Most of our canine companions will chew just about anything, whether that be toys, shoes, or bones. But what should you do if they are chewing on something and it gets stuck in their throat? Here, our Apple Valley vets explain what to do in a choking emergency.
Signs Your Dog is Choking
One of the first signs that your dog is choking is likely to be coughing. If your pooch has something stuck in its mouth or throat, it will generally start coughing to try and expel the object. You may also notice that your dog is having some difficulties inhaling because of their obstructed airway.
Appearing panicked or frightened in addition to pawing at their mouth are also common signs that your dog is choking. In more severe cases where your dog's breathing is totally or nearly entirely obstructed, they may also fall unconscious.
What to Do if Your Dog is Choking
If you notice any of the signs that your dog is choking, it's critical that you take action as soon as possible and don't wait until you get to the vet to do anything about it.
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 a small object or a piece of food lodged in your dog's throat but you aren't able to move it, be your canine companion to see an emergency vet as soon as possible. You can also try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you can see a small bone lodged in your dog's throat do not try to remove it yourself. Bones can injure your dog's throat. Get your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs
If you aren't able to remove the object that your dog is choking on with your fingers, the Heimlich maneuver is your next step. Depending on the size of your dog, there are two different methods:
Heimlich Maneuver For Smaller Dogs
Hold your dog in your lap very carefully and turn them onto its back. Using the palm of your hand, apply pressure right beneath their rub cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a row. After doing this, roll your dog back into its side and check their mouth for the food or object that is causing its choking.
Heimlich Maneuver For Medium and Large Dogs
If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen. Then make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - much like you would perform the maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge food caught in your dog's throat, but be sure to check their mouth and help to remove any food that may have been loosened by still sitting in the back of your dog's throat. If you don't do this, your canine companion may swallow what was bothering them and begin choking all over again.
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 managed to remove the object from your dog's throat and can stop your pooch from choking, it is important to contact your vet as soon as possible. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time, hospitalization may be recommended.
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 choosing toys for your dog to play with, make sure that you select one that is sturdy enough to withstand your pooch's chewing. If your dog is a more powerful chewer, make sure to look for extra-tough chew toys that won't break into pieces that may get lodged in your dog's throat.