any foreign bodies.  If you are able to remove the foreign body begin ventilation.  If no foreign bodies are dislodged, give five mouth to nose respirations.  Even a small amount of air getting past the obstruction is beneficial.
  3. Chest thumps.  Deliver a sharp blow with the heel of your hand to the dog's back between the shoulder blades.  Repeat the finger sweeps.  If the object is still not dislodged, repeat steps 1 through 3 until the object is dislodged.
  4. Ventilation.  Once the object is dislodged, check for breathing and heart rate; administer artificial respirations and cardiac massage if necessary.  When the dog revives, proceed to the veterinary hospital for further treatment.

This was an excerpt with images from the book, "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"  3rd Edition by James M. Giffin MD & Liisa D. Carlson, DVM.

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