Steps to Save a Dog That Is Choking

Dogs are big food enthusiasts, but this enthusiasm can turn dangerous if they eat so fast that they barely chew their food before it goes down. Choking is a hazard that affects both humans and dogs, but in the case of an emergency, would you know how to help your pup? Hopefully as a pup parent you’ll never have to deal with the scare of seeing your fur baby choking, but in case it happens, we’ve got advice that could save your dog’s life before a vet can reach him.

Causes of Choking
There are many objects that can cause your dog to choke. Common examples are small balls such as golf balls, chicken bones and even the popular rawhide bones. Or, your dog may simply choke from eating too fast.

Signs to Look Out For
A dog that is choking will likely have a panicked expression that is enough to startle his owner into immediate action. He will probably be coughing, pacing back and forth and pawing at his mouth. Allow him a chance to try to cough up the item stuck in his throat first. However, if he shows trouble breathing such as with wheezing or unresponsiveness, it’s time to intervene.

Taking Action
When your dog is choking, it will take quick action to help him out of his predicament. Be aware that during this stressful situation your dog might try to bite you, so grip him with caution. You may be able to see the object in his throat and pull it out manually. Using both hands to open your dog’s mouth, pull down the tongue and look inside to see if you can spot the object in his throat. If you can, then use your fingers or the flat end of a spoon to carefully remove the object. Be careful not to push the object farther into his throat!

Plan B: The Heimlich Maneuver
If pulling the object out of your dog’s mouth does not work, then resort to the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the object. The Heimlich maneuver for dogs is performed similarly to the technique on humans, but if done incorrectly, it can cause bodily damage to your dog. However, if your dog’s choking looks life-threatening and you don’t have immediate access to a professional, then performing the Heimlich maneuver to save your dog’s life is worth the risk of physical harm.

For a dog small enough to lift, hold the dog’s back to your chest and use your fist to thrust inward and upward under his abdomen. Perform five quick abdominal thrusts. For a big dog, stand behind your dog and place your arms around his back and under his ribcage. With one hand in a fist and the other hand cupping the first one, perform five quick abdominal thrusts, inward and upwards. After performing the Heimlich maneuver in either a big or small dog, check inside his mouth to see if the object was dislodged and if you can pull it out from his throat. If done correctly, the Heimlich maneuver should force air from the lungs into the esophagus and expel the foreign object.

If Your Dog is Unconscious
If your dog becomes unconscious at any point, you must perform CPR until he resumes breathing and regains a steady pulse.

Concluding Steps
After your dog has stopped choking, keep an eye on him to make sure he is breathing properly. It’s possible that the episode caused some damage to the dog’s throat, so you should contact your veterinarian following the event.

Choking is a serious problem you should hopefully never encounter in your dog or any of your other loved ones, but it helps to be prepared in case of an emergency. You can prevent a choking scare by monitoring his eating and chewing, and avoiding giving him large chunks of food or bones that your vet does not recommend.