What to Do If Your Dog is Choking

Dogs are inquisitive animals who will put nearly anything in their mouths, and the unfortunate consequence of this is that it’s not uncommon for a dog to choke. If your dog starts choking, you’ll need to protect yourself from the possibility of being bitten by a panicked dog while administering first aid as quickly as possible. If there is a vet within two or three minutes of your home, a better bet may be to take your dog directly to the vet. It’s also important to remember that a coughing dog is not choking because a dog who is coughing can still breathe. If your dog has swallowed something and has stopped breathing, however, here’s how to save her life:

Try To Dislodge the Object

Your first step should be to try to dislodge the object blocking your dog’s airway. You should restrain your dog before trying to do this, because the risk of a bite from a panicking and choking dog is exceedingly high. Do this by grabbing the hair in between your dog’s ears (think scruff of the neck) and holding your dog’s head still. Open your dog’s mouth and attempt to remove the object with pliers or tweezers. If you cannot see the object, or cannot reach the object, do not try to remove it, because you run the risk of pushing the object further into your dog’s airway.

If you are unable to reach the object, then it’s time to try to help your dog dislodge the object. Pick your dog up and hold him upside down. If your dog is too large to hold upside down, then lift his hind legs and hold him upside down. Using the base of your hand, administer several sharp back blows in between your dog’s shoulder blades.

Administer the Heimlich Maneuver

The heimlich maneuver works for dogs just like it works for humans,but it not without risks. Use this approach as a last resort while waiting for help from your vet. Wrap your arms around your dog’s waist, but with your dog’s head pointing down (this makes it easier for your dog to cough out the object without re-swallowing it). Make a fist with one hand and then cover that fist with the other hand, forming a larger fist. Thrust under your dog’s rib cage in the center inward and upward. Repeat three to five thrusts. You can continue to try this method until help arrives.

Because a dog who is choking may be dangerous, and because most humans aren’t trained in administering CPR to dogs, it’s vitally important that you get your dog veterinary help, even if you are able to dislodge the object. Ideally, you should call your vet’s emergency line as soon as your dog begins to choke. Some vet offices will send a technician or nurse to you to help with your dog, so you can try to dislodge the object your dog is choking on while waiting for help. It’s a good idea to plan in advance for these sorts of frightening episodes, so aim to choose a vet with an after hours line who has staff on call for an emergency like this.