Pet First Aid – Performing CPR on your Pet

Latest figures from PDSA found that nine out of 10 pet owners surveyed have never received any pet first aid training and 80% don’t own a pet first aid kit.

“Being clued-up on first aid could help save your pet’s life in an emergency,” explains PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing. “That’s why PDSA has created a free downloadable guide for pet owners to have on hand in an emergency. It covers everything from heatstroke and wounds to seizures and choking.

“It also covers how to perform CPR on your pet. And while most of us know the basics of human CPR, three-quarters of the pet owners we surveyed said they wouldn’t know how to perform the potentially life-saving first aid on their furry family members if they needed to.”

Nina shares PDSA’s advice on how to give CPR to pets:

What to do if your pet collapses

  1. Make sure you and the pet are in a safe area away from hazards like other animals or traffic.
  2. Approach your pet, speak to them and see if they respond.
  3. Gently touch your pet, if they’re collapsed but aware or responding to you, they don’t need CPR.
  4. Call for help – call a vet immediately and you’ll often need two people for CPR.
  5. Move your pet to a safe place if necessary.
  6. Remember your ABCs.

A for Airway, B for Breathing, C for Compressions


Carefully pull the tongue forward. Putting your fingers near your pet’s mouth can be dangerous. If they suddenly wake up, there’s a good chance you could get bitten. If the pet reacts or tries to resist you then they don’t need CPR. Call your vet and tell them your pet has collapsed but isn’t unconscious. Check for anything in the throat that could be blocking the airway.

If there is something blocking the airway, gently try to remove it, but take care not to push any obstruction further down the throat or be bitten.


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


Place your hand or ear on the left side of the pet’s chest, where the elbow meets the ribcage. Can you feel/hear a heartbeat? If you are sure there is no heartbeat, start CPR.

How to perform CPR:

  1. Place your pet on their right side on a firm, flat surface. Dogs with barrel-shaped chests need to be lying on their backs, with CPR compressions done at the midpoint of the chest. For cats and small dogs, use one hand to compress the chest from both sides while they are lying on their side, for large dogs, use both hands interlocked.
  2. Perform two chest compressions per second at the widest part of the chest. (Remember the song ‘Staying Alive’ – doing it to this beat is about right).
  3. Each compression should depress the chest by one third to a half. The chest should be allowed to return to the normal position after each compression.
  4. Keep your arms straight and if you have someone with you, swap regularly, as the process is very tiring.
  5. After 30 compressions, extend your pet’s neck, close their mouth, place your thumb and forefinger in a circle around the outside of their nostrils to make an airtight seal and blow through your fingers and down their nose. Give a 1 second breath, watch for the rise of the chest, and allow it to fall again before giving a second breath.
  6. Check for a heartbeat.
  7. If your pet still has no heartbeat and isn’t breathing, repeat the process – giving thirty compressions and two breaths. Continue CPR, checking for return of a heartbeat and breaths every two minutes while getting advice from your vet.
  8. While you perform CPR stay on the phone with your vet and it’s helpful if someone else can prepare to move your pet to go to the vets safely.

“It’s important to know that CPR isn’t always appropriate or successful for pets,” adds Nina. “Those 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 drowning or choking.”

Nina recommends owners attend a veterinary-led first aid course, to learn how to deliver CPR in the safest way.

To download PDSA’s free pet first aid guide, visit:

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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1 thoughts on “Pet First Aid – Performing CPR on your Pet

  1. chrisscatmeow says:

    I learnt CPR on people I always wanted to know how to do it to an animal I also downloaded the pet care guide. Thank you PDSA for all your astounding work.x??‍⬛?‍⬛?‍⬛?????

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