What to Do When Your Dog is Choking?

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Audhi International/Shutterstock

Naturally curious and often very voracious, dogs can get into a lot of trouble just by following their gut, so to speak. Not only will they try to munch on anything, but they will also eat at a rapid pace, often gulping down their food in seconds. Naturally, this doesn’t mix well – accidents can happen as a result and your pet could choke. Choking is a big fear for dog owners whose pets are greedy or fast eaters, but all dog owners, in general, should know how to act in case their pet is choking. After all, knowing how to act quickly and effectively can make all the difference for your pooch. 

What to Do When Your Dog is Choking: Step by Step Explained

The foremost thing for any owner to know is how to recognize the first signs of choking. The most common signs include excessive drooling, panic and agitation, difficulty breathing, pawing at the mouth, gagging and retching, and blue or pale gums. If you notice any of these symptoms it is paramount to act immediately and remain calm. 

Before you do anything, try to assess the situation. Remember that a panicking dog might accidentally bite, even if that is not their intention. So, to ensure you remain safe, approach your pet calmly and try to reassure them. Try to spot the cause of the choking. If you can see the object, and it can be easily removed, then proceed but cautiously. However, if the object can’t be removed easily and is deep in the throat, do not attempt to remove it. The same goes if your dog is panicking and biting aggressively – it’s a situation for the pros. 

If, however, the situation appears reasonably safe, then you can try to remove the object manually.

  • First gently open your dog’s mouth, by holding their upper jaw with one hand, and the lower with the other. 
  • If you spot the object, use your fingers to try and remove it. But be careful – one mistake can push it further into the throat, making the situation worse. So be cautious. 
  • If, however, the object is visible but out of reach, you can use special tweezers or pliers. Still, you need to be very careful in order to avoid further injury.

If the object cannot be removed manually or with tweezers, then you might want to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Depending on the size of your dog, this technique could vary slightly. 

For small dogs:

  1. Place your pet on their back.
  2. Place one hand on their back to support them, and then use the other hand to apply firm pressure just below the rib cage, pushing upwards and towards the chest.
  3. After a few of these thrusts, check the mouth to see if the object was dislodged.

For large dogs:

  1. It is best to stand behind your dog and wrap your arms around their waist. 
  2. Place your fist just below their rib cage, and grasp it with your other hand.
  3. Apply quick upward thrusts to the abdomen.
  4. After several thrusts, check the mouth cavity and see if the object is removed.

When you remove the object that your pet choked on, it is crucial to check if they show signs of injury or distress. And even if they seem fine, it is advisable to seek out the help of your vet and schedule a thorough examination. This is because choking can cause damage to the throat that might not be apparent at first glance. 

There are also measures you can take to prevent choking in the first place. If your pet is voracious and gulps down food, it would be good to invest in a special slow-feeding bowl that won’t allow them to eat too fast.

Of course, having a dog first aid kit on hand at all times is ideal, as it contains tools such as tweezers and tongue depressors that can help remove obstacles in the throat. 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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