Giving CPR to pets: our vet’s advice

We would always advise owners to take veterinary advice, or attend a veterinary-led first aid course, to learn how to deliver CPR in the safest way.

Unfortunately, CPR usually isn’t appropriate or successful for pets. Pets who have an underlying illness or disease are unlikely to recover, even if given CPR. However, CPR can save lives in some situations – for example, if a healthy pet’s heart has stopped due to a specific cause, like electrocution, drowning or choking.


Checking if your pet needs CPR:

  • Try to stay calm.
  • Quickly assess the airway and breathing.


  • Pull the tongue forward.
  • Check there is nothing in the throat.
  • If there is something blocking the airway, remove it.


  • Look and listen. Are they breathing? Can you see the chest rising and falling of feel breath coming from the nostrils?
  • If they’re not breathing, immediately check for a heartbeat.


  • Place your hand or ear over the chest, where the elbow meets the ribcage. Can you feel/hear a heartbeat?
  • If you are sure there is no heartbeat, start CPR.

Performing CPR

  • Place your pet on their right side on a firm, flat surface. Dogs with barrel-shaped chests need to be lying on their backs and CPR compressions are done at the midpoint of the chest.
  • Compress the chest at 2 per second at the widest part of the chest. (Remember the song ‘Staying Alive’ – doing it to this beat is about right.)

For large dogs, use both hands interlocked.

For small dogs, use one hand.

For cats use one hand to compress the chest from both sides while they are lying on their side.

  • Each compression should depress the chest by a half to two thirds and the chest should be allowed to return to the normal position after each compression
  • Keep your arms straight and if you have someone with you, swap regularly as the process is very tiring.
  • After 30 compressions, extend their neck, close the mouth and blow down their nose. Give 2 breaths of 1 second, allowing 1 second for the chest to fall.
  • It is possible to create a seal with your mouth around small dog’s noses, but for larger dogs you need to close the sides of the nostrils with your hand and blow down the nostrils from the front.
  • Check for a heartbeat
  • If the dog is still not breathing and there is no heartbeat, repeat the process - giving 30 compressions and 2 breaths - until veterinary help arrives or until the heartbeat and breathing return.

Even if your pet’s heartbeat and breathing return, you should take your pet to the vet as an emergency.