What to do if Your Dog is Choking
A choking dog is a scary situation for any pet owner to deal with. Dogs are almost always able to cough up bits of food or foreign material that get lodged temporarily in the throat, therefore it is rare (but possible), for a dog to become seriously choked on an object or food item.
Below, you’ll find a quick rundown of steps you need to take if your dog is choking. Read and understand this information before such an event occurs, so you will know how to respond and what to do in order to help your pet during a crisis.
Steps to Take if Your Dog is Choking
Listed below are the steps:
Be Sure They’re Choking
Although choking is very serious, dogs rarely choke. Dogs may look and sound like they’re choking even if they aren’t. Make sure your pet is actually choking before you move on. If your dog is truly having trouble breathing, then please follow the following steps. Otherwise, they may be dealing with allergies, reverse sneezing, kennel cough, or any number of other conditions that can look like choking now and then. If you have any doubt, please have your pet examined by a veterinarian.
Check the Mouth
Please do not attempt to perform this step if you feel your dog may bite you. If you are able to feel the object under their jaw, position your pet on their back and attempt to push the object towards the mouth with your thumbs prior to clearing it from the mouth.
Carefully open your pet’s mouth first to see if you can spot what’s causing them to choke. If you see the object, try to move it to one side with your finger. If the object is movable, you may also be able to gently pull it out of your dog’s mouth. If not, however, you’ll need to move on to the next step.
Sometimes, you may be able to move the object enough to allow your dog to breathe, but not enough to remove it. In this case, you’ll need to go to the emergency vet right away to have the object surgically removed.
Try the Canine Heimlich
The canine Heimlich maneuver is very similar to the Heimlich for humans. The biggest difference is that you should first put your dog into a wheelbarrow-like position, with her mouth and snout down toward the ground and her back legs up. This may be impossible with very large dogs, but if it is possible to do so, this step is important.
Next, put your hands around your dog’s abdomen and press under her ribs, moving up and forward, five times. This is the same motion you would use when doing the Heimlich on a human. Finally, stand your dog on all fours again and tap her between the shoulder blades firmly, five times.
Check Your Dog Thoroughly
After you have removed the object from your dog’s mouth or throat, check them thoroughly and carefully for any sign that they may have suffered a more serious injury from choking.
If your pet still seems to be choking on something, if they have lost consciousness at any point during the event, or if they have other symptoms at the same time, these are all indicators that they needs to be seen by a vet right away.
Go to the Emergency Vet
Even if you believe you have removed all of the object or food item that caused your dog to choke, you should go to the emergency vet just to be sure. The emergency vet can check your dog for any remaining pieces of the object as well as any lasting symptoms or effects of the situation.
Call the emergency vet before you go to let them know what’s happening. They will be able to prepare ahead of time and can see your dog quickly and efficiently.
Provide Appropriate Follow-Up Care
Your emergency vet will likely give you information about follow-up care for your dog. You may need to encourage your pet to rest for a few days following a choking incident, or you may need to make sure she has access to plenty of fresh water and soft food for a while.
Your emergency vet may also recommend that you follow up with your pet’s regular vet over the coming days, depending on the severity of the situation.
Contact VEG if Your Dog is Choking
If your dog is truly choking, follow the steps outlined above to try to help. And of course, reach out to your emergency vet as soon as you realize there is a problem. Although you typically will need to act fast at home to prevent your dog from suffocating while choking, you should always follow up with an emergency vet to have your dog assessed.
Take time to locate the best emergency vet in your area before an emergency situation happens. This way, in the middle of a crisis, you won’t have to worry about doing research or looking up contact information instead of helping your dog. VEG has locations across the country, many of which are open 24/7 and all of them are open 24 hours on the weekends and on holidays. Our team cares about your dog’s wellbeing as much as you do, which is why when time is truly of the essence, we’re always here for you and your pet when you need us most.
Dr. Courtney Dewlaney DVM, VEG San Ramon
Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine
VEG is a network of Emergency Veterinarians located across the country. We are dedicated to helping people and their pets when they need it most. If your pet is ever in an emergency situation, use the link below to find our nearest location so we can get your pet the help they need.