This step-by-step guide could save your pup’s life!

Emergencies happen and knowing how to perform CPR on the dog can dramatically increase your pup’s chances of survival. Despite this, most dog parents don’t take the time to learn basic pet first aid or CPR techniques.

In this post, we interview an expert on pet safety and emergency preparedness. You’ll also find a step-by-step guide to canine CPR, complete with detailed photos.

Image Source: PetHub

CPR and first aid dog 101

Denise Fleck, the owner of Sunny-dog Ink, has taught pet first aid classes for over 15 years and is the maker of pet first aid and CPCR kits and classes. We asked her to provide our readers with information that could one day save the lives of their dogs.

How Common Are Pet Emergencies?

DF: Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death among our pets, and according to the American Veterinary Association (AVMA), 9 out of 10 dogs and cats can expect an emergency in their lifetime. Would you know how you can help? The good news is that 25% more animals can be saved if people provide first aid BEFORE they go to their vet (American Animal Hospital Association AAHA statistic). What this means is that the most competent vet won’t be able to bring your pet back to life, but having knowledge of pet first aid and CPR will help keep your dog or cat alive until you reach professional medical attention.

Knowing canine CPR and first aid can help you:

  • Lower your pup’s body temperature if he has heat stroke and prevent brain damage or death
  • Stop the bleeding and prevent infection by dressing a wound properly (Knowing where the critical arterial pressure points are on your dog can really be a life saver!)
  • Prevent your dog from losing consciousness by reducing choking
  • Expel poison from your pet’s system by properly inducing vomiting
  • Pump your pup’s heart until you can get professional medical help

Pet first aid is by no means a substitute for veterinary care, but responding the moment an injury occurs and then seeking professional medical attention can make all the difference. You and your vet need to work together as a team for your dog’s well-being.

Many people believe that because they have completed a human CPR course, they can perform it on their dog. Is this true?

DF: Even if you’ve taken a human first aid and CPR course, you should realize that humans, dogs, and cats don’t share anatomy, and while the concept is the same, the technique differs, as does our ability to communicate with each other. We can’t ask our cat, “Where does it hurt?” or our dog, “What did you eat?”

Also, human first aid doesn’t teach you what to do if your patient bites you! A pet first aid course should discuss animal body language and practice how to muzzle, hold, lift, and carry a four-legged furry patient. I spend a lot of time teaching different bandaging techniques in my classes because dog ears and tails lend themselves to interesting solutions. However, the fact that pack animals often try to hide injuries requires us to use detective skills, so pet specific training is essential to being a responsible and caring pet mom, pet daddy or zookeeper. I think one college student summed it up best when she said, “The last thing you want is to wish you’d taken Denise Fleck’s pet first aid and CPR class.”

What Are CPR and CPCR in Dogs?

DF: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the most well-known method of artificial life support and will likely always be the “brand name” for the technique we use to help our pets. However, research has led to the development of a faster, more efficient method called Cardio Pulmonary Cerebral Resuscitation (CPCR). Both techniques use a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration, However, CPCR focuses more on continuous chest compressions to keep that life-giving blood and oxygen flowing to the brain and the rest of the body

By maintaining the momentum (30 compressions between breaths as opposed to 15 used in the past), and in the case of larger dogs and the availability of a 2nd person, a spleen or abdominal push may help.

*Realize that you have not given the dog an antidote for poisoning, stopped internal bleeding, or cured an illness by performing CPR. But by being the pump that the pet’s body can’t be at the time, you keep the needed blood and O2 flowing until you reach a medical professional who can deliver the antidote, perform the surgery, or cross-legged can cure the disease .

Since CPCR for dogs seems to be the new method, can you explain how to do it?

DF: CPCR is best learned in a classroom setting where you have the benefit of demonstration and hands-on practice on real-life dog puppets. You wouldn’t want to do this to a pet in need without first practicing under the watchful eye of a competent instructor. Aiming for a rate of 100+ compressions per minute, perform a ratio of 30 chest compressions to 2 breaths, rechecking the pulse every 4 rounds.

Step-by-step dog CPCR

1. Place the dog on a flat surface on his side and extend his head slightly by pulling the chin back to stretch his throat/tracheal area. This not only straightens the airways, but also minimizes the chances of you blowing air into his stomach instead of the lungs.

2. Gently bend the dog’s front leg at the elbow and bring it up to the chest. This is a gentle movement that bends the elbow toward the joint. Where the elbow meets the chest is the right place to place your hands for compressions.

Locate the compression point.  Image Source:
Locate the compression point. Image Source:

3. Squeeze about 1/3 of the width of the chest diameter. You should feel ribs and then press on a lung before compressing the heart to create effective circulation.

*When inhaling, use 1-2 hands to close the mouth and breathe directly into the dog’s nostrils. For neonates, use only short breaths and NEVER perform CPCR or rescue breathing on a conscious animal!

Person performing belly push.  Image Source:
A person performing a belly push. Image Source:

4. Rapid initiation of CPCR is critical and must begin within four minutes of stopping the heart to prevent brain damage. Quickly transport the pet to the nearest animal emergency center or veterinary hospital.

Person performing rescue breaths.  Image Source:
Person performing rescue breaths. Image Source:

Realize that you may not be able to get the dog to breathe on its own or resume a heartbeat and you may need to continue CPCR while someone else is driving. Do not discontinue CPCR until the dog shows signs of recovery or until a veterinarian can take over CPCR administration.

Fleck also explains that there are special considerations for dog size and age (e.g. newborns) and a two-person technique for larger dogs. You can learn more about these specifics in her lessons and resources.

Don't forget to have a first aid kit handy!  Image source:
Don’t forget to have a first aid kit handy! Image source:


Are you looking for Fleck’s books and lessons? Her posters, which offer step-by-step instructions on how to perform the doggie Heimlich-esque maneuver and CPCR, can be found here. She also has pocket guides to first aid and CPR for dogs and cats available here.

Of course, if you can, taking one of her classes is the best way to learn these life-saving techniques. View her schedule here.

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