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Show full transcript for Pet CPR Introduction video

In this lesson, we'll be introducing you to pet CPR for your dog or cat, including knowing when to begin providing CPR efforts (as three conditions must be met), along with outcome rates, and how you'll know when it's time to stop. At the end of the lesson, we'll provide you with an additional Word on providing CPR to your pets.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (also known as CPR) is used in patients who have stopped breathing and whose hearts have also stopped beating. When this happens, that person or pet will now be in cardiopulmonary arrest.

Pro Tip #1: When the heart fails to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body, the brain and other important tissues can suffer damage after just a couple of minutes. Therefore, it's really important for you to understand the time component that is involved with providing CPR.

CPR consists of two main components:

  1. Providing rescue breaths.
  2. Performing high-quality chest compression.

The goal of CPR is to pump the heart manually, which will circulate that oxygenated blood, until the heart begins to beat on its own. Without this vital intervention, a patient or a pet who suffers from cardiopulmonary arrest will almost certainly die.

Success rates of CPR performed on people have been fairly well studied, but this isn't necessarily so when it comes to success rates in veterinary medicine. However, generally, dogs and cats who require CPR will survive around 10 percent of the time.

Pro Tip #2: Yes, that statistic is a bit gloomy, but it's important for you to know that CPR is much more likely to fail than succeed. However, the sooner you can initiate CPR efforts, the more likely that your pet will have a good outcome. It's also important to know that without those CPR efforts, that good outcome practically falls to zero percent, which is why medical professionals teach that at that point, the patient is already dead; therefore, it's better to do something than nothing.

CPR should only be performed on pets who have actually suffered cardiopulmonary arrest. It's important that you're able to recognize the signs, or the three conditions that must be met.

Three Signs or Conditions Before Providing CPR

1. Your pet will lose consciousness, meaning he will no longer be able to respond to you.
2. Your pet will stop breathing or stop breathing normally.

Pro Tip #3: Determining this can be tricky. Some pets will stop showing any signs of normal breathing, while others will continue what we call agonal or gasping breathing. This is not considered normal breathing, and it's important that you understand the difference.

3. Your pet will have no pulse rate. This also can be difficult to assess for, particularly in an emergency. However, remember how vital the time component is. You should only spend 10 to 15 seconds looking for a pulse before moving on to CPR.

If you cannot find a pulse for your pet quickly and the first two conditions are met, begin CPR efforts immediately. There is little risk that you'll cause harm if you perform CPR on a patient or pet who doesn't need it.

Warning: There is a far greater risk of delaying CPR efforts for a pet who really needs it.

How Long Should You Perform CPR on Your Pet?

There aren't really any clear guidelines for how long CPR efforts should continue before you decide to stop. Logically speaking, the longer your pet goes without proper blood flow, the higher his chances of a poor outcome.

Some guidelines recommend performing CPR for at least 20 minutes, then stopping at that point if you are not successful. Having said that, there have been plenty of reports involving people and pets who have survived prolonged CPR efforts. One instance in which this is sometimes the case, is for near drowning incidents in cold or icy waters.

However, in general, dogs and cats that typically survive CPR efforts were revived after around 10 minutes or less on average.

An Additional Word on Providing CPR to Your Pets

We've talked a lot about how important your pet first aid kit is, especially the contact information, so you can be better prepared to handle an emergency. In that same vein, we have an important resource we'd like to share with you.

We'll be getting to our CPR demonstration in the next lesson, but in an emergency, the brain sometimes doesn't work very well. Which means you may not remember everything you've learned in this section at a time when you really need to.

Enter a resource you can print, review occasionally, and keep in your pet first aid kit. In this blog article for ProPetHero – Steps You Can Take to Save an Unresponsive Pet – you'll find an infographic that might just help you at a time when thinking clearly may be negatively impacted.