CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is an emergency medical procedure. In people, it’s used for those suffering cardiac or respiratory arrest–those whose heart or breathing have stopped. Not every owner is aware that CPR has the same function in emergency medical care for dogs. Just as you want to know how to perform CPR on a person in distress, it’s a good idea to know how to perform it on your dog.

What CPR does

CPR provides artificial respiration and blood circulation, using compression on the chest and ventilation to the lungs. The goal is to keep these vital life processes going so that oxygenated blood reaches the brain and the heart, until the patient regains his own heartbeat. Dog owners are most likely to need to use CPR in response to choking.

How to perform CPR

You’ll need to perform CPR if your dog has no pulse.

For dogs under 30 pounds (and puppies):

1. Lay the dog on his right side.

2. The dog’s heart is located in the chest just behind the points on the front elbows. Place a cupped hand over the heart on either side of the chest (one hand resting between his body and the floor) and compress one to one-and-a-half inches. Count to one, then release for one count. Continue at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.

3. If there’s someone to help you perform CPR, provide one breath using mouth-to-nose breathing every two to three compressions. If you’re alone, provide one breath every five compressions.

4. FOR PUPPIES: Use your thumb on one side of the puppy’s chest, with your fingers on the other side. Less force will be required, but be sure your actions are strong enough to compress the chest as above.

For dogs over 30 pounds:

1. Perform the steps above, but use both hands on the same side of the chest. Don’t place your hand directly over the heart. Instead, kneeling behind the dog’s back, place the heel of your hand at the widest portion of the rib cage and place your other hand on top of it.

2. Keep your elbows straight. Push straight down, compressing the chest two to three inches, at a rate of one-and-a-half to two times per second.

3. If there’s someone helping you perform CPR, provide one nose-to-mouth breath every two to three compressions. If you’re alone, provide one breath every five compressions.

You must continue CPR until the dog has a steady pulse and is breathing on his own. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that a dog who does not respond to CPR in the first ten minutes can be saved.

What’s next

Once your dog has regained consciousness and is breathing on his own, go immediately to your veterinarian or nearest emergency facility. There is a likelihood of fracturing ribs during CPR, so a thorough examination afterward is a must.