When Your Dog Chokes What Should You Do

Dogs very rarely think about what they consume, unless it’s a hidden pill wrapped in a piece of bread or cheese (my dog carefully eats the tasty wrapper and spits out the pill). Most of the time, a dog will simply swallow its food whole, and dogs can choke just like humans. Saving a dog with a blocked airway uses the same treatment as a human as well. If you know CPR, you can help your choking dog.

Dogs are like children: You have to keep an eye on them all the time. Before you start giving your dog CPR, you should try to determine what your pet is choking on to begin with. Most likely, the culprit will be a bone or a small toy. Balls, if they’re small enough, are another possibility. A dog’s mouth is the equivalent of our fingers. Young dogs and pups will pick things up and taste them just to see what they are.

As with toddlers, always be certain that dog toys are large enough that they won’t accidentally be swallowed. When a dog gets something stuck in their throat, it will paw at their muzzle and try to retch up the blockage. A dog won’t be very cooperative with any human that’s trying to remove an object from its throat or mouth either, but a blocked throat is a medical emergency. If the dog stops breathing, it will pass out and could die.

If your dog remains conscious, you should try to remove the object blocking your dog’s breathing. Start by forcing your dog’s mouth open and trying to pull the object out of the mouth or throat immediately. Ideally, you should be able to see the object obstructing your dog’s breathing, but if you can’t see it, try raising your dog’s butt and back legs off the ground slightly before using a modified Heimlich maneuver.

The canine Heimlich maneuver begins with you pressing your flattened hand against the bottom of the dog’s rib cage. Push into the dog’s chest, pressing the dog’s lungs against its spine and back, and with any luck, this should cause the dog to cough up whatever was blocking its breathing. If the dog falls unconscious, try to perform the chest pressing maneuver twice again before giving two artificial respirations (breathing into the dog’s mouth; most first aid texts cover this in more detail), and then checking the dog’s mouth again. Repeat the process of two compressions and two artificial respirations until normal breathing returns.

Practice makes perfect. Just as you would practice a home fire drill with your children, it is good to have a few practice sessions with your dog for various first aid techniques. This way, should the time come that your dog needs help, the process will be more familiar to your pet and he’ll be less likely to struggle. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for professional advise or help.

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