Follow the steps below
It’s your worst nightmare: You toss Fido a treat, which he gulps down whole – and starts gagging. You pat his back, but he continues to choke. What do you do?
Choking occurs when a dog can’t breathe because a foreign object or constriction is preventing air from reaching his lungs through his throat. While gagging is the most obvious sign, be aware of other choking symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pacing, drooling, excessive pawing at the mouth and a blue-tinged tongue, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
If your dog is choking, you should rush him to your vet or emergency clinic. The AVMA and petplace recommend you also do the following. A panicking, choking dog is more likely to bite, so use caution.
- Remove your dog’s collar, harness, bandana or anything that might be constricting his throat area.
- Look into your dog’s mouth to see if the object is visible. If can see it, try to gently remove it with tweezers or pliers, but be very careful not to push it farther down your dog’s throat.
- If your dog is small, lift him and, securely holding him, suspend him with his head pointed down and his hind end up. For a larger dog, lift his rear legs so his head is tilted down below his shoulders. This may help dislodge the object.
- If you can’t remove the object or if your dog loses consciousness, perform a canine version of the Heimlich maneuver. Put both your hands on the side of your dog’s rib cage and apply firm, quick pressure, or lay your dog on his side and firmly strike his rib cage with the palm of your hand three to four times. This will push air out of his lungs and hopefully push the object out from behind. Repeat this until the object is dislodged.
- Even if you successfully dislodge the object, have your dog checked by your vet as soon as possible to make sure he has no internal injuries. According to terrificpets, in addition to mouth injuries, choking can also lead to “fluid entering the lungs, pneumonia and other chronic respiratory conditions.”
This video demonstrates how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a small dog:
As anyone who has a dog surely knows, dogs will try to eat almost anything. To prevent your dog from choking, take the following precautions.
- Never give your dog real bones, especially chicken and turkey bones, because they easily tear and can get stuck in your dog’s throat or intestinal tract. Keep trash cans away from your dog in secure places so he can’t rummage through them and find discarded bones.
- Nylon and marrow are good choices for dog bones. Rawhide and green dental bones are not recommended. According to professorshouse.com, one of rawhide’s “multitude of hazards” is that when it’s chewed, its gooey, stringy material can get lodged in a dog’s throat. The more a dog drinks or salivates to try to dislodge the rawhide, the more it swells, which makes it even worse.
- Throw away any bones or chew toys that your dog has chewed down to a size that he could swallow.
- Always supervise your dog when he’s gnawing on a bone or chew toy.
- Make sure your dog’s bones and toys are appropriate for his size. For example, if you have a large dog like a Saint Bernard, don’t play fetch with a racquetball.
- Keep small objects out of your dog’s reach.
Like the Boy Scout motto says, be prepared. The next time you visit your vet, ask her to demonstrate the best way to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog. You can also take a pet first-aid class, which may be offered by your local adult school, pet store (Petco has an online class) or Red Cross chapter.