Most dogs will chew just about anything - bones, toys, shoes. But what should you do if something gets lodged in your dog's mouth or throat and they start to choke? Here, our Staten Island veterinarians share what to do in a choking emergency.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
Coughing is one of the first signs that your dog is choking. If your dog has something stuck in his or her mouth or throat, it will typically start coughing in an attempt to expel the object. You may also notice that your dog is having trouble breathing because of the obstructed airway.
Pawing at their mouth or head, and/or appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your dog may be choking. In severe cases, a choking dog may become unconscious.
What to Do if Your Dog is Choking
If you notice any signs that your dog is choking, you must act immediately rather than waiting until you can get to the veterinarian!
Begin by inspecting the inside of your dog's mouth to see if any food or foreign objects are lodged there. If you see anything, try wiping it away with your finger to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see an object or a piece of food but you are unable to move it, get your dog to the emergency vet as quickly as possible or try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you notice a small bone lodged in your dog's throat, do not attempt to extract it yourself. Bones can cause damage to your dog's throat. Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible and as safely as possible so that the bone can be removed while your dog is sedated.
Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs
If you aren't able to remove the object that 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 methods:
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver On Smaller Dogs
Hold your dog carefully on your lap and turn them onto its back, then apply pressure right beneath the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a thrusting motion. Roll your dog onto its side and look inside its mouth for the food or object that was causing the problem.
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver On Medium and Large 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 - much like you would perform the maneuver on a human.
This should dislodge the food, but check your dog's mouth and help remove any food that may be loose in the back of his mouth so he doesn't choke or swallow what was previously bothering him.
Place one hand on your dog's back and use the other to push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forward towards the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending object.
What to do After Your Dog has Stopped Choking
Even if you have managed to remove the object from your dog's throat and stop your dog from choking it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time hospitalization may be recommended.
Choking can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat that may not be immediately visible to a distressed owner. Your vet may recommend a bronchoscopy to check your dog's throat for damage.
Preventing Future Choking
To prevent chances of your dog choking in the future, make sure to keep an eye on your dog when they are playing with anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as toys or bones.
Feeding your dog food formulated specifically for his or her size can help to prevent choking, especially in small breeds. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog while he or she is eating.
If there are children in the household, be sure 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, be sure to choose 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.