CPR When Your Agility Dog Stops Breathing

dog cprThere is a new video every year of a dog being saved with CPR and while no one wants to endure the pain of witnessing a dog’s heart stopping, some breeds demand you have this life saving knowledge. To date we have seen several Boxers dropping due to heart failure. Yes, it is a breed problem and if you or someone you knows owns one with uncertain background, please take the time to read this. All others that are around other dogs on a regular basis should know this as well, your time spent here could save a life.

CPR at it’s basic level is a way to keep oxygen circulating in the dog’s body until you can reach a veterinarian. Any dog that collapses and stops breathing will need to have a diagnosis anyway to avoid future events. Again, we stress that you know your breed’s common ailments and how to rectify an attack should your dog experience one.

Step one is to know how to find a pulse or heartbeat on a dog. The easiest way is to pull the dog’s front leg forward and place your hand in the “armpit” to feel for a heartbeat. For a pulse you can find the femoral artery located on the middle of the inside of the thigh near the point of junction of the leg and body. Take time to practice on your dog so you become comfortable with both procedures and to learn what is “normal” for your dog both resting and after exercise. The normal range heart rate at rest is 70 – 180 with larger dogs having a slower rate. Puppies can have up to 220 beats per minute. It is normal for the pulse to be a irregular so don’t worry about that.

Step two if a dog stops breathing, first call for help before administering CPR. You have a few minutes and it is best to have help and a place to go before starting rescue operations. If the dog does not respond to rescue breathing within the first few minutes you will need someone to drive while you continue with CPR.

The ABCs of CPR are Airway, Breathing, Compression. If you witness the episode you will know if the dog choked, in which case you want to move directly to rescue breathing. If you did not, check the mouth for obstructions. Use caution as a dog could bite down while unconscious and you need your hands for compressions.  If you see something carefully dislodge it and begin rescue breathing if necessary. If there is no obstruction and the heart is beating start rescue breathing. Close the muzzle and be sure to align the head and neck so the airway is straight. On large dogs you will breath into their nose and on small dogs breath into the nose and mouth. Start with 5 rapid rescue breaths, being sure the chest lowers between breaths then maintain at the rate of 10 breaths per minute. You want to use just enough pressure in your breaths to see the chest cavity rise. Be sure it falls again before administering the next breath.

If the dog’s heart has stopped you will need put the dog, laying down, on it’s right side thus placeing the heart upward. Place the heel of one hand over the heart with your other hand on top of the first hand locking them together with your fingers. For small dogs you can use your first two fingers, one hand atop the other. Keep your arms straight and give 100 to 120 compressions per minute or one and a half to two compressions per second. You will press hard enough to lower the rib cage 1/3 to 1/2 of the chest width or about 2-3 inches on a large dog and 1/2-1 inch on small dogs.

After every 30 compressions you will administer two breaths then go back to compressions continuing that cycle through the 100 to 120 chest compression cycle. Check for a heart beat and breathing after each set of 100-120 compressions and change administers after every two minutes of compressions. You will get tired so don’t skip this step if you have help available. There is discrepancy as to how long you should continue CPR. Some say after 10 minutes the dog is lost others say you can continue for 20 minutes if you are on your way to the vet.

No one wants to see a dog collapse, but with this simple knowledge you could save a life and increase the chances of survival if the dog does not revive and has to be taken to the emergency room. Click here for a PDF poster on CPR for dogs.