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 Douglasville 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 its mouth or throat, it will cough 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, it is essential to take action immediately and not wait until you get to the vet!
Begin by checking the inside of your dog's mouth to see if any food or foreign objects are lodged in your dog's mouth or throat. If there you can see something, try to swipe 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 are unable to remove the object choking your dog with your fingers, the Heimlich maneuver is the next step. There are two methods available depending on the size of your dog:
Heimlich Maneuver For 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.
Heimlich Maneuver For Medium and Large Dogs
Put your arms around your dog so that your hands meet at the abdomen if they are standing. Then, make a fist with your hands and thrust up and forward five times in a thrusting motion, as if you were performing the maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge the food, but be sure to check the mouth and help remove any food that may be loose in the back of your dog's mouth so he doesn't choke or swallow what was previously bothering him.
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 its abdomen upwards and forwards 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 removed the object from your dog's throat and prevented him from choking, you should contact your veterinarian right away. If your dog has been without oxygen for an extended period of time, hospitalization may be advised.
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 that is formulated specifically for your dog's size can help to prevent choking, particularly for small breeds. Nonetheless, it is always a good idea to monitor your dog when they are 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 selecting toys for your dog, make sure the toy is strong enough to withstand your dog's chewing. If your dog is a more aggressive chewer, look for extra-tough chew toys that can withstand pressure without breaking into pieces that could become lodged in your dog's throat.