What to do if Your Dog is Choking

If your dog has a small ball or other object lodged in his windpipe and is having trouble breathing, do the Heimlich maneuver immediately. If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t work, rush him to a vet.

If your dog is gasping for breath, cool him if he’s hot, calm him, and transport him to a veterinary hospital immediately.

If your dog is able to breathe but is pawing at his mouth and shaking his head, he may have something stuck in his mouth. Open his mouth—if you can do so without getting bitten—to look for an object stuck there, and remove it, if possible. If your dog has something stuck crosswise against the roof of his mouth, you may have to push the object back toward his throat (where the jaw is wider) in order to dislodge it. Be careful not to push it down his throat. If you can’t get the object out, call a vet.

If your dog is coughing, hacking or gagging but seems to be getting enough air in and out, he may have a cold, a collapsing trachea, or another respiratory or heart ailment. This is not an emergency unless the dog is weak and lethargic, won’t eat, or otherwise seems very ill. Call your vet during office hours for an appointment.

The Heimlich Maneuver:

If your know your dog has a small ball, toy, piece of food, or other object stuck in his trachea (windpipe) and he can’t breathe, do the Heimlich maneuver immediately.

Stand (if he’s a tall dog) or kneel (if he’s a small or medium dog) behind the dog, with the dog facing away from you.

Put your arms around the dog’s waist. Make a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side up, on the dog’s abdomen just below his ribs. Wrap your other hand around that first.

Give a hard, fast jerk or squeeze upward, towards the dog’s backbone. Apply enough force to move the dog’s whole body. (if he’s a very small dog, place two knuckles of one hand on the abdomen just below the ribs and the other hand flat on the dog’s back to help steady him, then give a quick, hard poke upwards with your knuckles.)

If the object does not come out of the dog’s mouth on the first try, give another hard jerk. If after three or four jerks the object has still not come out or the dog still can’t breathe, rush him to the nearest veterinary clinic, where a vet can do a tracheotomy (cut a whole in the dog’s windpipe below the obstruction) to get air into the lungs and then remove the object surgically.

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