Our dogs love to munch down everything from food to toys to even shoes and socks. We’ve all been there! While those big items are very scary and need to be addressed, your dog might start to choke when ingesting something that gets stuck in his windpipe. And, in that moment, it’s very important to know what to do next and act immediately.
How can you tell if your dog is choking?
If your dog is choking and not coughing, he or she will usually paw at his mouth or become unresponsive. A choking dog makes retching motions and will look panicked, often pacing back and forth and pawing at his or her mouth. Her chest may be heaving but she isn’t making any airway noises.
If your dog is choking, you need to act quickly
First thing to do is to check your dog’s mouth and throat for any object that might be lodged there. Dogs can choke on just about anything that is the size of the opening to the trachea, but the most common objects are small balls, real bones, cellophane, and children’s plastic toys.
Use both hands to open your dog’s mouth, using one hand on the upper jaw and the other on the lower. Then, press your dog’s lips over the dog’s teeth so that they are between the teeth and your fingers. Look inside the mouth and remove the obstruction with your fingers.
If your dog is still choking and you can’t see anything in your dog’s mouth, do the following:
If your dog is conscious:
Stay calm and try to keep your dog calm. If your dog is overheated, you can lower your dog’s temperature with cool water applied to your dog’s ears, feet and belly, and then head to your veterinarian’s office. Only perform a finger sweep if this doesn’t upset your dog or your dog might bite you.
Be aware that difficulty breathing, medically known as dyspnea, is a medical emergency. Your dog may be trying to breathe and it may sound noisy or squeaky. A bluish shade to the lips or an inability to inhale or exhale are signs of severe distress and you should get your dog to your veterinarian immediately.
If you have a big dog and you think he is choking, do the following:
- Stand behind your dog and place your arms around his body. Make a fist with one hand, and place the thumb of that hand against your dog’s abdomen just where the sternum ends. With the other hand, grasp your fist and push upward and forward (toward the dog’s shoulders), suddenly and forcefully.
- Do this motion four or five times. Check your dog’s airway again and clear any debris from the mouth. Repeat the chest thrusts if necessary. If your dog is unconscious, clear the airway and perform rescue breathing.
If you have a small dog and think he is choking, do the following:
- Hold your dog with her head up so that her spine is against your chest. Make a fist with one hand and place it against your dog’s abdomen just where the sternum ends. Grasp the fist with your other hand, and give four or five rapid thrusts inward and upward.
- Check your dog’s airway again and clear any debris from the mouth. Repeat the chest thrusts if necessary. If the dog is unconscious, clear the airway and perform rescue breathing.
If your dog has fallen unconscious, do the following:
Perform a finger sweep to remove foreign material
Open your dog’s mouth and place your finger along the inside of the mouth, sliding it down toward the center of the throat over the base of the tongue, gently sweeping toward the center to remove any foreign material.
Begin rescue breathing (CPR).
Place your mouth over your dog’s nose with his mouth closed. Breathe into the dog’s nose until you see the chest rise. If air is not entering the lungs, slap the chest wall firmly or perform the dog Heimlich maneuver by placing your dog on his back, placing your hands over the abdomen near the bottom of the rib cage and gently, but firmly, thrusting toward the spine. Perform a finger sweep and begin rescue breathing again. Repeat until the foreign object is out and the lungs can be inflated. Then get your dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Choking can be very scary for you and your dog. It is important to know what to do next so if your dog does start to choke, you are able to help your pup immediately.
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