What to do if your dog is choking
My Papillon Kitsune, like most dogs, loves to eat. Unfortunately he has a bad habit of eating too fast, and gulping down his food before he's chewed it properly. This has lead to quite a few scares when he would have to stop eating to hack up a chunk of food that was caught in his throat. My heart stops every time this happens. I do my best to monitor his food and eating to prevent him from choking, but the fact of the matter is that dogs can choke on just about any food. Everything from regular kibble to uneatable objects can pose a potential choking risk, especially to dogs who feel that chewing food is over rated.
Hopefully most dog owners will never have to experience the sheer terror of watching their best friend choke. It is, however, important to remember that choking is something that can happen to any dog. Knowing before hand how to reacting if your dog starts choking can save your dog's life!
- If your dog appears to be choking, but is making an effort to cough up the object him/her self, watch him/her closely and give him time to try to remove the object himself. Remember that if your dog can still cough, then he can breathe as well.
- If the dog is struggling to get the object up himself, or starts to show signs of impaired breathing such as wheezing, gasping for air, general struggling, and/or pawing at the mouth, then it's time to intervene. The first step that sometimes works is to open your dog's mouth and look to see if you can see the object that is causing the choking. Sometimes you may be able to see the object near the back of the dogs mouth. Be very careful trying to pull the object out, choking dogs will usually be stressed and will be more prone to bite. It's also possible that when trying to remove the object, you could push it further into the throat and cause more harm than good. Only attempt to remove the object by hand if you feel comfortable doing so, and the object appears that it will be easy to grasp and remove.
- If you cannot remove the object by hand, the next step is to let gravity help. If you have a small or medium sized dog, pick them up and hold them upside down. Sometimes the force of gravity will help to remove the object. If you have a large dog that you cannot fully lift up, let the dog keep his front paws on the ground but lift up the dogs hind legs and hold him tilted forward like you would a wheelbarrow.
- If this doesn't work either, the next step is to try back blows. This is exactly what it sounds like. With the palm of your hand, give the dog 4 or 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades.
- The next thing to try is the Heimlich maneuver. The Heimlich maneuver is preformed on dogs almost the same way it is done on humans. Making sure your dog's head is pointed down, form a fist with one hand and cover the fist with your other hand. Place your two hands on your dogs belly, in the soft spot directly under his ribcage. Quickly thrust your hands inwards and upwards at the same time. The idea is to firmly press on your dogs lungs to force air out in a quick burst, which will hopefully have enough force to drive the object out of his throat.
Some owners worry that they may hurt their dog while doing the Heimlich maneuver. If done incorrectly, the Heimlich maneuver can fracture ribs or rarely cause internal damage. These issues are usually less serious than the fact that your dog is choking. After your dog is breathing normally and not at risk of choking to death, than you can worry about any secondary problems. Normally injuries such as fractured ribs can be treated successfully after your dog's life has been saved.
Once the object is removed from your dog's throat, closely monitor your dog to make sure that he is breathing normally. If your dog does not begin breathing normally on his own, you may need to start artificial respiration. If your dog does not have a pulse, begin CPR. Even if your dog does seem perfectly fine, it's a good idea to get him/her to a vet for a check up, just to make sure everything is okay.
Pet owners should know ahead of time how to deal with emergencies such as a choking pet. Hopefully most dog owners will never have to use these techniques on their dog, but in the even that your dog does ever choke, knowing how to react quickly and calmly can mean the difference between life and death for your best friend.
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