How to Perform CPR for Cats and Dogs

A guide on how to do CPR for Pets is discussed on this page. This guide will help you how to recognize when your pet needs Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and provide a step by step procedure on how to perform Pet CPR. Pets are curious and unpredictable creatures, and accidents can happen at any time. Being equipped with the knowledge of pet CPR can empower you to take immediate action when your pet needs it the most.


The steps for performing CPR on pets are similar to those used for humans, but the technique and approach may differ due to the anatomical differences between species. Here's a step by step guide on how to perform pet CPR:


  1. Check for Responsiveness: Tap your pet gently and call their name. Check for any signs of movement or response.
  2. Clear the Airway: If your pet is unconscious but still has a heartbeat, carefully check and clear the airway of any obstructions or foreign objects.
  3. Check for Breathing and Pulse: Look for chest movements and listen for breathing sounds. Also, check for a pulse on your pet's inner thigh, close to the groin area. If there's no breathing or pulse, move to the next steps.
  4. Chest Compressions: For dogs, place both hands on the widest part of their chest and push down about one-third to one-half the depth of the chest, then release. For cats, use one hand to compress the chest.
  5. Artificial Respiration: Provide artificial respiration by performing rescue breaths. For dogs, close their mouth and breathe into their nostrils, making sure the chest rises. For cats, cover both their nose and mouth while breathing.
  6. Continue the Cycle: Perform a cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Continue this cycle until your pet starts breathing on its own or until you can get them to a veterinary professional.

Blood Pressure Category
Systolic (Upper)
Diastolic (Lower)
Health Risks
Less than 120 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Low risk of heart disease or stroke
Maintain healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, no smoking)
120-129 mm Hg
and Less than 80 mm Hg
Doubled risk of cardiovascular complications
Make lifestyle changes (lose weight if overweight, increase physical activity, limit alcohol)
Hypertension Stage 1
130-139 mm Hg
or 80-89 mm Hg
Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease
Lifestyle changes and potentially medication under doctor's guidance
Hypertension Stage 2
140 mm Hg or Higher
or 90 mm Hg or Higher
High risk; can lead to heart failure, vision loss, dementia
Medication required in addition to lifestyle changes as recommended by doctor
Hypertensive Crisis
Higher than 180 mm Hg
nd/or Higher than 120 mm Hg
Immediate danger of life-threatening complications
Seek emergency medical care immediately
Cardiac Arrest
Heart Attack
Sudden loss of heart function, leading to collapse
Blockage in a coronary artery, affecting blood flow to the heart muscle
Interruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to brain damage
Main Cause
Electrical malfunction of the heart
Blockage in coronary arteries
Blockage or rupture of blood vessels in the brain
Circulation Affected
Entire body
Heart muscle
Brain tissue
105Sudden collapse, unconsciousness, no pulse
Chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath
Sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech/73
Emergency Response
Immediate CPR and defibrillation
Activate emergency medical services, chew aspirin
Activate emergency medical services, FAST assessment (Face, Arms, Speech, Time)
CPR, defibrillation
Thrombolytic therapy, angioplasty, stenting
Thrombolytic therapy, clot retrieval,
Long-term Management
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), medication management
Medication management, lifestyle changes, cardiac rehabilitation
Medication, rehabilitation, lifestyle changes
Dependent on prompt CPR and defibrillation, underlying health conditions
Dependent on extent of heart muscle damage, effectiveness of intervention
Dependent on severity of brain damage, rehabilitation progress
Risk Factors
Previous heart conditions, arrhythmias, electrolyte imbalances
Atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, diabetes
Hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation

1. Check for Responsiveness

Gently tap your pet to stimulate a reaction, and call their name in a calm, soothing voice. Observe closely for any signs of movement, such as twitching or turning their head towards you, and be attentive to any response they may display.


2. Clear the Airway

If your pet is unconscious but still has a heartbeat, approach with care. Open their mouth gently and use your fingers to sweep away any visible obstructions or foreign objects that could be blocking their airway. Take caution to avoid pushing the obstruction further down the throat.


3. Check for Breathing and Pulse

Observe the chest area for any visible rise and fall, indicating breathing. Additionally, place your ear near their nose to listen for the sound of breathing. Normal breathing rates for dogs range from 10 to 30 breaths per minute and for cats, from 20 to 30 breaths per minute.

