How to Do CPR On a Dog

If your dog is not breathing, knowing how to perform CPR may save his life.


If your dog is not breathing, knowing what to do and how to do it before you encounter such a situation could truly mean the difference between life and death. Rescue breathing is a critical part of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) for dogs.



Dog owners who know how to perform rescue breathing, or CPR on a small dog versus CPR on a large dog, very well may save their own dog’s life. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Baker Institute of Animal Health has produced an outstanding graphic that should be on every dog owner’s refrigerator. ProCPR placed an excellent video on how to give CPR to your animal.

What If It Happens at Home?

Can you do it? You have nothing to lose by trying. A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science showed that mouth-to-nose rescue breathing was better than nothing and certainly worth a try if your dog is not breathing.

Furthermore, the veterinary CPR guidelines (RECOVER Initiative) state, “It is reasonable to recommend mouth-to-snout rescue breathing for dogs and cats with respiratory arrest or with cardiopulmonary arrest in a 30:2 ratio with chest compressions when endotracheal intubation is not available.”

What does this mean? Well, “30:2” means for every 30 chest compressions you give 2 breaths. You should be giving approximately 100 to 120 chest compressions (2 compressions every second) and approximately 10 breaths per minute (1 breath every 6 seconds).

Mouth-to-nose rescue breathing is not perfect. Some of the problems that arise are gas distention of the stomach, regurgitation of stomach contents, and ineffective breaths.

To administer breaths as effectively as possible, extend the head and neck as much as possible and seal the dog’s lips as tightly closed as you can to prevent air from escaping. You must blow with enough sustained vigor to see the dog’s chest rise and fall. This tells you the lungs have expanded.

Note: If the dog is choking, you need to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on your dog to clear the airway.

CPR on Big Dogs

For chest compressions in big dogs, with one hand on top of the other and the dog on his side, push hard on the lower rib cage behind the front legs. You must push hard enough to compress the rib cage to effectively push blood through the heart.

CPR on Small Dogs

For chest compressions in a small dog, it is sometimes better to use your thumbs. With the dog on his side, one hand grabs the dog’s top line, the other hand grabs the lower chest. With your thumbs facing each other and flat against the ribs behind the elbow start compressions, again with enough pressure to compress the rib cage.

Rescue breathing and chest compressions must be continued until either the dog starts breathing on its own or you arrive at the veterinary emergency center and the professionals take over.

If your dog goes into cardiac and/or respiratory arrest at the veterinary clinic, an endotracheal tube will be inserted into the trachea and rescue breathing will be administered using 100% oxygen. This is obviously the ideal situation, and the most effective way to provide rescue breathing during CPR. Performing CPR while you’re on route to the veterinary clinic is critical. Call ahead to be sure they’re open and available.


  1. I had an old rescue dog who a couple heart attacks. Luckily I already read about the accupuncture point under the nose to stop them and it worked. It was horrifying; I never want to hear those screams again. He then had a seizure. I’m very familiar with seizures as I’ve had dogs with them. Scary the first time you see one. But then his heart stopped and I gave him CPR starting his heart again. I didn’t want to let him go.