My Dog is Choking! What Do I Do?!
If your dog is struggling to whine/unable to make sound, is retching, pacing back and forth, pawing at their mouth, or excessively drooling, they may be choking. This can be a very scary event for pet parents, but it’s important not to panic or risk not being able to help them.
Take a breath, stay calm and try the following to help clear your pup’s airway:
- Gently restrain the dog, ideally with another person.
- Use large tweezers -not your fingers- to dislodge the object IF it’s visible in the mouth. Carefully use the dog’s lips to cover its teeth to protect your hands while opening its mouth.
- If the object is large, place firm pressure with both thumbs underneath the jaw at the base of the throat and push forwards.
- Small dog: pick the dog up by the thighs and gently shake 3-4 times in a downward motion.
- Large dog: lift hind legs up like a wheelbarrow. If unsuccessful…
- Try the Heimlich maneuver:
- a. If the dog is standing: place your arms around its belly, make a fist with one hand and place your free hand over it. Just behind the ribcage, push up and forward.
- b. If the dog is lying down: put one hand on its back and use the other to squeeze the abdomen upwards and forwards.
- Try the Heimlich maneuver:
- Remove the dislodged object from the dog’s mouth.
- If these steps fail to dislodge the object, seek immediate medical attention from the nearest veterinary hospital. It’s wise to do so even if you have successfully dislodged the object, as unseen injuries may have occurred in the process.
Hopefully, you have arrived at this article simply as a means to be better prepared in the event of a choking episode. In which case, we can spend a bit more time elaborating on these points.
Pet First Aid Preparedness
Nothing can prepare you better for administering pet-first-aid, than participating in a certified course performed by a professional Pet CPR and Emergency First Aid instructor.
Pet EmergencyEducation provides live-virtual and in-person classes (depending on location) for precisely this reason. On-demand video courses can also be taken via an online learning marketplace like Udemy, offering courses such as:
We all know that awful feeling of panic that arises when you feel something blocking your airway. At least we humans can non-verbally communicate that we need help, but our four-pawed friends don’t have the same luxury. Add confusion to their panic, and sometimes a dog may bite as you try to help them. This is why it’s important to gently restrain them before attempting to remove the obstruction. If another person is available to assist, the better your chances of safely removing it. Using tweezers may assist in keeping your fingers clear of their teeth and, more importantly, help avoid using your fingers, as this may lodge the obstruction further into their throat.
If you’ve encountered a scary choking episode and have successfully dislodged the object, it’s still worth taking a trip to the vet to ensure no internal damage has occurred. There could be an injury to the mouth or throat, and in some cases, a foreign object may have entered the dog’s digestive tract.
Prevention is Key
Dogs will happily chew on just about anything, so you’d be wise to limit their access to choking hazards. The usual suspects for larger dogs include racket balls, small chew toys (ironically), cooked bones, and anything small or non-malleable enough that you would be mindful of a human toddler getting their paws on. Sometimes dog treats marketed specifically for chewing have been known to break down into smaller pieces that can cause choking. So if rawhide bones, bully sticks, or pigs ears are on the menu for your pup, be sure to check in every so often to see that the treat hasn’t splintered off.
Our dogs really do use all senses available to them to explore the world around them, and their mouth is no different. Hopefully, with a bit of forethought on the pet parent’s part, your pooch will only be exposed to safely chewable treats. Being trained on how to provide first aid calmly and safely in an emergency will give your dog the best chance of recovery.
Choking Dog | What to do! Hammett, E. (2021) Retrieved from https://firstaidforpets.net/choking-dog-help/
How to help a Choking Dog in an Emergency. Mills Gieorgio, K. (2021) Retrieved from: https://www.dailypaws.com/dogs-puppies/health-care/dog-first-aid-emergency/dog-choking
11 Unexpected Choking Hazards For Pets That May Be in Your Home Right Now. Retrieved from: https://www.dabl.com/dabl-home/dabl-home/articles/11-unexpected-choking-hazards-pets-may-be-your-home-right-now
First Aid for a Choking Dog. (2021) Retrieved from: https://mycommunitypetclinic.com/first-aid-for-a-choking-dog/