If you have a dog, odds are they will chew on practically anything from shoes and toys to bones. This makes it important to know what to do if something gets lodged in your dog's throat or mouth and they start to choke. Today, our Mooresville vets explain what to do in a situation where your dog starts choking and how to do the Heimlich maneuver on a dog.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Choking
Coughing is probably going to be one of the first signs that your dog is choking. If there is something stuck in your dog's throat or mouth they will usually start coughing in an attempt to expel the item. You might see your dog having a hard time inhaling as the result of an obstructed airway.
Pawing at their mouth or head, and/or appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your dog may be choking. In severe cases, a choking dog may become unconscious.
What to Do When Your Dog is Choking
If your dog is showing any signs of choking, it's important to take immediate action, do not wait until you get to the vet!
Start by looking inside your dog's mouth and try to find any foreign objects or food caught in their throat or mouth. If you do find something, try wiping it away with your finger in order to help your dog breathe again.
If you are able to see the object or piece of food, but can't move it, bring your pup to an emergency vet as fast as possible, or try implementing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed here.
If you can see a small bone lodged in your dog's throat do not try to remove it yourself. Bones can injure your dog's throat. Get your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible in order to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs
If you can't dislodge the item your dog is choking on with your finger, the next thing you should do is implement the Heimlich maneuver. There are two different ways to perform this depending on your dog's size:
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 object or food, but remember to check the mouth and help remove any item 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 pooch is laying down on the floor, put one hand on your dog's back and use your other hand to squeeze or push your dog's abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine, then look at your dog's mouth to see if you can find the offending object.
What to do Once Your Dog Stops Choking
Even if you were able to remove the object from your dog's throat and your dog is no longer choking it's imperative that you call your vet immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time your vet may recommend hospitalization.
Choking can painfully damage your dog's throat and mouth and it might not be visible immediately to a worried owner. Your vet may recommend a bronchoscopy to check your dog's throat for damage.
How to Prevent Your Dog From Choking Again
To lower your dog's chances of choking again in the future, you need to keep a watchful eye on your dog when they are playing with anything that could potentially be a choking hazard like bones or toys.
Feeding your dog a type of food that is formulated specifically for their size can help prevent choking, particularly for small breeds. However, monitoring your dog while they eat is always a good idea.
If you have children in your home, be sure that toys are kept out of your dog's reach. Children's toys can be a potential choking risk.
When choosing toys for your dog, opt for toys that are 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.