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Heimlich Maneuver For Dogs: What To Do If My Dog Is Choking

Dogs are notorious for chewing on things. They will chew on anything they find like clothing, bones, and any objects that are in reach. Unfortunately, sometimes these objects can become lodged in their throats. Here, our New Ulm veterinarians discuss what you should do if your dog begins choking and how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on them.

How To Tell If My Dog Is Choking

Typically, if your pet is experiencing a situation in which they are choking then they will most likely be coughing. Your dog will begin coughing usually as a means to try to expel the object from their throat. You may also notice that your dog is having difficulties inhaling due to the obstructed airway.

If your dog is choking then they will most likely paw at their face and head in panic as they try to remove the object. In severe cases, a choking dog may become unconscious.

How To Help My Dog if They Choke

If you notice any signs that your dog is choking it is necessary to contact your vet immediately whether you were able to clear the blockage or not.

The first thing you should do if you notice that your dog is choking and having issues breathing is to open their mouth and look to see if you are able to spot anything that may be blocking their 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 the blockage but are unable to remove the object then you should hurry and get your dog to the emergency vet as quickly as possible or try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.

It is important to note that occasionally the blockage could be caused by a bone in your dog's throat. If this happens it is important to get your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible in order to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.

Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs

If you are unsuccessful with removing the blockage with your fingers then you need to consider other options for removing the blockage. In these cases, the Heimlich maneuver is your next step. Depending on the size of your dog, there are two different methods:

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Small Dogs

Firmly but gently pull your dog into your lap and roll them onto their back, then using the palm of your hand apply pressure right beneath the rib cage and push firmly inwards and upwards 5 times in a thrusting motion. Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the issue.

Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Medium and Large Dogs

While your dog is standing, wrap your arms around them and join your hand at the base of their 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.

By using this maneuver the blockage should clear. There may be some remains of food from the blockage in your dog's mouth and so you should ensure that you check their mouth for any remains.

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 their abdomen upwards and forwards towards the spine, then check your dog's mouth for the offending object.

After Your Dog's Throat is Clear

Regardless of whether you have managed to remove the object from your dog's mouth, If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time hospitalization may be recommended.

Your dog may have suffered an injury to their throat and mouth during the process of choking and coughing. Your vet may recommend a bronchoscopy to check your dog's throat for damage.

How to Prevent 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 a 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, be sure to choose a toy that is sturdy enough to withstand your dog's level of chewing. If your dog is a more aggressive chewer be sure to look for extra-tough chew toys designed to withstand the pressure without breaking into pieces that could get lodged in your dog's throat.  

If your dog is currently choking or has recently choked, it is important to contact New Ulm Regional Veterinary Center in New Ulm during regular hours or the nearest emergency vet on evenings or weekends.

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