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What to do when your dog is choking

Choking can be scary for a human or pet but for as a dog there can a lot of reasons why your dog is choking a lot of the time your dog is eating to fast or they have some type of object in there mouth but here is a guideline to help when this happens.

In a choking emergency you should:

  • restrain your dog — choking dogs will struggle and potentially bite in their panic
  • carefully use a pair of scissors to cut any object wrapped around the neck
  • open the mouth and look inside
  • use a large pair of tweezers to retrieve or break any objects you can see
  • never push at an object with your fingers if it’s lodged at the back of the throat
  • never stick your fingers down the throat if no object can be seen, as this may cause damage to the delicate tissues at the back of the throat

Large objects, such as balls of rawhide, can sometimes be dislodged by placing firm pressure with both thumbs underneath the jaw at the base of the throat and pushing forwards.

What about when I'm driving to the vet?

If none of the above works, you need to get to your vet as quickly as possible.

There are procedures you can carry out in the car as long as there are two of you.

Firstly, if your dog has collapsed and cannot breathe, you can try a variation of the Heimlich maneuver.

  • For small dogs, hold his back against your stomach (head up, paws down), and find the soft hollow under the ribs. Your closed fist should fit into this spot. Pull up and in two or three times, toward your own tummy, using a thrusting motion.
  • If your dog is too big to lift, place him on his side and kneel behind his back. Place your closed fist in the hollow under his rib cage, and push upward and inward sharply, in the direction of your dog’s head and your knees.

Only ever do this in serious emergency situations, as it can cause damage to the chest, and your dog will need to be checked afterward by a vet.

In most cases, getting rid of the choking obstruction allows the dog to begin breathing again on his own. If not, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute and continue these until you reach the veterinary practice. Whether the item is dislodged or not, a trip to the vet is necessary as there may be damage to the inside of the mouth or throat once the object is removed.

What will happen at the vets?

The vet will confirm that your dog is choking, rather than coughing or experiencing a different respiratory condition. They may sedate your dog to reduce their distress and to make it easier to examine the mouth and throat as well as remove any object.

In a complete obstruction, the vet may perform an emergency tracheotomy — a quick procedure that allows them to pass a breathing tube from the neck straight into the windpipe. This bypasses the obstruction, allowing your pet to breathe until it’s removed. In the worst case scenario, the vet may not be able to resuscitate a dog that has stopped breathing.

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