How to Save a Choking Dog

Knowing how to help a choking dog is a basic – and critical – aspect of dog first aid. Dogs can choke on food, toys, or any number of things they put in their mouths. They can also choke on their own vomit.

Dogs use their mouths for much more than just eating; they use their mouths much like humans use their hands.

You can usually find dogs walking around with something in their mouths, and because of this, there is plenty of opportunity for objects to become lodged in their throats, which can suddenly turn into a choking emergency.

If your dog is choking, seconds can mean the difference between life and death, so it’s vital that you know what to do.

Signs of a choking dog:

  • He acts anxious or frantic
  • He stops breathing
  • His gums turn blue or white
  • He’s making loud breathing sounds
  • He’s pawing at his mouth
  • He’s struggling or gasping for breath

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If your pet displays any of the signs of a choking dog, follow these steps:

  1. Open his mouth and sweep your finger inside to see if you can feel the object. If you can feel the object, pull his tongue forward and manually remove it (including if it’s vomit), paying careful attention not to push it further into his throat.
  2. If you can not manually dislodge the object, the next step is to perform abdominal thrusts on the dog (similar to the human Heimlich maneuver). Wrap your arms around the dog, under his ribcage. Make a fist with one hand and place your other hand over the fist. Give five rapid abdominal thrusts, lifting your fist inward and upward with each thrust. If the dog is small enough, you can lift him up by the front legs and position him so that his spine is against your chest. Then, wrap your arms around him under the ribs with your hands in the position described above. Begin thrusting. If he is too large to lift, you can stand behind him or next to him. If you’re standing behind him, bend over, wrapping your arms around him, under the ribs, with your hands positioned as described above and thrust inward and upward under the ribs. If the dog is lying down, position his head and neck in a neutral position. Place the palms of your hands below his ribcage and give five rapid thrusts in an inward and upward motion.
  3. Check his mouth (you can use a small flashlight to help you see better) to see if the object has been dislodged. If possible, remove it.
  4. If the object is still lodged, move on to the next step. If you can lift the dog, hold him in the air by the hips, with his head hanging down towards the floor to try to dislodge the object. If he is too big to pick up, lift his hind legs in the air like a wheelbarrow, again so his head is hanging down towards the floor.
  5. Once again check his mouth and, if possible, remove the object.
  6. If the object is still lodged in the dog’s throat, use the palm of your hand to give him five sharp blows between his shoulder blades.
  7. Once again, check his mouth, sweeping it with your finger to dislodge the object if possible.
  8. If the item is still not dislodged and the dog has lost consciousness, you will need to begin giving him “rescue breaths” (mouth-to-nose or mouth-to-mouth breathing, depending on the dog’s size). To give rescue breaths to a dog less than 30 pounds, place your mouth over the dog’s entire snout (nose and mouth) and exhale until you see his chest rise. For dogs over 30 pounds, gently hold his muzzle (mouth) closed and place your mouth over his nose. Gently exhale until you see his chest rise. Give five rescue breaths followed by five quick abdominal thrusts. Note: DO NOT attempt giving rescue breaths on a conscious animal. You could get bitten!
  9. Once again, check the dog’s mouth and attempt to dislodge the object.
  10. Stop the abdominal thrusts once the object is dislodged.
  11. Perform CPR if necessary.
  12. Immediately take the dog to your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic.

Please take the time to learn how to administer first aid on a choking dog. His life may depend on it.

In fact, why not take the time right now to print this information and put it where you can easily access it in case of an emergency? Your furry friend will thank you for it!

Note: Remember to always be careful when attempting to administer first aid to an injured, sick or choking dog, in order to avoid being bitten.

Source: American Red Cross Dog First Aid, Safety Series Vol. 2

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Legal Disclaimer
If your pet is showing any signs of distress or you suspect your pet is seriously ill, contact your veterinarian immediately. This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care.

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