How to perform CPR on a dog

Assessment of consciousness

The procedure for approaching an injured dog, to enable you to assess the dog’s state of consciousness using non-invasive techniques to ensure your own safety.

"If you come across a dog that appears to be unconscious you need to approach it from the head area so that if it can see you, it can see you approaching. You want to call out for help so it can hear you approaching as well.

You’re going to touch the dog with your foot before kneeling so that if the dog is going to react, you’ve got more of a chance of staying safe yourself. Once you’re down with the dog, if the dog turns on you and bites you then you haven’t got as much chance of getting up safely.

Touch the dog with your foot and look and listen for any signs of life. If there aren’t any, come down and stroke the dog with the back of your hand. The back of the hand is much less invasive than with the front of the hand, where you’ve got the weight of the fingers and the heat of the palm. With the back, it’s a much smaller and less invasive surface area and at this point we don’t know if the dog has a pulse and/or is breathing."

Checking a dogs pulse

Preliminary checks to assess consciousness, followed by the correct procedure for taking the dog’s pulse from the femoral artery.

"Touch with the back of your hand and you’re still looking and listening for any signs of life at all. If there aren’t any, you’re then going to take the femoral pulse as we showed in a previous video."

Starting compressions

The procedure for performing compressions, including expected number of compressions, the location on the dog’s body to apply the compressions, the depth to compress, plus the speed and timing required for the technique.

"If there is no pulse, you’re going to go into two minutes of compressions. So, that’s about 200 chest compressions. You’re going over the widest part of the dog’s rib cage. You’re going about a third of the dog’s body depth with each compression with about two compressions a second.

If you remember that song ‘Staying Alive’ or ‘Nellie the Elephant’ these are the songs that will keep you in time. Another song which may not be quite as appropriate when performing CPR is ‘Another One Bites the Dust’."

Checking pulse and ensuring airway clear

Preliminary pulse-check and the procedure for clearing the airway, prior to rescue breaths.

"After you’ve done 2 minutes worth of compressions, check to see if there is a pulse back. If there is no pulse, you’re then going to look inside the dog’s mouth and then clear anything that may be in the mouth possibly obstructing the airway."

Mouth-to-snout technique & best practise

Instructions for clamping and sealing the dog’s mouth, adjusting the dog’s posture and performing mouth-to-snout rescue breaths to fill the lungs with air – plus guidance on assessing the amount of air required for the breed.

"You’re going to tuck the tongue into the mouth and clamp the muzzle firmly shut. With a dog, you do mouth-to-snout compressions, not mouth-to-mouth. You actually form a seal over the dog’s nose and blow air into the nose.

So, you need to see the chest rise with each rescue breath so that you know that your air has got through to where it needs to go in your dog’s lungs. If you imagine the teabag size lungs on a Chihuahua versus the massive balloon sized lungs on a Great Dane, you need to be blowing an appropriate amount of air into those lungs to inflate them. So, on a smaller dog, it will just take a little puff of air to see that chest size, whereas on a larger breed it will take a much steadier stream of air to get into the dog’s lungs. If you see the chest rising, you know that your air has gone through.

Something else to help the air get through is if you can pull the head forward to elongate the airway. If you aim to have a straight a topline as you can, with the neck and back as in line as possible. This is stretching out the airway meaning your air can get through to where it needs to go so that will aid with your rescue breaths."

Dog CPR sequence of steps

Detailing the sequence of steps required to perform effective CPR, including ratio of compressions to breaths, when to check for a pulse, and how long to continue.

"So, you do two breaths and between each breath you are removing your mouth and breathing fresh air into your lungs. This is so you don’t pass out, and that you’re breathing fresh air into the dog. Then you go into 30 compressions, 2 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths, 30 compressions, 2 breaths.

You do this three times and check if there is a pulse unless there is any sign of life in between. You keep repeating this cycle with 30 compressions and 2 breaths until either help arrives to help you get the dog safely down to the vet or until about 20 minutes have passed when unfortunately, you would decide that the dog was not going to pull through."


In addition to learning these vital life-saving skills, Animal Friends would always recommend having dog insurance to help you to cover the cost of veterinary treatment if they get injured or fall ill, helping you to provide the maximum protection for your canine friends when they need it most.

About Dog First Aid Training Ltd

Dog First Aid Training Ltd have been providing lifesaving training workshops since 2013 and have trained thousands of dog owners and canine professionals. Our aim is to provide everyone with a dog in their life with the confidence and skills to deal with common first aid emergencies such as choking, bleeds, shock, cardiac arrest, burns & scalds and poisoning. We offer both in-person and online CPD accredited training events which have been developed with members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Animal welfare is at the heart of what we do; our mission is to reduce suffering and to save lives.

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