Would you know what to do if your dog started choking? My reaction was put to the test a few months ago when my Chihuahua, Diego, got a little too excited over a piece of food and tried to swallow the whole thing in one bite. I thought my heart stopped when I saw him lean forward with his mouth open, attempting to cough up the food. But he couldn’t cough. He couldn’t gag. He started pawing at his face and I felt fear and panic overwhelm him. Luckily, I knew what to do and was able to dislodge the food while he was still conscious.
Dogs can choke on large pieces of food, bones, balls, toys, or other random household items. Since an emergency can happen in the blink of an eye, it’s important to know what to do (and hope you never have to use it).
Warning Signs Your Dog Is Choking
If a foreign object has blocked your dog’s airway, the warning signs are pretty similar to a choking human:
- Opening his/her mouth and lunging the body forward in attempt to dislodge the object
- Inability to breath
- Pawing at the face
What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking
- Keep your dog as calm as possible by maintaining a calm demeanor yourself. If you start freaking out then your dog will too, which will just make the situation worse.
- Using both hands, open your dog’s mouth and check for a foreign object. If you clearly see something stuck in your dog’s throat, carefully attempt to pull the tongue forward and remove the object with your finger by performing a sweeping motion. Be cautious not to push the object further down your pup’s throat.
- If the object doesn’t dislodge, begin the canine Heimlich maneuver.
- If your dog is small enough to pick up then do so and put his back up against your chest. Making a fist, wrap both hands around your dog’s abdominal area—behind the ribs—and push up with enough force to dislodge an object (do this up to 5 times). Watch the video below for a quick demonstration of what to do/where to place your hands.
- If your dog is too large to pick up then stand behind your pooch and follow the same steps.
- Open your dog’s mouth again and look for the foreign object. If you see the object then put your fingers in your dog’s mouth and attempt to scoop it out. Again, be careful not to push the object further down your dog’s throat.
- If the object still does not dislodge, put your dog on the ground. Grab onto your dog’s hips and suspend him in the air with his head toward the floor. Gently sway him back and forth. If your dog is too large to suspend in the air then simply pick up his back legs like a wheelbarrow.
- Lay your dog back down and check his mouth for the object.
- If the object doesn’t dislodge within a few minutes then get to your vet ASAP.
- If your dog goes unconscious and you are finally able to dislodge the foreign object (either with your fingers or tweezers), you may need to perform CPR.
Visit The Vet
Even if you’re able to dislodge the foreign object by yourself, it’s still a good idea to seek veterinary care after the incident. Your vet will check to make sure there is no damage to your dog’s throat or need any further medical care.