Do you know what to do if your dog is choking? Knowing a few emergency procedures, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the Heimlich maneuver for dogs, is critical to saving lives because you may not have time to get to a vet and your dog could suffocate.
Dogs love to chew bones, sticks, toys, socks and anything small enough to fit into their mouths. But on occassion, an object may become dangerously lodged in your dog's throat or windpipe.
If your dog is choking and suffocating, he will likely panic. A dog signals he is choking by either: coughing violently, wheezing, gasping for breath, pawing at his mouth, and/or has his eyes bulging out.
Check your dog's mouth for the lodged object
If your dog cannot clear the object from his throat himself within a few seconds, immediately check your dog's mouth. Always be extremely careful when attempting to remove anything from your pet's mouth because you could push the object farther down your dog's throat, tear at the throat tissue, damage a dog's throat bones, or get bitten in the process.
Move on to either tilting your dog or the Heimlich maneuver:
Titling a dog
The first option to try is to see if you can dislodge the object using gravity.
For a small dog: pick the dog up by his thighs, with his belly toward your face, while gently shaking him.
For a large dog: with the dog standing on all fours, pick up the dog's rear legs like you would a wheelbarrow, and tilt him forward.
If tilting the dog does not work to dislodge the object, move on to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Heimlich maneuver for a dog
Only use the Heimlich maneuver if you are certain your dog is choking on a foreign object, as it can cause additional injury.
Be careful when using this method, as you could potentially cause damage to a dog's internal organs if you apply too much force. Canine ribs are more flexible than human ones and thrusting can cause the lungs to flail, which may not create enough pressure to expel the foreign object.
The technique is basically the same as for a human. There is a slight variation between treating a small dog and a medium or large dog.
For a small dog:
If you are unable to dislodge the item, you may need to perform CPR to provide oxygen to the dog while someone rushes you to a veterinarian.
For a medium or large dog:
One variation of the Heimlich maneuver for dogs is to try chest thrusts.
If you are unable to dislodge the object, you may need to perform rescue breathing and CPR, while someone takes you and your dog to a veterinarian or emergency animal clinic. Read our article: CPR for dogs (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
If at any time your dog becomes unconscious due to the obstruction of his airway, begin rescue breathing and CPR right away.
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