Dogs are playful and curious, and most will chew just about anything - bones, toys, or shoes. Knowing what to do if your dog is choking is important! Today, our Tracy veterinarians share how to help your dog during a choking emergency.
Signs of Choking in Dogs
One of the first signs that your dog is choking is likely coughing as your dog tries to expel an object that may be lodged in their mouth or throat. You may also notice that your dog is 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 fall unconscious.
What to Do if Your Dog is Choking
If you notice any of signs that your dog is choking, don't wait until you get to the vet; take action immediately!
Begin by examining the inside of your dog's mouth to see if any food or foreign objects are lodged in their mouth or throat. If there you can see something, try to scoop or swipe it away with your finger to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see an object or a piece of food but you are unable to safely remove 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 it yourself as 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 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 Smaller Dogs
Carefully place your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back, then use the palm of your hand to apply pressure right under the rib cage. Push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a thrusting motion, and then roll your dog back onto their side. Check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the obstruction.
Heimlich Maneuver For Medium and Large Dogs
If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at their abdomen. Make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - much like you would when performing the Heimlich Maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge food, but be sure to check the mouth and help remove any food or object that may be loose in the back of your dog's mouth so that they don't choke or swallow the obstruction again.
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. Remove the object and thoroughly check the mouth for any loose food or foreign object.
What to do After Your Dog has Stopped Choking
Even if you have successfully removed the obstruction from your dog's mouth or throat, it is important to get in touch with your veterinarian immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time hospitalization may be recommended.
A choking episode can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat that may not be immediately visible to a distressed owner. Your 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.
Ensuring your dog is eating food that is formulated for their size can be helpful in preventing choking, especially for small breeds. Regardless of this, it is a good idea to monitor your pet while 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 can 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.