CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which the American Red Cross teaches as first aid to save human lives, works on your pets, too. It's a good idea to get CPR training, because even the fastest 911 responders can take several minutes to get to the patient, and that may be too long for someone who has stopped breathing. For your pet, there is no 911 response system, so it's really important to be trained to save your pet's life, until you can get him or her to an emergency pet hospital.

How to Save Your Pet's Life

We'll give you the basics, but to be fully prepared, you should get pet CPR training yourself. The American Red Cross has excellent guidebooks, Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid, as well as Pet First aid Courses to better prepare you for emergencies.

Pet CPR uses very similar techniques as human CPR — it involves mouth-to-snout resuscitation and chest compressions. There are variances in technique according to the size of your pet. Obviously, you wouldn't put as much pressure on a cat's chest as you would a Great Dane's. So, here are some life-saving basics to know when faced with an emergency:

How to Perform Life-Saving CPR on Pets

Use the ABC's of Pet CPR from the American Red Cross.

A is for Airway. If your pet is unconscious for reasons unknown (wasn't in an accident) he may have choked on something. Open his mouth, look for an obstruction, and try to remove it. (Do not place your fingers inside the mouth if your pet is conscious — he may bite.) You may have to use abdominal thrusts or back blows to dislodge it. This is all described in the above-mentioned pet first aid books.

B is for Breathing. If you have a cat, or a dog with a snout small enough to completely fit in your mouth, enclose the entire mouth and nose in your mouth. If your dog's snout won't fit in your mouth, hold his mouth closed and put your mouth over his nose. Exhale and watch for the chest to rise.

C is for Circulation. Feel for your pet's heartbeat — where the left elbow touches the chest. Don't assume that his heart has stopped when he's not breathing. If your pet is conscious and responding to you, his heart is beating. Perform chest compressions only when there is no heartbeat.

For chest compressions, lay your pet on his right side. For a cat or small dog (under 30 pounds), place a hand on each side of the ribs where your pet's elbows touch the chest. Squeeze gently in rapid succession. For medium to large dogs, cup one hand over the other and place at the widest part of the chest. Compress the chest rapidly, 1–3 inches, depending on the size of your dog.

For cats and most dogs, you will need to give one breath for every five chest compressions, and for giant dogs (over 90 lbs), one breath for every 10 chest compressions. Your pet will need 20–30 breaths per minute (small pets need more than large pets), so it's a lot of fast work. If you have someone to help you, have one person handle the breathing and the other the chest compressions.

Ordinary pet owners have performed Pet CPR and saved pet's lives. The important thing is to be prepared and not panic. Do not practice CPR on your pet ahead of time — that would be dangerous. But you can get familiar with where his or her heart is and practice where you'd place your hands. You can go to American Red Cross First aid training and practice on a dog or cat manikin. You can keep Pet First Aid Kits at home. And, you can study up on Pet CPR and other emergency care in the American Red Cross books, Dog First aid and Cat First aid.

Source: American Red Cross Dog First aid, Cat First aid