Choking is an emergency situation that requires immediate intervention. It’s caused by an object blocking the airway, preventing normal breathing.
- Forceful coughing
- Respiratory distress
- Pawing at the mouth
- Pale or blue tongue
If your dog is conscious and able to breathe, take him to the vet or emergency clinic at once. If he can’t breathe, do the following whether or not he’s still conscious:
- Place the dog on his side with his head on the floor. Open his mouth. If the dog’s still conscious, place your hand over the snout and, with his lips between your hands and his teeth, carefully but forcefully apply pressure. Reassure the dog as you do this. Be aware that he may be panicked and may try to bite.
- Pull out the tongue as far as possible and–if you can see the object–sweep the mouth with your finger, grasp the object, and remove it. If the dog’s conscious, be sure to maintain a very secure grip on the snout to prevent him from biting.
- If you can’t see the object, don’t try to remove it by feel. Dogs have small bones that support the tongue, which can be mistaken for foreign objects.
If you can’t remove the object using the method above, proceed as below:
If your dog’s small enough, pick him up by the hind legs and hold him with his head pointed down. This may dislodge the object. If not, give him a sharp blow between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. If this doesn’t work, use the Heimlich maneuver.
The Heimlich maneuver can be as effective for dogs as for humans. For a larger dog who’s still conscious, wrap your hands around his abdomen from behind. Put your fists together and place them at the abdomen, just beneath the rib cage. Compress sharply up and into the abdomen three to five times, and check to see if the object has been dislodged.
If the dog’s unconscious, you may be able to hold him in your lap with his back against your chest while performing the maneuver as described. Otherwise lay him on his side and perform the compression motion to the abdomen either from in front or from behind (from behind is easiest, because you can probably get your arms around him and brace his body with your chest).
Once the object has been cleared, check to see if the dog’s breathing and if his heart’s beating. If he’s not breathing, feel for a pulse at the femoral artery, which is located midthigh. If there’s a pulse, perform rescue breathing. If there’s no pulse, perform CPR.
For dogs under 30 pounds (and puppies):
1. Lay the dog on his right side.
2. Pull the tongue forward to be even with the front teeth. Close his mouth.
3. Place your mouth over the dog’s nose and blow gently into his nostrils. His chest will expand, indicating that air is reaching the lungs. If it doesn’t, blow more forcefully.
4. Allow the dog to exhale by removing your mouth and opening the dog’s mouth. This is important to prevent overinflation of the lungs.
5. Continue at a rate of one breath every two or three seconds, until the dog breathes on his own.
For dogs over 30 pounds:
1. Follow the steps above, but wrap your hand around the dog’s muzzle to prevent the escape of air before you begin mouth-to-nose breathing.
2. Provide one breath every three seconds until the dog breathes on his own.
Dogs aren’t the most discriminate eaters. Given their natural curiosity, they can easily try to ingest something they shouldn’t. Don’t feed your dog bones from the dinner table, since these can often break apart and lead to choking.