Most dogs will chew on almost anything they can find, from sticks and bones to plants, shoes and choking hazards such as children's toys. Our Astoria vets explain what to do in an emergency if a dog is choking, including how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
Coughing is a common symptom of choking. If your pooch gets something stuck in their mouth or throat, they will generally start to cough in an attempt to dislodge the object. You may see your dog having a difficult time due to their obstructed airway. Your pup may also paw at its mouth or head, and/or appear panicked or frantic. In a severe situation, a choking dog may also go unconscious.
How to Help a Choking Dog
If your dog displays any signs of choking, you must take immediate action in this emergency - don't wait until you get to the vet!
Start by peering inside your dog's mouth to see if there is any food or foreign objects lodged in their mouth or throat. If you're able to see something there, try to wipe it away with your finger to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see a piece of food or an object but are unable to move it, take your dog to see an emergency vet as fast as possible. You can also try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you see a small bone stuck in your dog's throat, do not attempt to remove it yourself, as bones can injure your dog's throat. Take your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver on a Dog
If you can't remove the item your dog is choking on with your fingers, you should perform the Heimlich maneuver. There are two different approaches depending on the size of your dog:
Heimlich Maneuver for Smaller Dogs
While carefully holding your dog in your lap, turn them onto their back. Using the palm of your hand, apply pressure right beneath the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards five times in a thrusting motion. Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the issue.
Heimlich Maneuver for Medium & Large Dogs
If your dog is standing, wrap your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Thenn, make a first with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - much like you would perform the maneuver on a person.
Doing this should expel the food. That said, make sure to check the mouth and help remove any food that may be loose in the back of your dog's mouth, so they don't choke or swallow what was previously bothering them.
If your dog is laying on the floor, place one hand on the dog's back and use the other hand to squeeze or push their abdomen upwards and forwards to the spine. Then, check your dog's mouth for the foreign object.
What You Should Do Once Your Dog Has Stopped Choking
Even if you were able to remove the object from your pup's throat and stop your dog from choking, you still have to call your vet immediately. If your dog has gone any length of time without oxygen your vet may recommend hospitalization.
Choking can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat that might not be noticed immediately by a distressed owner. Your vet might recommend a bronchoscopy to examine your dog's throat for damage.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Choking
To prevent the odds of your dog choking again in the future, you need to keep an eye on your dog when they are playing with anything that may be a potential choking hazard including bones or toys.
Feeding your dog a food that is formulated specifically for your dog's size can help to prevent choking, particularly for small breeds. However, it's always a smart idea to keep an eye on your dog when they are eating.
If you have children in your home, ensure that toys are kept out of your pup's reach. Children's toys could be a potential choking risk.
When choosing toys for your dog, remember to select a toy that is sturdy enough to withstand your dog's level of chewing. If your dog is a more aggressive chewer be sure to look for extra-tough chew toys designed to withstand the pressure without breaking into pieces that could get lodged in your dog's throat.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.