What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking: Heimlich Maneuver

Dog is choking

Swallowing a foreign object can be very dangerous for dogs and may require immediate action. Knowing what to do if your dog has something stuck in its throat is one of the important things you should know as a responsible dog owner. Esophageal obstruction in dogs is fairly common and requires treatment. Below, we will discuss some of the first aid options that are available to treat your dog if he is choking. In addition, we will discuss how you can tell if your dog is choking, how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a dog, and how to prevent your dog from choking again in the future. 

How can you tell if your dog is choking?

Sometimes it is difficult to tell if your dog is choking or just coughing. However, there are several signs that you should look for to determine what is causing your dog distress. If your dog is actually choking it will likely be displaying signs of extreme distress such as excessive drooling or pawing at its mouth. If the object that is stuck in your dog’s throat is obstructing its breathing, you may also notice that your dog is coughing and has blue-colored skin. Left untreated, your dog will suffocate to death. If you believe that your dog is having difficulty breathing, call the emergency vet line and take your dog to the vet right away. 

Common signs that your dog is choking:

  • Gagging
  • Drooling
  • Repeated swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Pawing at the throat
  • Coughing
Dog is choking

What should you do if your dog is choking?

If you determine that your dog is actually choking, quick action is a must to prevent long-term injury or death. Quick action is particularly important if your dog is having difficulty breathing due to the esophageal obstruction. If you believe that your dog is having trouble breathing, contact your vet immediately and seek emergency veterinary help. 

There are some measures that you can take in the meantime to help your dog dislodge the object that is causing the esophageal obstruction. Is there a Heimlich Maneuver for dogs? You can attempt the Heimlich Maneuver on your dog, but you should still continue to seek veterinary intervention. Before attempting the Heimlich Maneuver, you should first restrain your dog as they may potentially bite someone if they are panicking. Second, you should remove anything that may be around the dog’s neck, such as a collar or leash. Third, look inside the dog’s mouth and determine if the object is visible to you.

If you are able to see the object, you can attempt to use a large pair of tweezers to remove it from the dog’s throat. However, you must be extremely careful as not to push the object further into the dog’s throat. If you are unable to retrieve the object and your dog is struggling to breathe, you can administer the Heimlich Maneuver to your dog. 

How to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on dogs

If other removal options have not worked or the object is lodged in the dog’s throat, you can administer a variation of the Heimlich Maneuver for dogs. The Heimlich maneuver for dogs is very similar to the Heimlich maneuver used to assist a person that is choking. When it comes to the Heimlich Maneuver for dogs, there are differences depending on the size of the dog. 

If you dog is small enough to pick up, hold the dog against your stomach with its head facing up and paws facing down. Then, find the hollow section under the dog’s ribs. Close your fist and thrust up and in two to three times towards yourself. 

If your dog is too big to hold, place the dog on its side and kneel by the dog’s back, away from its paws. Like the version with the small dog, create a fist and place it in the hollow section under the dog’s rib cage. Push upward and inward in the direction of your knees and the dog’s head. Repeat this two to three times. 

The Heimlich Maneuver for dogs should only ever be attempted if it is an emergency situation. This life-saving technique can cause serious damage to the dog’s chest and chest cavity. If you administer the Heimlich Maneuver to your dog, the dog will need to be seen by a vet afterward to ensure it is ok. 

Oftentimes, the Heimlich Maneuver is able to remove the object that is lodged in the dog’s throat and restore proper breathing. Even if you manage to remove the object from the dog’s throat, seek emergency veterinary help immediately. 

Dog is choking

Treatment for foreign bodies in your dog’s throat

If you or the vet are unable to remove the object with the above methods, the vet may need to perform surgery to remove the object. The invasiveness of the surgery will depend on where the object is located within the dog’s throat. If your dog is struggling to breathe, the vet will likely perform a tracheotomy. A tracheotomy is a procedure that involves placing a breathing tube into the neck and then into the airway. This procedure bypasses the object causing your dog to choke and restores proper airflow until the object is removed.

