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The Ultimate Guide on What to Do if Your Dog Chokes on Food

what to do if your dog chokes

200,000 pet choking incidents happen in the US every year. No pet owner ever wants to be in a position where they can’t help their dog. Unfortunately, choking can occur with everyday foods, chew toys, and bully sticks.

Knowing how to react in times of crisis is crucial as it can save them from more severe situations. So, what can dog parents do if their dog starts choking? Here’s what to do if your dog chokes, how to spot it, and how to prevent it.

Know the Signs

Canines have natural reflexes and instincts that help them avoid choking. A dog may cough or induce gagging to relieve themselves of a dislodged object. However, this is still a good sign for dog owners to step in.

Here are some common signs that a dog is choking.

Coughing or Gagging

Coughing or gagging is natural in dogs to attempt to dislodge an object from its throat. These actions may be accompanied by harsh or high-pitched sounds.

Large canines make labored sounds while coughing. Puppies may produce squeaking or whistling noises. Dog owners will also notice difficulty breathing.

These actions become repetitive as the canine attempts to clear the obstruction. If this is a common occurrence, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition. These are potential symptoms of sore throat or airway irritation caused by parasites.

Pawing at the Mouth or Face

Pawing at the mouth or face is another sign of choking in dogs. It is a clear indicator of something blocking their throats or mouth.

As a reflex, they use their paws to remove the object causing the obstruction. Repeating this action can irritate and scratch their skin, appearing like an allergy. Assess your canine for signs of choking before performing a specific treatment.

Apart from pawing its mouth, your dog starts to pace back and forth. It panics when it struggles to breathe from the obstruction. As a result, dogs keep moving and do retching motions.

Difficulty Breathing

Like in any other creature, choking causes difficulty in breathing in dogs. It is the most severe and distressing sign as your canine struggles to inhale and exhale. Your dog’s breathing may become fast, noisy, and labored.

The obstruction in its throat leads to the lack of oxygen. This can result in your pet panicking and feeling restless. As the owner, stay calm and perform an emergency response to address the problem.

Perform an Emergency Response

If you notice your dog choking, you need to keep calm to perform an emergency response. Before taking a specific action, ensure that your dog is choking. Remember, a choking dog can show signs that are the same as other health conditions.

Finger Sweep

When your dog is choking, your initial response is to remove the obstruction. However, do not attempt to open its mouth if you feel like it may bite you.

First, feel the object under its jaw. Position your dog on its back and push the object towards its mouth using your thumb. Open its mouth and see the reason for the obstruction.

To open its mouth, put your hand around the upper side of its muzzle. Place your thumb and forefinger behind its top canine teeth and lift its upper jaw. When opening your dog’s mouth, keep your other fingers up and away.

After opening its mouth, spot any object caught in its throat. If you see the object, move it to one side of its mouth with your finger. Use your free thumb and index finger to pull it out.

Aside from your fingers, you can use tongs or tweezers to grab and dislodge the object. It is best to make your dog vomit to push out obstructions.

Chest Compression

In some cases, you can move the object enough to allow air to pass, but it may not be enough to dislodge it. Perform a chest compression if the ‘Finger Sweep’ method does not work.

With your dog standing, stand over it and face the same direction. Next, make a strong and forceful push on its rib cage using both hands. Then, repeat the thrusts until you dislodge the object from its throat.

If chest compression is unsuccessful, try the Heimlich maneuver.

Heimlich Maneuver

When caring for a dog choking, you can consider doing a Heimlich maneuver. Is this kind of an emergency response? It is a first-aid method for choking, involving thrusting one’s abdominal area to dislodge an obstruction.

Despite for people, you can perform this fast, life-saving method on your choking dog. It is an ideal procedure when other treatments do not work. When doing the Heimlich maneuver, try to contact a veterinarian.

Doing so allows you to receive reliable, professional supervision.

For Small Canines

In general, puppies have softer bones, making them fragile and prone to injuries. Their bones only reach their highest strength after puberty. Attempting the Heimlich maneuver can fracture their bones, so if you have to do so, be gentle.

First, place the puppy or small dog on your lap and roll it onto its back. Next, locate its soft spot under its ribs. Make a fist with one hand and place the other hand on top of it.

Then, push in and up in a thrusting motion on the soft spot. Ensure to repeat the action five times. Make short pressure blasts with the air inside its lungs to remove the item.

After the Heimlich maneuver, roll your puppy on its side and check its mouth for the object. Open its mouth and remove the item. To ensure you keep a healthy dog, schedule for follow-up care.

For Large Canines

With large canines possessing a more dense bone structure, the way you hold them is different.

The Heimlich maneuver begins with your dog in its hind legs. Next, hold it with its back to your front. Like with small canines, locate its soft spot under its ribs.

Then, create a fist with one hand and place the other on top. Push in and up on its soft spot at most five times. When performing the Heimlich maneuver, add pressure on how you push.

Roll your large canine on its side after the procedure. Try to open its mouth if you believe it cannot bite you and remove the object. To avoid complications, do a follow-up care routine.

Seek Immediate Veterinary Care

Despite getting the obstruction out, you can never guarantee you got everything. Seek veterinary care to ensure nothing obstructs your dog’s airway. Remember, failing to remove every obstruction can lead to severe problems.

It includes damaged throat, respiratory diseases, and even death.

Before leaving, call your dog’s vet and inform them about your visit. Explain everything in detail to give them an idea of the situation and to allow them to prepare. With this, they can provide immediate help to you upon your arrival.

How to Prevent Choking in Dogs

Preventing choking incidents is the best course of action to keep your dog safe. The following are some tips on reducing the risk of your dog choking:

Choose the Appropriate Toys and Treats

Dogs come in different sizes and breeds. That’s why it’s essential to give them toys and treats suitable for their specific dimensions. Small canines must have small toys, and large dogs must have larger ones.

For toys and treats, choosing the right size ensures they are manageable and safe for your dog. Moreover, avoid giving your pet small, hard treats they can swallow. Go for toys designed for chewing and treats made for digesting.

Supervise Mealtime

Many dogs are enthusiastic eaters, and some may tend to gobble down their food fast. With this, some cannot chew their food, increasing the risk of choking. To prevent this incident, supervise your dog during meals.

If your canine is one of those voracious eaters, use slow-feed bowls or puzzle feeders to slow their eating. Prepare food for dogs they can chew and digest well. With this, your pet can have an enjoyable and safe mealtime.

Moreover, it keeps your dog safe from illnesses, such as diarrhea and allergies.

Keep Small Objects Out of Reach

It is natural for dogs to be curious and chew on things they find. When not supervised, they can ingest small objects that can cause choking. How are you going to address this issue?

Putting small items out of their reach is one way to prevent your dog from choking. You can train your pet about the things they can and cannot play with, too.

What to Do if Your Dog Chokes: Everything You Need to Know

Knowing what to do if your dog chokes is a life-saving skill. Although it is a frightening experience, you must remain calm to take swift action. Recognizing the signs, learning treatments, and seeking veterinary care are crucial in ensuring the well-being of your canine.

To keep your dog healthy, observe a follow-up care treatment. At All Animals Veterinary Clinic, you can guarantee your canine companion receives excellent care! For queries on our products and services, contact us today.

The All Animal Vet Clinic is here to help guide you through the journey of owning a new puppy.

Contact us to schedule an appointment in our Lebanon, Indiana Clinic.