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Artificial respiration is a lifesaving technique that is performed when a dog has stopped breathing. The heart, meanwhile, may or may not be beating. Breathing difficulties are not only a potential problem by themselves, but can be a secondary indicator of other, more serious conditions elsewhere in the body. Therefore, it is important that you treat breathing difficulties seriously -- even minor ones.
Complete CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) may be required if cardiac compromise is involved.
What To Watch For
Light breathing, uneven breathing, and panting can all be signs that something is wrong, and often accompany shock. Other signs of respiratory difficulty include exercise intolerance, lethargy, and standing with the elbows pointing outwards.
Shock, bacterial infections in the lungs, heat stroke, bloating, heartworm disease, and respiratory malfunction can all cause breathing difficulties, as can obstructions in the airways (see also the "Choking" emergency guidelines).
There are two methods for artificial respiration: compression and mouth-to-nose resuscitation.
This Artificial Respiration technique applies force to the chest walls, thereby moving the air out. The elastic recoil of the chest will draw air back in.
- Check the heartbeat or pulse of the dog (feel the artery on the inner side of mid-thigh).
- Lay the dog of his/her right side
- Pull the tongue forward and clear the airway; check for foreign particles in the mouth and/or throat. If needed, perform the Heimlich Maneuver.
- Place your hands on the chest and firmly press down. You should be able to hear the air moving out.
- Stop pressing and listen for the air to move in.
- Repeat until the dog starts to breathe on his own.
Mouth-to-Nose Resuscitation (Use this technique if the compression method doesn’t work)
Artificial respiration for dogs less than 14 kg or 30 pounds (puppies or small dogs):
- Lay the dog on his/her right side
- Pull the tongue out to the front of the mouth, just in line with the canine teeth so that you can close the mouth without the tongue being in the way.
- Check for foreign particles in the mouth and/or throat and clear the airway.
- Put your mouth near the nose and slowly blow into the nostrils until you see the chest expand. (Any excess air will be released through the dog's mouth.)
- Remove your mouth and allow the lungs to deflate.
- If the chest does not expand, blow with more force, closing your hand around the muzzle to seal the lips.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 every two to three seconds until the dog starts to breathe on his own, checking the pulse once per minute.
- If the dog's heart stops, use both CPR and artificial respiration procedures.
- Seek help from your vet or an emergency hospital as soon as possible.
Artificial respiration for dogs over 14 kg or 30 pounds (medium and large dogs):
Follow the same procedure as for a small dog, except that the dog’s lips should be kept closed at the onset of the procedure. Seal the mouth by closing your hand around the muzzle and blow once every three seconds.
Your vet will be able to identify the underlying cause of the dog's breathing difficulties using a variety of procedures, including chest radiographs, pulse oximetry, and blood gas measurement. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.
Breathing difficulties stem from so many causes that it’s difficult to prevent them. Exercise, a healthy diet, and good everyday care all contribute to the prevention of respiratory problems. Removing small, interesting objects lying around the home (or around the yard) can also help prevent accidental swallowing by an inquisitive pet.
The term for the nostrils and muscles in the upper and lower lips of an animal; may also be used to describe a type of tool used to keep an animal from biting
The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak
A large blood vessel that transports blood out of the heart.