Next, the vet will likely perform an x-ray on the dog to determine the exact location of the obstruction. Depending on the location of the object, the vet will recommend different surgical procedures for its removal. 

How to prevent your dog from choking

One of the best ways to keep your dog from choking is to implement preventative techniques. This way, you can avoid the panic that ensues when your furry friend is in distress and save yourself a trip to the vet. 

One easy thing you can do to prevent your dog from choking is to not leave small objects lying around your house. Keep small items out of your dog’s reach. Small objects are very easy choking hazards and should always be kept away from your dog; they can easily become foreign bodies that lead to your dog choking. 

Be careful when it comes to giving your dog food. There are some foods that are particularly dangerous to dogs and pose a great risk when it comes to choking. For example, you should never feed your dog cooked bones. Cooked bones can very easily splinter and shatter, getting stuck in your dog’s throat. If your dog swallows pieces of bones, they can cause damage to the dog’s internal organs and intestines due to the sharp edges. In addition, you should avoid giving your dog food in large amounts or large chunks. This is more difficult for the dog to chew and can cause the food to become lodged in the dog’s throat. 

Dog is choking

Why does my dog keep coughing? 

Have you noticed that your dog keeps coughing, but there is nothing lodged in the dog’s throat? The cause of your dog’s cough may be coming from elsewhere. There are various diseases and viruses that dogs can catch that cause respiratory issues and coughing, giving the appearance that the dog is choking. Some of the common illnesses that appear like choking are:

Common illnesses that cause coughing in dogs

Distemper: Canine distemper is an extremely contagious disease within dogs. The good news is that there is a vaccination to prevent distemper; that is why it is important that your dog receives regular veterinary checkups. This inflammatory disease is a viral infection that is much more severe than the common cold in dogs. A common symptom, along with coughing and gagging is water discharge from the dog’s eyes. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately, as this disease can be fatal if not treated quickly. 

Kennel cough: Kennel cough is another very infectious respiratory disease that spreads among dogs. Coughing is the main symptom of kennel cough. It is often passed by dogs that are in close proximity to each other; hence the name, kennel cough. The common symptom found within dogs with kennel cough is a hacking cough that sounds as if the dog is choking on something. 

Heart disease: When it comes to heart disease in dogs, there are many symptoms that can be present. One of the most common symptoms is excessive coughing. If you believe that your dog is suffering from heart disease, you should seek immediate veterinary intervention to prevent untimely death and deterioration. 

Cold or flu: Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from a cold or the flu. While this infection is different from that of humans, the symptoms are very similar. If your dog is suffering from a cold or the flu, it will likely have a runny nose, constant sneezing, persistent cough, and shaking. The vet may prescribe your dog cough medicine depending on if it is a productive cough or not. Cough suppressants can help relax your dog and prevent additional stress. 

Caring for your dog after choking

It can take several days and even a few weeks for the inside of your dog’s throat to completely recover from a choking incident due to foreign bodies. Your vet may recommend you feed your dog a soft food diet until its throat completely heals. Remember, even if you are able to dislodge the object, your dog still needs to be seen by a vet immediately to gauge the level of trauma caused to the dog’s esophagus and airway. If your dog is choking, it is extremely important to locate the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for immediate treatment.

In addition, your vet may prescribe your dog antibiotics to prevent respiratory infection from developing due to open wounds. A bacterial infection can be very dangerous and cause additional problems to develop within the dog’s respiratory tract. A thorough physical exam is needed to determine the level of damage caused by the esophageal obstruction to the respiratory tract. You may want to consider changing your dog’s diet. There are many benefits to making a switch from kibble to raw food.

So, to answer the question of what should you do if your dog is choking, seek veterinary help to prevent severe complications. The vet will be able to look for other clinical signs and provide a recommended treatment plan. This will help to prevent an infection from developing in the upper airways and other medical conditions and respiratory conditions from developing down the road. 

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