A.C.T. – What to Do If Your Dog is Choking

Dog owners are parents. And every parent knows that a baby will put anything into their mouth (Or nose – for that matter). Just like parents of babies, puppy parents suffer the unfortunate consequence of curiosity of what can and can not be eaten.

That brings you here. Your dog is choking and you start googling, “What to do if your dog is choking?” Furiously your fingers type as your puppy is is hacking away trying to remove the foreign object themselves. In case of real emergency, always go to a vet ER.

What to Do If Your Dog is Choking – ACT

You can follow a simple three step system when it comes to saving a choking dog:

  1. Assess the Situation
  2. Comfort your Dog
  3. Take Appropriate Action

This is what I call ACT. The reason you should follow ACT is because you need to determine the best course of action to take to save your dog, comfort your dog so you can provide care, and then take action.

If your dog is choking on the squeaker from his or her favorite dog squeaker toy or a string from a doggy tug-o-war rope, removing the object is the best course of action. But if you have have a large foreign non dog friendly object like a toy race car, the Heimlich would be appropriate.

But if you are dealing with something like bone splinters or a potentially toxic house hold item, you need to get your dog to the vet. What to do if your dog is choking is entirely situation dependent, so before you act, take a deep breath and asses the situation.

If Your Dog is Choking – Dislodge the Object

What to Do If Your Dog is Choking

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.

I wrap the arm I will use to dislodge the object around my dogs side. My dog and I will face forward and my hand will comfortably be below my dogs neck with enough reach to pry my dogs mouth open. This is essential to prevent my dog from squirming away. This is the same procedure when my puppy is eating something he or she shouldn’t.

Open your dog’s mouth and attempt to remove the object with pliers or tweezers. I always try to use my hands first, but keep both pliers and tweezers near by. 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 with the Heimlich.

What to do if your dog is Choking 101: Administer the Heimlich Maneuver

The easiest description of a dog Heimlich is to:

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.

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.

Know Your Limits When if Comes to Dog CPR

A dog who is choking may be dangerous. Most of us 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.

When Seconds Matter – ACT

The premise to save a dogs life you need to ACT. This means you take a deep breath and spring into action. Saving a life comes to training and preparation. Reading this article before your dog is choking is the difference between saving your dogs life and losing a friend. Saving your dog will also increase loyalty and vastly improve companionship.

If you are in any doubt, or panic, slow down and call a professional. If you can act rationally and calmly, ACT will save your dogs life.