Our furry friends are notorious for putting various objects in their mouths, either to chew or as a way of identifying a foreign object. While it can be annoying (goodbye, favorite Ugg boots!), it also poses a potential choking hazard. Here’s what to do if your dog is choking – you’ll need to act immediately by performing CPR until you can get your dog to a vet clinic.
If Your Dog is Choking – Here’s How to Help
If you’re not in a position to get your dog to a vet immediately, here’s how to help a choking dog:
- Gently restrain your dog. This will prevent him/her from lashing out and harming you in his/her distress.
- Open your dog’s mouth to investigate what has caused your dog to choke. Avoid using your bare hands to remove the object, as your dog may bite you in distress. A large pair of triceps or tweezers are advised, or gloves.
- Certain breeds (such as labradors) have an extra cavity in their mouths which cause various objects to become lodged. Aim to investigate this area first to see if this is where the choking obstruction is located.
- Be careful not to push the object as this may force it further into your dog’s throat.
- Avoid too much of a ‘sweeping’ motion with hand/instruments, as this may cause damage to the soft tissue in the dog’s throat.
- If the object is large, such as a sock or toy, you may be able to dislodge it by applying firm pressure under your dog’s jaw with both thumbs underneath the base of the throat and pushing forwards.
How To Apply First Aid to a Choking Dog
If you’ve tried the above methods to no avail, you may need to perform other first aid manoeuvres on them quickly. Here’s what you can do:
Perform the Heimlich Maneuver
If your dog is a puppy, or is on the smaller side, you’ll need to pick your dog up, making sure their head is up, paws are down and their back is resting against your abdomen. Using your hands, locate the soft hollow of their rib cage and push firmly upwards with your fists to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
For a large dog, guide him/her to lay on their side and kneel behind them. Ball your hand into a closed fist and, as above, locate the hollow of the ribs and push upward towards the dog’s head. This will hopefully allow the lungs to omit the object back towards the throat/mouth for you to remove.
Performing Rescue Breaths
If the Heimlich maneuver hasn’t revived your pup, he/she will be needing some air quickly, particularly if the object has totally blocked their airway. While this is a scary experience for all dog owners, try to remain calm so as to think clearly and act accordingly to ensure the Heimlich maneuver is performed correctly.
You may now need to perform rescue breaths and chest compressions to open your dog’s airway. By this point it will be important to ensure an emergency vet is on the way. Perform the CPR tactics to help your dog to begin breathing while waiting for emergency vet assistance.
Always Follow-Up After an Emergency Situation
It is important to take your dog for a follow-up vet appointment to ensure no damage has been done to the delicate tissues of your dog’s mouth, throat or lungs. Choking is a frightening and painful experience, and in the process of helping your dog, you may accidentally cause further injury; especially with severe cases of choking.
Because of their love of chewing – and the fact that your dog may be an aggressive chewer – dogs frequently choke, so knowing how to administer the right treatment may save your dog’s life.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
You may hear your dog making choking sounds, or you may witness a combination of the following:
- Gagging or retching
- Blue mucous membranes
- Rubbing of the face against the ground
- Pawing at the mouth
- Watering eyes
- Strained panting/lack of breathing
What to Do Once Your Dog Has Stopped Choking
Once you’ve had the all-clear from the vet, he/she may dispense pain relief to help relieve any discomfort from the dog choking incident. A little recovery period is advised: adhere to any further veterinary care prescribed, feed them soft dog food before returning to their normal diet, keep small children away from them so they can rest and recover from any pain, and look into preventing future choking:
- Make sure their regular food is in-keeping with your dog’s size.
- Remove all potential choking hazards.
- Keep half an eye on their toys to ensure they don’t rip parts off that can later be accidentally ingested.
Dog Choking: FAQs
What if My Dog Chokes on ‘Nothing’?
If your dog appears to be choking, with no obvious signs of a complete obstruction, they may be having an allergic reaction to something, such as a toxic plant, liquid/chemical, etc. Anaphylactic shock will look similar to your dog choking because it will compromise their airway. If this is the case, getting your dog to the vet immediately is essential.
What are the Most Common Things for a Dog to Choke On?
Dogs LOVE to chew almost anything, so many household items that seem harmless could become a choke risk; even pet food can become stuck. Some of the other choking risks include:
- Bones (rawhide/pig’s ears, cooked, and raw)
- Plastic packaging
- Stones/small rocks
- Bully sticks
- Children’s toys
- Meat gristle.
What Bones Are Safest For Dogs?
Raw, meaty bones are the safest for dogs, as they aren’t likely to splinter – unlike cooked bones – which should be avoided at all cost. Not only can this increase the chance of choking because they break easier, but the bone splinters can cause your dog serious or fatal internal damage.