How to do CPR on a Dog or a Cat

The death of a family dog or cat is devastating.  Learning to perform CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) on your family pet may save Spot’s or Fluffy’s life. Your dog or cat is certainly not immune to accidents or health conditions that can cause death.  When drowning, electrical shock, choking, trauma or certain health issues lead to a lack of vital signs, knowing and performing pet CPR may be the difference between life and death for your four-legged family member.

The earlier CPR is performed on your dog or cat, the more likely for a successful outcome.  CPR allows for oxygenated blood to continue flowing to the heart and brain until your pet’s heart and lungs start functioning on their own.  CPR should only be given to a pet if he is not breathing and has no pulse. CPR should never be practiced on a healthy pet.

To check for a pulse, place your hand on the left side of your pet’s chest.  If you cannot feel a pulse, you can also place your fingers on the femoral artery.  The femoral artery is on the inside of the leg near where the leg meets the rest of the body.  To check for breathing, observe your pet’s chest to see if it rises and falls.  Check to see if the airway is blocked.  If it is and if possible, remove the item blocking the airway.


Cat and Dog CPR

  1. Check for breathing and a heartbeat…

Check to see if the pet is breathing and check for a heartbeat. If you do not see your pet’s chest moving and cannot find a heartbeat, begin CPR with chest compressions.

  1. Give chest compressions…

Place your hands on your pet as follows:

  • For cats, small dogs and deep chested dogs, place the heel of one of your hands directly over the pet’s heart and place your other hand directly over the first hand.
  • For deep chested dogs, place the heel of one hand over the widest part of the chest and place your other hand directly over the first hand.
  • For barrel chested dogs, place the dog on its back, place one hand over the widest part of the sternum, and place your other hand directly over the first hand. Lock your elbows and make sure your shoulders are directly above your hands.
  • Then, push hard and push fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute, compressing 1/3 to 1/2 the width of your pet’s chest. Make sure the chest comes back fully (recoils) before compressing again.


Perform 30 chest compressions

  1. Then give rescue breaths…

To give rescue breaths, gently close the pet’s mouth and extend the pet’s neck to open the airway. Cover your pet’s nose with your mouth and exhale until you see the pet’s chest rise. Give a second rescue breath.

  1. Continue CPR…

Continue giving CPR with a cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until your dog or cat begins breathing again on its own.

  1. Check again for breathing and a heartbeat…

Briefly check for breathing and a heartbeat every 2 minutes.

  1. Get help…

Continue CPR until you reach a veterinary hospital or until your pet responds to CPR and contact your Vet immediately.


The above instructions to perform CPR have been referenced from The Red Cross.


For further information on First Aid and CPR courses, please check out SOS Safety On Site, a Canadian Red Cross and Lifesaving Society training partner at