Signs Your Dog is Choking
Coughing is one of the first signs that your dog is choking. If your pup gets something stuck in their mouth or throat, they will generally start to cough in an attempt to expel the object. You might also see your dog having a hard time inhaling as a result of the obstructed airway.
Pawing at their head or mouth, and/or appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your pooch could be choking. In a severe situation, a choking dog could go unconscious.
What to Do if Your Dog is Choking
If your dog shows any signs of choking, you need to take action immediately, don't wait until you get to the vet!
Start by looking inside your dog's mouth to see if they have any food or foreign objects lodged in their throat or mouth. If you 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 and you can't move it, take your dog to see an emergency vet as fast as possible or 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. Bones can injure your dog's throat. Take your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as you can in order to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs
If you can't remove the item your dog is choking on with your fingers, the next step you should take is to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Depending on the size of your dog, there are two different methods:
Heimlich Maneuver For Smaller Dogs
Carefully hold your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back. Then using the palm of your hand apply pressure right beneath the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 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 and Large Dogs
If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Then make a fist 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 human.
Doing this should dislodge the food. But, be 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 push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending 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.