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First Aid for Your Pet

This article contains a summary of first aid tips for pet owners. Such tips may help to save a pet’s life during an emergency situation prior to a veterinary visit! Any stressful situation can alter a pet’s normal temperature, heart or respiratory rate.

The vital signs of dogs and cats are as follows:

  • Normal Temperature:
  • Dogs and Cats: 101-102.5° Fahrenheit

    *Temperatures less than 99° or greater than 103° Fahrenheit considered abnormal. A human rectal thermometer works best.

  • Normal Heart Rates:
  • Dogs: 70-160 beats/minute

    Cats: 160-240 beats/minute

    *Note: The heart is located just behind the bent left elbow on the rib cage. The heart rate can be counted by placing a hand on that portion of the rib cage.

  • Normal Respiratory Rates:
  • Dogs: 10-30 breaths/minute

    Cats: 20-30 breaths/minute

    *Simple ways to count an animal’s respiration include: observing the in/outward movement over the animal’s rib cage or placing a wet finger in front of the pet’s nostrils.

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR):
  • In order to perform CPR on an animal, the patient must be on its side, with the right side down. Obstructions should be removed from the mouth. This is accomplished by pulling the tongue forward while extending the neck. If the air-way is clear, close the animal’s jaws over the tongue. Breathe into both nostrils for at least 5-6 breaths. Continue if there is no respiration.

  • Artificial Respiration is as follows:
  • Less than 10 Pounds: 30+ breaths/minute

    11-60 Pounds: 16-20 breaths/minute

    Greater than 60 Pounds: 12 breaths/minute

    If there is no pulse (heart beat), begin cardiac compressions by depressing the widest part of the chest wall using one or both hands.

  • Cardiac Compressions:
  • Less than 1-5 Pounds: Place hands around the rib cage to apply cardiac massage.

    1-5 Pounds: 120-140 times/minute

    11-60 Pounds: 80-100 times/minute

    Greater than 60 Pounds: 60 times/minute


Possible causes of unconsciousness include: trauma, drug ingestion, electrocution and near-drowning. Steps owners can take in such situations may help to save an animal’s life.