If you dog is anything like mine then you’ll have heard them eating far too fast?! Worse still is if you hear that horrible choking noise as a piece (or more) of their food comes back up. It’s stressful for you dog and has been a heart stopping moment for you.
Hopefully most dog owners will never have to experience the sheer terror of watching their best friend choke. It is, however, important to remember that choking is something that can happen to any dog. Knowing before-hand how to reacting if your dog starts choking can save your dog's life!
- If your dog appears to be choking, but is trying to cough up the object themselves, watch them closely and give them time to try to remove the object themselves. Remember that if your dog can still cough, then they can breathe as well.
- If the dog is struggling to get the object up himself, or starts to show signs of impaired breathing such as wheezing, gasping for air, general struggling, and/or pawing at the mouth, then it's time to intervene. The first step that sometimes works is to open your dog's mouth and look to see if you can see the object that is causing the choking. Sometimes you may be able to see the object near the back of the dog’s mouth. Be very careful trying to pull the object out, choking dogs will usually be stressed and will be more prone to bite. It's also possible that when trying to remove the object, you could push it further into the throat and cause more harm than good. Only attempt to remove the object by hand if you feel comfortable doing so, and the object appears that it will be easy to grasp and remove.
- If you cannot remove the object by hand, the next step is to let gravity help. If you have a small or medium sized dog, pick them up and hold them upside down. Sometimes the force of gravity will help to remove the object. If you have a large dog that you cannot fully lift up, let the dog keep his front paws on the ground but lift up the dog’s hind legs and hold them tilted forward like you would a wheelbarrow.
- If this doesn't work either, the next step is to try back blows. This is exactly what it sounds like. With the palm of your hand, give the dog 4 or 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades.
- The next thing to try is the Heimlich maneuver. The Heimlich maneuver is performed on dogs almost the same way it is done on humans. Making sure your dog's head is pointed down, form a fist with one hand and cover the fist with your other hand. Place your two hands on your dogs belly, in the soft spot directly under his ribcage. Quickly thrust your hands inwards and upwards at the same time. The idea is to firmly press on your dogs lungs to force air out in a quick burst, which will hopefully have enough force to drive the object out of his throat.
Some owners worry that they may hurt their dog while doing the Heimlich maneuver. If done incorrectly, the Heimlich maneuver can fracture ribs or rarely cause internal damage. These issues are usually less serious than the fact that your dog is choking. After your dog is breathing normally and not at risk of choking to death, then you can worry about any secondary problems. Normally injuries such as fractured ribs can be treated successfully after your dog's life has been saved.
Once the object is removed from your dog's throat, closely monitor your dog to make sure that they are breathing normally. If your dog does not begin breathing normally on his own, you may need to start artificial respiration. If your dog does not have a pulse, begin CPR. Even if your dog does seem perfectly fine, it's a good idea to get them to a vet for a check-up, just to make sure everything is okay.
Pet owners should know ahead of time how to deal with emergencies such as a choking pet. Hopefully most dog owners will never have to use these techniques on their dog, but in the even that your dog does ever choke, knowing how to react quickly and calmly can mean the difference between life and death for your best friend.
You can find products specifically designed to keep your dog safe and choke-free here.