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What to Do If Your Dog Is Choking

family-footerAs a responsible pet owner, you should know ahead of time how to handle various emergencies, including what to do when your dog is choking. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use the tips here, but knowing how to respond in this life-threatening situation gives you peace of mind.

Signs Your Dog Is Choking

Ever curious about the world around them, dogs are notorious for gobbling up anything they find interesting. Some dogs even think chewing is overrated and choke on their kibble. Other common choking hazards include rawhide bones, cellophane, plastic toys, and bouncy balls.

You can tell a dog is choking by spotting these warning signs:

  • Retching motions
  • Heaving chest with no airway noises
  • Panicked look on her face
  • Pacing back and forth
  • Pawing at her mouth

What to Do When Your Dog Is Choking

If your dog starts coughing on something, watch her carefully for a few moments to see if she can dislodge the object herself. If your dog can still cough productively, that means she can breathe and may not need help.

However, as soon as your dog starts showing the above signs of more advanced choking, it’s time to intervene. Here are the steps you should take.

Try to Remove the Object by Hand

Pry open your dog’s jaws and see if you can spot the object causing her to choke. As you would with a choking infant, sweep a finger or two through her mouth. Be careful not to push the object deeper into your dog’s throat. During this process, be aware that your stressed out pet is more likely to bite.

Let Gravity Help

If attempts to grab the object prove unsuccessful, or you don’t feel comfortable trying, let gravity help the situation. For a small to medium-sized dog, pick her up and aim her head down. For a large dog, grab her hind legs and tilt her whole body downward, as if your dog was a wheelbarrow. Sometimes, gravity and your dog’s retching motions are all you need to dislodge the foreign object.

Perform the Canine Heimlich Maneuver

This next step looks almost the same as it does in humans. Here’s how to perform the life-saving canine Heimlich maneuver, depending on your dog’s size:

  • For small dogs: Hold the animal with her head up and her spine against your chest. Make a fist with your dominant hand and place it on your dog’s abdomen just below the sternum. Grasp the fist with your other hand and thrust inward and upward four or five times. Check your dog’s airway and clear out any debris from her mouth. Repeat if necessary.
  • For large dogs: Stand behind the animal and wrap your arms around her body. Make a fist with your dominant hand and place the thumb of that hand against your dog’s abdomen just below the sternum. Grasp the fist with your other hand and thrust forward and upward (toward the shoulders) four or five times. Check your dog’s airway and clear out any debris from her mouth. Repeat if necessary.

Rush to Germantown Vet Right Away

If your dog stops breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, perform rescue breathing while someone rushes you to Germantown Vet Clinic. Call us at (240) 252-7467 to let us know you’re on your way, or to request more guidance on performing any of the above steps in an emergency.

Even if your dog seems perfectly fine after you resolve the choking incident, it’s still wise to bring her to our office for a checkup. We’ll make sure everything’s fine and diagnose any underlying issues if there are any.

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