How to Give a Newborn Puppy Rescue Breaths & CPR

Written by cate burnette
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How to Give a Newborn Puppy Rescue Breaths & CPR
A newborn puppy may need CPR to live. (mother dog with puppy image by Phaedra Wilkinson from

Your pregnant dog is due any day now, and you are looking forward to having a litter of newborn puppies in the family. After consulting with your veterinarian, you realise canine labour is significantly different from human labour, and you worry that something will go wrong with one of the puppies. Learning how to provide CPR and rescue breaths for newborns can relieve you of the anxiety you might experience if one of the puppies doesn't breathe on his own after birth.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Clean towel
  • Bulb syringe

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  1. 1

    Place the unbreathing puppy on a clean towel and enclose his entire body, including the towel, in your hands with your palms and fingers touching. Hold the head and neck stable between your fingers and thumbs.

  2. 2

    Swing the puppy several times between your legs using the entire length of your arms to provide centrifugal force. This movement forces fluid in the puppy's lungs up and out to his mouth and nose.

  3. 3

    Suction fluid out of the puppy's nose and mouth using a bulb syringe and begin rubbing the puppy vigorously with the towel to stimulate breathing.

  4. 4

    Seal your lips over the puppy's nose and mouth and give two to three small puffs of air to inflate his lungs. Inflate the chest only to the amount of a normal breath of air for the puppy.

  5. 5

    Feel the puppy's chest wall between your fingers to find a heartbeat. If the heart is not beating, compress the chest area behind the puppy's bent elbow between your thumb and forefinger approximately two to three times a second, the puppy's normal heart rate.

  6. 6

    Give another two to three breaths every 15 to 20 seconds and check for a heartbeat after every minute.

  7. 7

    Alternate heart compressions and rescue breaths until you feel a heartbeat and the puppy starts breathing on his own. At this point, the newborn will vocalise and begin to "pink up"---the colour of his skin, mouth and ears will turn bright pink from the circulating blood and oxygen in its body.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep the newborn puppy warm by holding him in your hands or against your body until he is breathing on his own. Rubbing him gently but vigorously with a towel will stimulate his respiratory and circulatory systems.
  • You may need to swing the puppy in your arms more than once to clear all of the fluid out of its lungs. You can tell the fluid is totally cleared when you can no longer see bubbles of mucous in the nose and mouth.
  • Hold the puppy's head and neck firmly between your fingers so that nothing moves while you are swinging him in your arms. A loose-swinging head and neck will cause brain damage and death.
  • If a puppy is not revived within five minutes of starting resuscitation efforts, he is not likely to live, and you can stop the CPR and rescue breathing.

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