Lucky Dog: Performing Artificial Respiration on a Dog

Welcome to another Lucky Dog series article. In this article, we will discuss how to give artificial respiration to your dog in an emergency, which is part of giving CPR to a dog. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and is actually a combination of these two techniques: artificial respiration, and heart massage. Artificial respiration is used if your dog has stopped breathing. Heart massage is used if your dog’s heart has stopped beating.

There are multiple reasons why either situation could occur, but generally it is because a dog is in a medical state of shock, such as can be caused by an accident, injury, or allergic response. It is inherently risky to perform artificial respiration on a dog, as dogs do not necessarily understand that you are trying to help them. For that reason, it is generally recommended that artificial respiration techniques only be used when the dog is unconscious. Keep in mind that artificial respiration is not guaranteed to succeed in restarting a dog’s breathing, even when the artificial respiration is performed perfectly. For example, the dog may have a blockage further down in the airway, which may not readily be apparent when attempting to aid your dog.

To perform artificial respiration, follow these steps:

1. Place your dog on his side.

2. Clear the mouth and airway of any debris or foreign objects, and gently pull the tongue forward, but do not extend the tongue out of the dog’s mouth.

3. Close the dog’s mouth firmly but gently, wrapping your hand around the muzzle to keep the mouth closed. The closure needs to be complete so that an airtight seal is created. A wide strip of soft cloth, such as a man’s tie, can also be used to close the muzzle. Avoid using narrow rope or twines, as those materials can further injure the dog, and often will not close the mouth sufficiently.

4. Place your mouth over the dog’s nose, and blow in until you see the dog’s chest expand.

5. When the dog’s chest expands, take your mouth away and let the lungs deflate.

6. Repeat steps four and five at least ten times per minute, but no more than twenty times per minute. A good average is fifteen times per minute, meaning the total breath cycle of steps four and five should take approximately four seconds for each rotation.

7. Check to see if the dog’s heart is beating every two or three breath cycles, at approximately eight to twelve seconds. If the dog’s heart is not breathing, you will need to simultaneously perform heart massage, discussed in a separate Lucky Dog article.

Call for assistance as soon as possible, even if you are successful in restarting your dog’s breathing. If possible, have someone else assist you in getting the dog to a veterinarian, so that you are able to continue to assist your dog as needed, leaving the other person free to drive.

Seeking veterinary assistance is critical, as the dog may still be at risk of losing the ability to breathe again. For example, a foreign object may have been trapped in your dog’s airway, and your artificial respiration attempts may have dislodged the foreign object just enough so that the dog can breathe again. However, if the foreign object remains trapped in the airway and it shifts again, your dog may again lose the ability to breathe.

About the author: Sharon McCuddy is the author of the “Lucky Dog” article series, which includes the above article. In part, the author draws on her experiences as a dog owner, rescuer and dog foster home to provide educational articles in the Lucky Dog series. Readers are strongly encouraged to consult with their veterinarian for any medical related issues, and to use the information provided in the articles as a basis for self-education as a responsible dog owner.

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