What to Do if Your Dog Is Choking
There are dozens of objects in and around your home that could pose a choking hazard for your pet. Dogs generally don’t discriminate with the items that they play with, placing toys, bones, clothes, and many other household objects into their mouths. Choking is a serious matter, and it should be addressed as quickly as possible to prevent long-term injury.
THE FIRST STEPS
Try to keep your pet calm while you attend to him. Keep in mind that choking is a very stressful and alarming situation for a pet, just as it would be for a human. As you are preparing to deal with the issue, make sure to restrain your dog calmly and reassuringly so that he is not able to bite you.
Open your dog’s mouth gently with both hands. If you can see the object causing the obstruction, remove it with your fingers. If you can’t see anything that could be causing the blockage, run your fingers across the back of the mouth to feel for it.
If you see or feel the object deep in the back of the throat, it would be best to leave it to prevent further injury. In this case, you will have to take your dog to a veterinarian so that the object can be safely extracted under sedation.
PERFORMING THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER ON YOUR DOG
If you can’t see what is causing the problem or if your dog has become unconscious, it might be necessary to perform the Heimlich maneuver. The procedure varies slightly, depending on the size of your pet.
Smaller dogs should be placed on their back. Feel for the rib cage and apply firm but gentle pressure to the area of the abdomen right below the ribs.
With larger dogs, it would be best to keep him standing to prevent further injury. Circle your hands around your pet and clasp them together. Make a fist with one hand and apply a firm pushing motion upward and forward, just under the rib cage.
Next, place your dog on his side. With one hand supporting your dog’s back, apply pressure on the abdomen, using the same upward and forward motion.
At this point, you should examine your dog’s mouth again to see if the Heimlich maneuver was successful at dislodging the foreign object. The blockage may still be deep in the back of the throat, in which case you will have to bring your pet to a veterinarian.
WHEN TO TAKE YOUR DOG TO A VETERINARIAN
If you are unable to extract the object from your dog’s mouth or throat, it is crucial to take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in these situations, particularly if your dog becomes unconscious.
Even if you manage to remove the obstruction, it is still a good idea to bring your dog to a veterinarian. Objects that cause choking can cut or bruise the inside of a dog’s mouth as well, and they can cause other problems if left untreated.
As with all medical issues, prevention is always preferable to having to resort to a cure. Dogs are similar to very young children in that they will often put foreign objects into their mouths. Prevention should, therefore, involve making sure that they don’t have access to objects that could cause them to choke. This includes chew toys or sticks that could become swollen or deformed with moisture.
Even some foods could present a choking risk. Some types of bones–those from T-bone steaks in particular–are known causes of choking in dogs. It would be best to avoid giving your dog cooked bones, as they could easily bend and obstruct the windpipe when swallowed whole. In general, you should avoid giving your dog bones that will completely fit in the mouth.