Dogs are notorious chewers. Many dogs will chew on anything, from bones and toys to shoes. Today, our Egg Harbor Township vets explain how you can tell if your dog is choking and what to do in this emergency.
How To Tell If Your Dog is Choking
Coughing is probably going to be one of the first signs your dog will show if they are choking. If your dog has something stuck in their mouth or throat, they will usually start coughing in order to try and expel the object. You may also see your dog having difficulties inhaling because of their obstructed airway.
Pawing at their mouth or head, and/or appearing panicked or frantic are also signs that your dog may be choking. In severe cases, a choking dog may become unconscious.
What You Should Do if Your Dog is Choking
If you see your dog exhibiting any signs of choking, you must take immediate action, don't wait until you get to the vet!
Start by looking inside your dog's mouth to try and see if there is any food or foreign objects lodged in your dog's mouth or throat. If you can see something there, try to wipe it away with your finger, to help your dog breathe again.
If you can see an object or a piece of food but you can't move it, get your dog to the emergency vet as quickly as possible or try performing the Heimlich maneuver as instructed below.
If you can see a small bone lodged in your dog's throat don't attempt removing it on your own. Bones can injure your dog's throat. Get your dog to the vet as quickly and safely as possible in order to have the bone removed while your dog is sedated.
The Dog Heimlich Maneuver
If you can't remove the object your dog is choking on with your fingers, perform the Heimlich maneuver. There are two different methods you can use depending on your dog's size:
Performing the Heimlich Maneuver on Smaller Dogs
Carefully hold your dog on your lap and turn 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
Is your dog standing? If so, wrap your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen and make a fist with your hands. Then firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion - very similar to how you would perform the maneuver on a human.
Doing this should dislodge the object, but remember to check the mouth and help remove any item that may be loose in the back of your dog's mouth so they don't choke on or swallow what was previously bothering them.
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.
What to do When Your Dog Stops Choking
Even if you were able to successfully remove the object from your dog's throat and stop your dog from choking, it is imperative to call your vet immediately. If your dog went without oxygen for any length of time they may require hospitalization.
Choking can cause painful damage to your dog's mouth and throat, that might not be immediately noticed by a distressed owner. Your vet might recommend a bronchoscopy to assess your pup's throat for damage.
How To Prevent Future Choking
To lower your dog's chances of choking in the future, keep an eye on them when they are playing with anything that could be a potential choking hazard such as toys or bones.
You can also help prevent choking, by feeding your dog food that is formulated specifically for their size, especially if they are a small breed. Although, we always recommend monitoring your dog when they are eating.
If there are children in the household, make sure toys are kept out of your dog's reach. Children's toys can pose a potential choking risk.
When purchasing toys for your pup, remember to opt for 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 stuck in your dog's throat.