Dogs are natural chewers, but with this normal and everyday occurrence there poses a risk of choking. While most toys and tog chews are made specifically to lessen this risk, some dogs are prone to chewing slightly less chew-friendly items (your favourite pair of slippers, the TV remote, a stick… for some dogs, whatever they can get their paws on is fair game).
You should always be present if letting your dog chew a toy or treat, but it’s impossible to keep watch 24/7.
Just like with humans, it’s important to know how to perform the dog Heimlich manoeuvre to clear the airway if the worst should happen.
How to Tell If Your Dog is Choking
Your dog will show signs of panic if they begin to choke. They may paw at their mouths, pant, cough or become unresponsive. Check the mouth and throat for signs of anything lodged inside.
What To Do
Here’s the vital steps you need to follow if your dog stops breathing.
- Call the vet. A bit obvious, but your vet is the expert here and they may be able to stop you panicking and give you the right advice based on the information you’re able to give them in the moment.
- Give your dog a sharp tap. Try tapping your dog sharply between the shoulder blades to try and help dislodge whatever is stuck in their throat.
- Attempt to remove the obstruction with your finger. Be careful and gentle – any dog in distress could bite.
- The Heimlich manoeuvre. If you have a small dog, place it on its back and gently apply pressure below the ribcage. If you have a large dog and they are standing, place your arms around their belly, join your hands and push up and firmly below the ribcage. If they are lying down, place one hand against the spine for support and use the other to press up and forwards on the abdomen towards the spine. Check the mouth to see if you can remove any dislodged objects.
If you manage to dislodge the item yourself, it’s still important to take your dog to the vet in case the item caused any injuries whilst in the throat and mouth. It’s particularly important if your dog lost consciousness at any point as it will be unclear how long they didn’t have oxygen for, and they may need immediate help.