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What to Do When a Dog is Choking [Top 3 First Aid Tips]

Updated by Sheryl on Sep 10, 2021

What should you do when a dog is choking? When a dog is choking, first confirm that an object is stuck in its throat. For this purpose, carefully open its mouth and examine. If any object is lodged in the throat, use your hand, plier, or a tweezer to remove it. If you fail, perform Heimlich Maneuver. If it doesn’t work, immediately rush to vet emergency centers.

In this article, you’ll learn the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of a dog’s choking. Accidently, if your dog chokes, you will be its lifeline; you need to act instantly to save your dog’s life. So, read this post till the end and discover the life-saving methods for your fido.

open the dog's mouth
3 First Aid Tips for Dog Choking
What to Do after Your Dog Choking
Causes for Dog Choking
How to Prevent Dog Choking
dog open the mouth

Dog choking is a life-threatening emergency. In an extremely serious situation, you even don’t have enough time to contact a vet. In this case, you should administer first aid yourself.

Read on these steps to learn what to do if your dog is choking.

1. Identify the severity of the issue

Mostly choking signs are similar to dogs dealing with breathing issues and other illnesses. So it is important to distinguish whether your pup has something lodged in its throat or it’s just coughing or vomiting. A few signs will help you distinguish a blocked air passage or normal coughing. The signs of a choking dog include:

Facial Signs
Drooling heavily and unable to swallow
Forceful coughing
Gasping for breath
Retching motions
Unable to make a sound
Gums turning grey or blue
Physical Signs
Trying hard to expel something
Looking panicked and frantic
Pawing at head and mouth and whimpering
Struggling to whine

If your dog is just coughing but breathing well, it might be out of danger. It mostly happens when a dog chokes on food. In such cases, it will expel the obstruction on its own by coughing.

You can determine if your dog is actually choking by offering him a treat. Gently rub its throat, pinch its nostrils and give a treat. If it swallows the treat, it means it is not choking. But if your four-legged choking champ is gasping, wheezing, and unable to catch up the breath, it is a medical emergency, and it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

2. Visually check your dog’s mouth

Carefully open your dog’s mouth by squeezing its upper lip inwards. Open the mouth further by applying downward pressure on the jaw point. Use a flashlight to see clearly.

If you notice a piece of bone, carefully use a pair of clean tweezers or a plier to remove it. Make sure not to push the object further back.

Restrain larger dogs before you attempt to open their mouth. You can be at risk of being bitten. So, if your dog attempts to bite you, don’t try this method. Take it straight to the vet clinic. For small to medium dogs, try to loosen the object by shaking your dog while holding it upside down.

Check if you can manually remove the obstruction by hand or a tweezer. If you cannot remove the object, try to perform the Heimlich maneuver as first aid since you have only a few minutes between life and death.

open the dog mouth

3. Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

As first aid, try Heimlich Maneuver. For this, wrap your hands around the abdomen of your standing dog and make a firm fist. Place the fists on the soft spot under the ribcage.  Use thrusting motion by gently pushing upwards and forwards. Instantly check your fido’s mouth for the dislodged object.

If your dog is in the laydown position, place one hand at its back and the other hand on the abdomen to give inward and outward thrust. Avoid using too much force since it can break the ribcage bones.

You should keep in contact with your vet on a call from the time when your dog shows choking signs. However, if your dog has lost consciousness and fails to recover the stuck object, try to reach the 24 hours pet emergency service as soon as possible.

Heimlich Maneuver for dogs
Follow these steps after your dog stops choking:
Now, once the choking object is dislodged from your pup’s throat, check if it is breathing properly or not.
Perform CPR immediately if your dog is not breathing.
Now, take it to the vet clinic instantly. Your pet friend will need an oxygen supply even he has spent a few minutes without breathing.
Your vet will determine the further damage to your dog’s food canal and airways after an examination.
Your dog’s mouth and throat may take many days to recover from the choking injury. It can be painful during eating and drinking. Make sure to feed blended food to your dog during the healing period.

When a foreign object gets stuck in your dog’s mouth or throat and blocks the air passage, it may cause a dog’s choking. It can also occur if something tightly wraps around the neck of your pet.

Here are a few causes of dog’s causes for why do dogs choke:

Most dogs get excited to see the new food. They try to swallow the whole thing in one bite and end up with throat obstructions.
Bones in the dog food can get stuck in their throat. Dogs can choke anything that is the size of their tracheal opening.
Anything they hold and chew in their mouth can go in the wrong way to block the air passage. These can be toy balls, kids’ plastic toys, plastic bags, shoes, toys, etc.
If accidentally something like a string or a strap gets tightly wrapped around your dog’s neck, it may result in blocked airways and breathing difficulty.
dog swallow the toy

For preventing dog choking in the future, you should follow these preventive measures.

Never leave your pets alone when they are playing or eating.
Select dog food according to the breed size of your dog.
Don’t allow your dog to play with certain things that have a potential choking hazard.
If you have kids, keep their toys away from the reach of your furry champ.
Choose sturdy chew toys that can’t be broken easily by your pet.
Why does my dog keep coughing gagging like he's choking?
If your dog keeps coughing and gagging like he’s choking, he may have a kennel cough. Other possible causes include canine tracheobronchitis infection.
How to clean your dog’s airways?
For cleaning your dog’s airways, hold it upside down by its hind legs and gently shake it. With the benefit of gravity, you’ll be able to clean the airways and dislodge the object stuck in its throat.

Dog choking is an emergency and life-threatening situation for your pet. Being a pet parent, you should learn how to give first aid in such serious situations. Therefore, it is vital to get CPR training and Heimlich Maneuver training on your dogs in an emergency. Moreover, take precautionary measures to avoid such happenings in the future.

Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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