Symptoms of Choking
- Extreme distress such as pacing, circling, and pawing at the mouth
- Gagging or coughing
- Extreme attempts to breathe with little or no success
- Excessive salivation
- Gums of the mouth turning a white or blue color
- Loss of consciousness
What You Should Do
If your dog is choking, immediately use your hands to open the dog’s mouth to try to locate the object that is causing the choking. In some cases the object may be at the entrance to the dog’s throat and still may be visible.
If you can see the object, try to remove the object with your fingers (take care because the dog may try to bite you at this time). If your attempts are only pushing the object further down the dog’s throat immediately stop and apply quick upward thrusts to the outside of the dog’s throat to try to force the object up. If these maneuvers do not work, perform the canine Heimlich maneuver.
Performing the Canine Heimlich Maneuver
Place the dog on its side and place both hands, one on top of the other, just below the dog’s ribs. Press upwards up to 5 times with quick sharp thrusts, then check your dog’s mouth to see if the object was expelled. If not, continue the Heimlich maneuver.
While it is important to get your dog to a veterinarian as quickly as possible, if your dog has completely stopped breathing you should continue performing the Heimlich maneuver until the object has been expelled. In a best case scenario, the dog can be worked on inside a vehicle while it is being transported to the veterinarian.
Once the object has been cleared, check to see if your dog is breathing again. If not, CPR should be performed. Even if the object has been expelled and the dog is breathing, a complete veterinarian check-up is needed to ensure the dog is okay.
What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian will continue to try to remove the foreign object and establish an airway if this has not already been done before the dog arrives at the clinic. If the object is still inside the upper throat, the veterinarian may use a light sedative to relax the dog’s muscles and then remove the object with a medical instrument. In other cases, the veterinarian may continue to perform the Heimlich maneuver until the object is removed.
If the dog’s breathing airway continues to be obstructed an emergency tracheotomy procedure may be used to establish an airway for the dog. Then an x-ray may be performed to see exactly where the object is and if manual or surgical methods should be used to remove it.
Once an airway has been established, oxygen may be administered if needed, and the dog’s vital signs will also be checked in addition to any signs of shock which may require treatment.