5 Immediate Ways to Save a Dog Choking

A choking dog is a life threatening emergency that we hope will never happen. The reality is, plastic toys and rawhide bones are the equivalent of cat nip to our beloved dogs and there is always a chance that the toy will break or the bone will splinter. 

If my dog were to choke, I’d want to know the following 3 immediate ways to save him.

1. RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF A CHOKING DOG

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Clawing at the mouth
  • Agitation

You have less than 4 minutes to save your dog.

That heading was meant to scare you and here’s why; every second that your dog is choking are precious seconds he is going without oxygen.  You or I would begin to experience brain damage within 4 minutes of choking.  A dog’s brain cannot survive any longer.

Propolis for Dog Dermatitis

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2. DISLODGE THE OBJECT FROM THE DOG’S THROAT

Always have a prepared first aid kit nearby. Your first aid kit should have, at the very least:

  • A clean cloth
  • Needle-nosed pliers or an instrument known as a Hemostat used for scooping the embedded object out of your dog’s throat.
  • A towel or blanket

If there are no sounds of wheezing coming from your dog, his airway is probably completely closed. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

If there is anybody around, ask for help. If the dog is flailing in distress, the other person needs to keep the dog still by wrapping him/her firmly with the blanket or towel.

Prompt the dog to open his/her mouth by grasping the muzzle with the palm of your hand while using your fingers and thumb to exert gentle pressure on the sides of the dog’s mouth.

PULL THE DOG’S TONGUE OUT AS YOU LOOK INSIDE THE MOUTH.

DON’T WASTE TIME.

Use the pliers to reach in and grasp the object if you can.  Keep in mind that fearful dogs might bite.

If you can’t dislodge the object after the second try, lift the dog into the car and have someone drive you to the emergency clinic or veterinarian office. 

If possible, have someone call the veterinarian to let them know you are on the way.

3. CHEST COMPRESSION FOR A LARGE DOG OVER 30 POUNDS

Have a quick look to make sure the dog’s head and neck are level with the body. If the head is lolling over the side of the seat, quickly prop it up.

PLEASE NOTE: Working from the backseat of a car isn’t going to be easy. Ideally, the dog should be laying on his/her right side with his/her back towards you.

Picture this in your mind BEFORE you ever need to react.  Having a plan laid out in your mind will help in case of a real emergency.

THE IDEA IS TO BRACE YOUR KNEES AGAINST THE DOG’S BACK. This might not be possible on route to the clinic.

Again, it’s important not to waste time.

Cup one hand into a C-shape and give three to four thrusts, aiming for the highest point of the dog’s chest. 

Do not begin rescue breathing until you are positive the object has been dislodged.

4. CHEST COMPRESSION FOR A SMALL DOG UNDER 30 pounds.

A smaller dog is a little easier to handle in that you can pick him/her up. Hold the dog’s back against your stomach or chest, make a fist and push it into the hollow part of the dog’s chest, just below the rib cage. Just like the Heimlich maneuver, you’re going to want to push your fist in and up in one fluid motion. Continue attempting to dislodge the object.

YES! THE OBJECT CAME OUT…BUT

 The dog is unresponsive.

5. IT’S TIME TO BEGIN RESCUE BREATHING.

NEVER begin rescue breathing unless you are positive the object is dislodged.

Rescue breathing is a little different than performing human respiration. For a dog, you need to hold the mouth closed while sealing your lips around the dog’s nose. Blow two quick breaths (for an adult dog) and watch to see if the dog’s chest rises. Continue rescue breathing at a rate of 15 to 20 breaths per minute.

DOG’S NEED AIR TO KEEP COOL

Dog’s need airflow to help keep their body temperature cool. Have the person driving turn on the air conditioning. If air conditioning isn’t available, open the car windows.

At this point, you want to make sure the dog is no longer wrapped in a towel or blanket. The important thing is to keep the dog as cool as possible.

A VISIT TO THE VETERINARIAN IS WARRANTED NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME.

Choking is a serious incident that could damage the throat and leave it vulnerable to infection.

ASSESSING THE SITUATION

Once the dog is back home and on the mend, it’s time to assess what happened so that you can avoid it happening again.

Examine the dog’s toys and throw away any that are flimsy or that have already broken.  Do a sweep around the house to make sure there aren’t any bones lying around. It’s never a good idea to let your dog have a bone when you’re not nearby. If he/she does choke, you want to be as close as possible in order to jump into action.

WARNING: DOGS CAN CHOKE ON STRING OR YARN

If you see that a piece of string, yarn, tinsel, or anything similar, is hanging from the dog’s mouth and he/she is in distress, DO NOT yank or pull the string out. You can’t see how deeply the object is buried and pulling it out could cause internal damage.

As long as their is sound coming from the dog’s airway, oxygen is getting in.

This is still a medical emergency and you will need to bring your dog to the veterinarian or emergency clinic ASAP.

THINGS CAN CHANGE QUICKLY.  If your dog suddenly goes quiet, it might be because the airways are now completed blocked.  There is nothing you can do but continue trying to get the object out by grasping it, or performing chest thrusts.

The following infographic offers guidance on performing CPR on a puppy.