Simultaneously, locate your pet's inner thigh, close to the groin area, and feel for a pulse. This can provide vital information about their circulatory status.


How to Check for a Pet's Pulse?

  • For dogs and cats: Gently lay your pet on its right side. Place your fingers on the inner thigh, close to the groin area, where the femoral artery is located. Feel for a rhythmic pulse. The pulse rate in dogs is typically between 60-160 beats per minute, while in cats, it's usually between 140-220 compressions per minute.
  • For birds and reptiles: Pulse can be checked on larger arteries, such as the brachial or femoral artery, depending on the species. It's essential to be familiar with the specific anatomy of the bird or reptile you are handling.


4. Chest Compressions

For dogs, position yourself beside them and place both hands one on top of the other on the widest part of their chest. Administer firm, rhythmic compressions by pushing down about one-third to one-half of the depth of the chest. Release the pressure completely between compressions to allow the chest to return to its natural position. This action aims to manually stimulate the heart's pumping action.

For cats, use a more delicate approach. With the cat lying on a firm surface, position one hand underneath their chest and use the other hand to compress the chest gently, aiming for a depth that is appropriate for their size. The goal is to provide effective chest compressions to aid circulation.


5. Artificial Respiration

To provide artificial respiration, close your pet's mouth securely (ensuring their airway remains unobstructed) and place your mouth over their nostrils. Administer steady breaths, watching for the rise and fall of the chest as you breathe. This technique helps supply oxygen to the lungs and supports respiratory function.

For cats, take extra care when covering both their nose and mouth with your mouth. Ensure a secure seal to maximize the effectiveness of the rescue breaths. Monitor the chest movements as you provide breaths.


6. Continue the Cycle

Maintain a cycle of 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. This rhythmic pattern helps to maintain blood circulation and oxygenation. Repeat the cycle diligently until your pet begins breathing independently or until you can seek professional veterinary assistance. Timely intervention and persistence are key in providing the best chance of recovery for your beloved companion.

After performing pet CPR, you should immediately seek professional veterinary care. Even if you were able to revive your pet temporarily, it's crucial to have them evaluated by a veterinarian to address the underlying cause of the cardiac or respiratory arrest.


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Blood Pressure Chart by Age

Age Group
Min Systolic/Diastolic
Normal Range
Max Systolic/Diastolic
1-12 months
Consult pediatrician if outside normal range. Cuff sizing is critical.
1-5 years
High BP in children may indicate underlying condition. Lifestyle factors.
6-13 years
Obesity, family history increase risk. Promote healthy habits early.
14-19 years
Adolescent rise normal. Rule out secondary causes if elevated.
20-24 years
Stressors, medications may impact. Start monitoring if high-normal.
25-29 years
Dietary changes, exercise for elevated readings. Birth control effects.
30-39 years
110/77 - 111/78
122/81 - 123/82
134/85 - 135/86
Monitor closely if readings increasing with age.
40-49 years
112/79 - 115/80
125/83 - 127/84
137/87 - 139/88
Lifestyle changes proven to reduce hypertension risk.
50-64 years
116/81 - 121/83
129/85 - 134/87
142/89 - 147/91
White coat effect common. Home monitoring advised.
65+ years
130+ Systolic Risk
Frailty, medications, conditions factored in management.

What is Pet CPR?

Pet CPR is a life-saving technique used to revive a pet that has stopped breathing or does not have a heartbeat. It involves a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration to maintain blood circulation and oxygen flow until professional veterinary care can be provided.


Recognizing When Your Pet Needs CPR

You should perform pet CPR if your pet is unconscious, not breathing, or does not have a heartbeat.

  • Unconsciousness: If your pet is unresponsive, not reacting to stimuli or touch, and doesn't wake up when called, it may be unconscious and require immediate attention.
  • Lack of Breathing: Check for breathing by observing your pet's chest movements. In some cases, it may be easier to see abdominal movements, especially in smaller animals like cats and small dogs. A pet in distress may have irregular or no breathing at all.
  • Absence of a Pulse: To check for a pulse, place your fingers on the inner thigh, close to the groin area, where the femoral artery is located. Feel for a rhythmic pulse; if there is no pulse or it is extremely weak, your pet may need CPR.


