Dogs will chew just about anything - bones, toys, shoes. If something gets lodged in your dog's mouth or throat and they start to choke what should you do? Here is what to do in a choking emergency.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
The first sign that your dog is choking is likely to be coughing. If a dog has something stuck in its mouth or throat, they will typically begin to cough to try and expel the object. The dog may also be noticeably having difficulties inhaling due to the 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 if Your Dog is Choking
If you notice any signs that your dog is choking, you must take action immediately and not wait until you get to the vet!
Check inside of your dog's mouth to see if any food, or foreign objects are lodged in your dog's mouth or throat. If there you can see something, try to swipe it away with your finger to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see an object but you are unable to move it, get your dog to the emergency vet as quickly as possible or try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you can see a small bone lodged in your dog's throat do not try to remove. Bones can injury to your dog's throat. Take your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible in order to have the bone removed.
Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs
If you aren't able to remove the object that your dog is choking on with your fingers, the Heimlich maneuver is your next step. Depending on the size of your dog, there are two different methods:
Heimlich Maneuver For Small 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 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 he doesn't choke or swallow what was previously bothering him.
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.
After Your Dog has Stopped Choking
Contact your vet immediately. Even if you have managed to remove the object from your dog's throat and your dog has stopped choking it is important to go see the vet. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time hospitalization may be recommended.
Choking can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat that may not be immediately visible. The vet may recommend a bronchoscopy to check your dog's throat for damage.
Preventing Future Choking
To prevent chances of your dog choking in the future, make sure to keep an eye on your dog when they are playing with anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as toys or bones.
Feeding your dog a food that is formulated specifically for your dog's size can help to prevent choking, particularly for small breeds. Nonetheless it is always a good idea to monitor your dog when they are eating.
If there are children in the household, be sure that toys are kept out of your dog's reach. Children's toys can pose a potential choking risk.
When choosing toys for your dog, be sure to choose 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.