Most dogs will chew just about anything - bones, toys, shoes. But what should you do if something gets lodged in your dog's mouth or throat and they start to choke? Here, our Bakersfield veterinarians share what to do in a choking emergency and how to properly perform the Heimlich maneuver on dogs.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
One of the first signs that your dog is choking is likely to be coughing. If your dog has something stuck in their mouth or throat, they will typically begin coughing to expel the object. You may also notice that your dog has difficulty inhaling due to the obstructed airway.
Pawing at their mouth or head, and appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your dog may be choking. In severe cases, a choking dog may become unconscious.
What to Do if Your Dog is Choking
If you notice any signs that your dog is choking, it is essential to take action immediately and not wait until you get to the vet!
Begin by checking the inside of your dog's mouth to see if any food or foreign objects are lodged in your dog's mouth or throat. If there you can see something, try to 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 move 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. 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 can't 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 hold your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back, then using the palm of your hand apply pressure right beneath the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a thrusting motion. Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the issue.
Heimlich Maneuver For Medium and Large Dogs
If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Then make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - much like you would perform the maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge the food, but be sure to check the mouth and help remove any food that may be loose in your dog's mouth so he doesn't choke or swallow what was previously bothering him.
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 forward toward the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending object.
What to do After Your Dog has Stopped Choking
Even if you have managed to remove the object from your dog's throat and stop your dog from choking it is essential to contact your vet immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time hospitalization may be recommended.
Choking 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.
Feeding your dog food that is formulated specifically for your dog's size can help to prevent choking, particularly for small breeds. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to monitor your dog when 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 sturdy enough to 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.