Unique Considerations for Cats and Dogs

Cats and dogs have anatomical differences that may require slightly adjusted Pet CPR techniques. For example, smaller animals like cats may need gentler compressions and smaller breaths. Additionally, muzzle restraint may be necessary for dogs who are regaining consciousness to prevent potential bites due to disorientation or fear.


Post-CPR Care for Pets

After performing CPR on your pet, it's crucial to continue monitoring their condition and take the appropriate steps to ensure their well-being. Here's what you should do after performing CPR:

  1. Check for Breathing and Pulse: After performing Pet CPR, check if your pet has started breathing on their own and whether you can detect a pulse. If your pet is breathing and has a pulse, monitor their condition closely for any signs of improvement or deterioration.
  2. Keep Your Pet Calm and Warm: If your pet is conscious and breathing, keep them calm and comfortable. Stress and agitation can worsen their condition, so avoid unnecessary movement or loud noises. Keep them warm by covering them with a blanket if needed.
  3. Seek Immediate Veterinary Assistance: Even if you were able to revive your pet temporarily through Pet CPR, it's essential to seek immediate veterinary assistance. Pet CPR is a temporary measure and does not address the underlying cause of cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest. A veterinarian can provide a thorough evaluation, diagnose the root problem, and administer appropriate treatment.
  4. Transport Your Pet Safely: If your pet is still unconscious or in critical condition, transport them carefully to the nearest veterinary hospital. Ensure that your pet is secured and stable during transportation to minimize any further injuries.
  5. Continue Monitoring: While en route to the veterinarian, keep an eye on your pet's breathing, pulse, and overall condition. Note any changes or signs of improvement to communicate with the veterinarian upon arrival.
  6. Be Prepared to Provide Information: When you reach the veterinary clinic, be prepared to provide the veterinarian with all relevant information about the event leading up to the emergency, the Pet CPR you administered, and your pet's medical history, if available. This information will help the veterinarian in their assessment and decision-making.
  7. Be Prepared for Possible Outcomes: While Pet CPR can be life-saving in some cases, it is not always successful. Be mentally prepared for any outcome, and know that you did your best to help your pet during the emergency.


What is the Success Rate for Pet CPR?

Estimates suggest a success rate of around 6% to 8%, but outcomes can be better in certain situations or with prompt and correct CPR. The success rate of pet CPR varies based on factors such as the underlying cause, pet's size, promptness of CPR, and overall health.

Based on the clinical outcome of canine CPR following the RECOVER clinical guidelines, the rate of survival remains low compared to human CPR patients. This may suggest that a superior intensive care unit providing advanced Post-Cardiopulmonary Arrest care could benefit veterinary CPR patients, as could the selection of patients with acute and reversible diseases.

Pet CPR is an emergency measure to buy time until professional veterinary care can be given, and it's not a guarantee of survival. The longer a pet lacks oxygen and circulation, the lower the chances of successful resuscitation.


What are the potential complications of pet CPR?

Pet CPR can be physically demanding and carries some risks, especially if not performed correctly. Potential complications may include rib fractures, lung or heart injury, or exacerbation of existing medical conditions. However, the risks of not attempting CPR in a life-threatening situation far outweigh the potential complications.


Emotional Support for Pet Owners

Pet emergencies and performing Pet CPR can be emotionally distressing for pet owners. It's essential to have a support network of friends, family, or pet support groups to help cope with the emotional impact of such situations.


Can pet CPR be used for other animals, such as birds or reptiles?

Pet CPR techniques are primarily designed for cats and dogs because of their similarities to human anatomy. However, some aspects of CPR, like rescue breaths, can potentially be adapted for other small animals. For birds and reptiles, chest compressions may not be applicable due to their unique anatomies, but artificial respiration techniques could still be attempted with care.


Is pet CPR always successful in saving a pet's life?

The success of pet CPR depends on various factors, including the underlying cause of the emergency, how quickly CPR was initiated, and the overall health status of the animal. While pet CPR can be successful in some cases, it's not a guarantee, and sometimes, despite best efforts, pets may not survive.


Can I learn pet CPR without prior medical training?

Yes, you can learn pet CPR without prior medical training. There are pet first aid courses available that cover CPR and other essential emergency procedures for pets. These courses are designed for pet owners, pet sitters, and anyone who wants to be prepared to handle pet emergencies. However, it's essential to remember that while pet CPR can be life-saving, professional veterinary care should always be sought immediately after administering CPR to your pet.