Your pets may be as near and dear to you as your own children, but you might not know that you can perform CPR on them in an emergency. When an animal’s heart stops functioning, meaning it goes into cardiac arrest, you can perform chest compressions and give mouth-to-mouth – or shall we say mouth-to-snout –resuscitation much like you would for humans. CPR can even be performed on birds, but that typically requires using a tube to assist with getting air down their tracheas.
But there are some key differences between performing CPR on pets and humans. If you already know human CPR, it’s likely you can perform it on a pet as well keeping in mind these four guidelines, which are described in more detail below.
Before beginning CPR, make sure your pet is unresponsive.
Position the animal correctly on his or her side.
Know where to check for the animal’s pulse.
Understand the difference between breathing and a heartbeat.
Confirm the animal is unresponsive
For dogs and cats, it’s important to make sure the animal is suffering cardiac arrest, since you don’t want a startled pet to bite you in the face. Attempt to wake the pet up and also check if an object is obstructing its airway. Be on the lookout for the color blue too. If the dog’s tongue, gums or lips are turning blue, CPR is necessary.
Position your pet correctly
While people are positioned on their backs for CPR, animals generally need to be placed on their sides for chest compressions to be administered correctly. Cats and dogs have deeper chest cavities than humans, so this positioning allows the heart to be more readily accessed.
Find their pulse
A human’s pulse can be checked on the wrist or carotid artery on the neck. A dog or cat’s pulse is found by identifying and feeling the femoral artery, located on the inside of the thigh.
Breathing v. heartbeat
Keep in mind that the heart can continue beating for several minutes after an animal stops breathing. So, even if the animal has a heartbeat, it’ll need CPR if it isn’t breathing. Again, make sure that the animals airway isn’t clogged before performing CPR, since air won’t reach its lungs if an object is in the way.
Pet owners who learn CPR can react quickly and help save a beloved pet’s life when a veterinarian is out of reach.