Cat and Dog CPR: Can It Really Work?

This Labrador and tabby could one day be saved by Cat and dog CPR.

Cat and dog CPR may sound far fetched but it is actually something that can save lives. Just like human CPR courses many of us have done to receive a first aid qualification.

While neither are a fail-proof approach and the former has less success, it still has the potential to save the life of a cat or dog in an emergency. Cats, dogs, and humans are all mammals, and our lungs work in much the same way. Want to know more?

Read on to find out.

What does CPR mean?

Most of us know the phrase CPR and have some idea of what it looks like thanks to TV. CPR is an acronym for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s a combination of manual ventilation of the lungs and compression of the chest.

The person administering CPR breaths air into the patient from their mouth. CPR is done in an effort to restart the heart, which then carries oxygen to vital organs. So, it’s literally done with the hope of breathing life into the patient.

When the heart stops beating, CPR mimics breathing and encourages the heart to start beating once more. The timing is crucial as it needs to be done immediately. When the heart stops beating, it usually causes irreversible brain damage within minutes.

Therefore, the goal of CPR is to keep the animal or person alive long enough for proper medical treatment to be administered.

dog CPR has saved this dog's life.

Can animal CPR really work?

Can CPR work on a pet? The answer is yes, but let’s elaborate. In humans, 40% of people given CPR come round, and of these only 20% survive to be discharged from hospital. That may sound low for, say, an English language test. But given we’re talking life and death, the 20% of absolute survivors is a big deal.

If you’re a soccer fan, you’ll know Danish player Christian Eriksen collapsed from cardiac arrest on the pitch a few weeks ago. He’s still alive today, thanks to CPR.

The success rate of cat and dog CPR

When it comes to cats and dogs, the CPR success rate is lower still. There’s not a huge amount of research but it’s estimated at 5% of animals given it out of hospital and 15% of those given it in hospital.

There’s more to this than meets the eye as pets seldom experience cardiac arrest. And this is because if your pet’s heart stops it’s likely there’s another underlying condition that’s the real problem.  

And again, a 5% success rate could mean a world of difference if it’s about your cat or dog’s survival. If you can save one furry life, you’ll be happy you learned animal CPR.

So how is it done? And when is cat and dog CPR required?

How to do cat and dog CPR?

If you find a pet in an emergency situation, dial a vet immediately for help. Before you begin CPR, remember the “ABCs”: airways, breathing, and cardiac.

  • A: Check the airway is clear
    Open their mouth to make sure nothing’s stuck in their throat to obstruct breathing. The airways should be clear before trying cat or dog CPR.
  • B: Check they’re breathing
    Watch their chest or hold your hand near their nose to assess if they’re breathing. Remember, dogs and cats could be unconscious and still be breathing. If they’re breathing, there’s no need for CPR.
  • C: Check for the heartbeat
    Place your hand on the left side of their chest to feel for a heartbeat. If you feel a heartbeat, CPR isn’t needed.

These are important steps to familiarise yourself with.

Cat and dog CPR techniques

Although the principles of CPR stay the same, there are some differences in how it’s done with cats and dogs.


Watch this video of a qualified vet showing the step-by-step process of dog CPR:


As we mentioned, doing CPR on cats requires the same principles as dogs. However, because cats are smaller, the techniques are slightly different. This may also apply in the case of a puppy or smaller dog.

Watch this video to see these techniques:

Important pet CPR tips

Cat and dog CPR should only be performed in emergencies. For example, if their breathing has stopped after they’ve eaten plants that are toxic to pets or things that can poison your pet. Other instances include trauma or severe shock, such as being hit by a car.

In other circumstances, forceful compressions could injure a dog or cat.

It’s crucial that you get medical treatment as quickly as possible. Whether you take the animal to clinic or a vet comes and treats onsite, always call for veterinary support immediately. Have them on the phone on loudspeaker while you’re performing CPR, – they may be able to talk you through the process and give advice.

Pet insurance

It’s also worthwhile having pet insurance. If CPR saves their life, they’ll still require emergency medical intervention. If your fur kid has a pet insurance policy, it’s one less thing to think about on your way to the vet.

Cat and dog CPR – over to you

Have you heard of cat and dog CPR? Is this something you plan to learn – tell us in the comments below:

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