Dogs are known for chewing on almost everything they can fit their jaws around, such as shoes, bones, and toys. Today, our Turlock vets explain what you should do in an emergency where an item gets stuck in your dog's throat or mouth and they start choking.
Signs of Choking in Dogs
Coughing is probably going to be one of the first signs of choking your dog exhibits. If your dog has something stuck in their mouth or throat, they will usually start coughing in an attempt to expel the object. You may also notice that your dog is struggling to inhale as a result of the obstructed airway.
Pawing at their mouth or head, and/or appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your dog might be choking. In serious situations, a choking dog might become unconscious.
What You Should Do If Your Dog Starts Choking
If you notice your dog displaying any signs of choking, it's imperative to take immediate action and not wait until you get to the vet!
Start by checking the inside of your dog's mouth to see if there is any food or foreign objects lodged in their mouth or throat. If you can see something, try to wipe it away with your finger to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see an object or a piece of food, but you can't move it, get your dog to the emergency vet as quickly as possible, or try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you can see a small bone lodged in your dog's throat do not try to remove it yourself. Bones can injure your dog's throat. Get your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible in order to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver On Dogs
If you can't remove the object your dog is choking on with your fingers, the Heimlich maneuver is your next step. Depending on the size of your dog, there are two different ways to perform this maneuver:
The Heimlich Maneuver for Small Dogs
Carefully hold your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back, then with the palm of your hand apply pressure right below the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a thrusting motion. Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the problem.
The Heimlich Maneuver for Medium to Large Sized Dogs
If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Then make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - similar to the way you would perform the maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge the food, but remember to check your dog's mouth and help remove any food that may be loose in the back of their mouth so they don't choke on or swallow what was previously bothering them.
If your dog is laying on the floor, place one hand on the dog's back and use the other hand to push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending object.
What to do Once Your Dog Stops Choking
Even if you were able to remove the object from your dog's throat and stop your dog from choking, it's important to contact your vet immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time your vet may recommend hospitalization.
Choking can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat that may not be immediately visible to a distressed owner. Your vet might conduct a bronchoscopy to check your dog's throat for damage.
Preventing Choking in Dogs
To lower your dog's risk of choking in the future, you must keep an eye on them when they are playing with anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as toys or bones.
Feeding your dog a type of food that is formulated specifically for their size can help prevent choking, especially if they are a small breed. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to monitor your dog when they are eating.
If there are children in your home, ensure that toys are kept out of your dog's reach. Children's toys can pose a potential choking risk.
When choosing toys for your dog, opt for a toy that is sturdy enough to withstand your dog's level of chewing. If your dog is a more aggressive chewer be sure to look for extra-tough chew toys designed to withstand the pressure without breaking into pieces that could get lodged in your dog's throat.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.