Why Every Cat and Dog Owner Should Get Certified in Pet CPR

Dr. Deborah Mandell demonstrates CPR on a mannequin in a video for the Red Cross.
Dr. Deborah Mandell demonstrates CPR on a mannequin in a video for the Red Cross. You can watch it starting at :57 in this YouTube video.

Many people know what to do if a human has a health emergency. But, would you know how to respond if your pet stopped breathing? Learning pet CPR could save your dog or cat’s life.

Dr. Deborah Mandell helped update and review the course material for the American Red Cross’ pet CPR classes. She works in the emergency room at the University of Pennsylvania's Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, and has seen firsthand how knowledge can help.

“I’ve definitely seen patients whose owners have performed CPR at home or in the car and have saved their pets,” she says. “I am a huge advocate, obviously, of having all pet owners know it.”

The Red Cross offers the class in some chapters.

App Guides Pet Owners in CPR

The classes are taught by instructors trained by the Red Cross. Depending on the chapter, students might use mannequins, like those often used in human CPR classes, which help simulate true-to-life breathing and chest compressions. Other chapters might use stuffed animals instead.

The Pet First Aid app, which is available on iTunes or Google Play for Android, includes a tutorial on how to perform dog and cat CPR. Its videos and quizzes can be helpful as a refresher for pet owners who have their certification, too, says Dr. Mandell, a pet safety advisor for the Red Cross.

The guidelines for pet CPR changed recently and are now more closely aligned with those for human CPR.

“For a cat or small dog, you can do a one-handed or two-handed technique directly over the heart; for a round-chested dog like a Rottweiler, you put your hands at the widest part of the chest; and for a deep-chested dog like a Greyhound, you go, again, directly over the heart,” says Dr. Mandell in a synopsis of how pet CPR is done.

Recognizing Signs of Trouble

Mandell says it’s vital for pet owners to recognize what’s normal in their pets, so they know what’s not normal, especially because animals often hide their symptoms as a defense mechanism.

When it comes to doing CPR, she says, “You’re not always going to be successful, just as we’re not always successful. But, it does give pet owners that added chance of trying to maintain circulation until they can get to a hospital, where we can take over and try to fix the underlying problem.”

While Dr. Mandell recommends the certification for all pet owners, some may want to give it extra consideration, including people with pets who have a respiratory disease, a heart condition or for those who have short-nosed dogs who may be more prone to respiratory problems.

Dr. Mandell says, “You want to try to catch something before you need CPR, but there are those unfortunate situations in which you are in an emergency and you need to do CPR, and every pet owner should know how to do that — there’s no question."

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