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Artificial Respiration and CPR for Dogs

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Artificial respiration is the emergency procedure used to assist air exchange in an unconscious dog. Heart massage (chest compressions) is used when no heartbeat can be felt or heard. When chest compressions are combined with artificial respiration, it is called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Because cessation of breathing is soon followed by heart stoppage and vice versa, CPR is required in most life-threatening situations.

While CPR can be performed by one person, it is easier and more often successful when done by two. One person does the artificial respiration while the other does the chest compressions.

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The following emergencies may require artificial respiration or CPR:

  • Shock
  • Poisoning
  • Prolonged seizure
  • Coma
  • Head injury
  • Electric shock
  • Obstructed airway (choking)
  • Sudden cessation of heart activity and breathing

Artificial Respiration or CPR?

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

     If YES, pull out the tongue and clear the airway. Observe.

     If NO, feel for a pulse.

Does the dog have a pulse? Feel for the femoral artery located on the inside of the mid-thigh.

     If YES, start artificial respiration.

     If NO, start CPR.

Artificial Respiration

Lay the dog on a flat surface with his right side down. Open his mouth and pull his tongue forward as far as you can. Clear any secretions with a cloth or handkerchief. Check for a foreign body.

For puppies and small dogs under 30 pounds (13.6 kg)

  1. Pull the tongue forward so it is even with the canine teeth. Close the dog’s 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 overinflation of the lungs and overdistension 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 to 30 breaths per minute (one breath every two to three 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 dog’s 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 (one breath every three seconds).


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