Help! What Should I Do If My Dog Is Choking?

Despite our best efforts, our dogs are lighting fast and can get into trouble the moment we turn our backs. While our pet’s escapades usually turn out well, there are times when the situation becomes an emergency. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to prepare ourselves for the worst case scenario so that we can keep our dogs safe if the occasion arises. Here, we discuss the steps you can take if your dog is choking. 

Signs and symptoms your dog is choking

The first thing you should know are the symptoms exhibited by dogs who are choking:

  • Physical signs - You may actually be able to see something lodged in your dog’s throat that is preventing her from breathing. Discolored tongue and gums are a sure sign that your dog is not getting enough oxygen. 
  • Sensory signs -  Your dog may panic and display anxious behavior. It may paw at its mouth, pace, pant and breath heavily. These are signs that your dog’s oxygen flow is obstructed. 
  • Auditory signs - You may hear your dog making high pitched sounds, or squeaking and whistling noises. Heavy coughing and gagging are also signs that your dog may be choking. 

What can cause choking in dogs? 

In reality, any small object that can fit into your dog’s mouth is a choking hazard. Here are some of the most common items that dogs can choke on. 

Balls

Most dogs love to play ball. Unfortunately, balls can be a potential choking hazard, no matter what they are made off. It’s even more dangerous when your dog chews on the ball. Pieces can break off and become stuck in their throat. Balls can also compress in size and become lodged in their airway. 

To avoid choking, make sure that any ball your dog plays with is appropriate in size. Keep an eye on your dog when it is playing ball and put the ball away when you are unable to watch your dog. 

Cooked bones

Cooked bones are very brittle and can easily break off. If you are wondering whether your dog can eat cooked bones, cooked chicken bones, turkey bones and pork bones are all dangerous choking hazards that can cause damage to your dog’s mouth and GI tract. It is best to avoid giving your dogs cooked bones of any kind.

Raw bones

Raw bones can be a good source of calcium and phosphorus for your dog. While they are much safer than cooked bones, raw bones are still potential choking hazards. If you want to give your dog raw bones, consult your vet before you do so. Do make sure that you watch your dog when it’s chewing on raw bones. Some of the best raw bones that you can give your dog are lamb and beef. 

Rawhide bones

Rawhide bones are popular and widely sold in pet shops. However, dogs can easily choke on them. Dogs who are aggressive chewers have been know to break off large chunks of rawhide and swallow it whole. Rawhide bones are potential hazards that can obstruct your dog’s airway and even cause blockages in your dog’s esophagus and intestines.

Sticks and stones

Sticks, the kind that you would pick up and play fetch, can splinter in your dog’s mouth. This can cause cuts, abrasion, and if accidentally swallowed, become stuck in your dog’s throat. It can also cause perforations in your dog’s esophagus and intestines. 

Dogs love playing with stones as well as small rocks. Younger dogs may try to carry them in their mouths. Stones can become lodged in your dog’s throat and block its airway. 

Children’s toys

Dogs love to explore with their mouths, not unlike toddlers. Children’s toys can have many small pieces - legos, puzzles, and small figurines are all pieces that can cause your dog to choke.

Medical conditions

Besides choking on a foreign object, there are also certain medical conditions that can cause your dog’s airway to become blocked. These include:

  • Severe allergic reactions that lead to swelling, making breathing very difficult
  • Respiratory infections can cause your dog’s airway to become blocked with mucus
  • Collapsing trachea, which is common in senior small dog breeds, occurs when the dog’s windpipe becomes ‘floppy’. This makes it harder and harder to breathe, causing the dog to choke and splutter.

What to do if your dog is choking? 

You need to get your dog to the vet immediately if your dog is choking. If you attempt to help your dog, be careful as your dog might bite you when you try to reach into its mouth. 

If your dog has lost consciousness, here’s what you can do

  • Open your dog’s mouth wide and use a cloth to move its tongue out of the way. Doing this may help in removing the obstruction. 
  • Check if you can see anything stuck at the back of your dog’s throat. Perform a finger sweep from the side to centre of your dog’s mouth to try and dislodge the object. Make sure you do not push the object further into the throat. If you can’t use your fingers, you can try using tongs to gently take the object out. 
  • Try the Heimlich maneuver and remove the object when it dislodges. 
  • If your dog doesn’t start breathing after the object has been removed, you will need to perform CPR. 

It’s also important that you stay calm. Your panic will cause your dog to be even more anxious if it is still conscious. Saying calm will give your dog some reassurance that you are doing your best to help. 

Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs 

The Heimlich maneuver is a simple but effective technique that can be used to help dogs (and humans) who are choking. The standing Heimlich maneuver can be used for small dogs. The kneeling Heimlich maneuver is suitable for large dogs that are too big to lift. 

Heimlich maneuver for smaller dogs

  • Hold your dog’s back against your stomach. Its head should be up and paws down. 
  • Make a fist with one hand and place your fist against your dog’s abdomen. This is the soft hollow where your dog’s ribs end.
  • Grasp your fits with your other hand and pull up two or three times in a thrusting motion towards your own stomach. 
  • Remove the object when it dislodges. 

small dog
Photo by Herbert Goetsch on Unsplash

Heimlich Maneuver for large dogs 

If your dog is unconscious:

  • Place it on its side and knell behind its back. 
  • Make a fist and place your fist in the hollow under your dog’s rib cage. 
  • Push upwards and inward in a thrusting motion towards your dog’s head. 
  • Remove the object when it dislodges. 

If your dog still standing:

  • Put your arms around your dog’s tummy.
  • Make a fist and place your fist just behind your dog’s rib cage. 
  • Push upwards and forwards in a thrusting motion.
  • Remove the object when it dislodges. 

Taking care of your dog after choking

Your dog may take some days to heal if there is damage to its mouth and throat from the object it was choking on. You might have to soften your dog’s food for the time being as eating and swallowing might be painful. 


Even if you managed to remove the obstruction at home, it’s still a good move to get your dog checked by the vet. Abrasions on your dog’s mouth and throat might require medication to prevent infections from occurring. Your vet might also prescribe medication to help with pain and swelling. 

Preventing choking in the future

As choking can result in devastating situations, it’s best to prevent it from happening. Here are some steps that you can take to keep your dog safe. 

  • Keep an eye on your dog when they are playing with items that could be a choking hazard. This includes toys and bones. 
  • Choose toys that are strong, sturdy and able to withstand pressure without breaking for your dog. Avoid toys that can easily break into pieces when they are chewed on as they can get stuck in your dog’s throat.
  • Feed your dog food that is suitable for its size as well as age. For example, do not give your small breed dog big bones to chew on. Petcube’s specially formulated gently cooked range is not only safe and easy to eat, but also delicious and full of nutrients
  • Keep children’s toys out of your dog’s reach as they are a potential choking hazard. 

Conclusion

Being prepared will help you to navigate the emergency situation if a foreign object ever becomes stuck in your dog’s throat. In fact, taking steps to prevent your dog from choking is even better. Keep and eye on your dog if it’s chewing on a toy or bones. However, no matter how careful we are, accidents can still happen. If it does, remember to stay calm and call your vet immediately.

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