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What to Do When Your Dog is Choking

October 16, 2018

What to Do When Your Dog is Choking

A couple weeks ago, Humphrey had a minor choking incident. We first realized he was choking after he started gagging, then he rushed outdoors away from people (which was a sign of panic).

My husband and I immediately followed him out and saw that the inside of his mouth was pale, and his tongue grey. A few seconds later, he vomited and stopped gagging.

After that, we could sense that he felt much more relieved and calm, although still a little shaken by the whole experience. He bounced back really quickly, so we didn't take him to the emergency vet right away (although my advice is to follow your intuition - you will know if your pup is still in pain) but we did go see our vet the very next morning.

My main takeaways from this experience are A) You really need to treat your pup like toddlers, as they could put anything in their mouths out of curiosity when you're not watching; B) Know how to do the Heimlich maneuver for your dog!

At the time of the incident, I felt like a complete idiot as I attempted to help by trying anything I could think of, while repeating, "It's okay, baby," when I had no idea what I was supposed to do, or if he would be okay. Feeling helpless and clueless in this situation made me feel like I was failing him.

When we first brought Humphrey home about a year ago, I was very interested in taking a Pet First Aid and CPR course (which covered choking management among other topics), knowing that brachycephalic breeds (e.g. bulldogs and pugs) were at a higher risk to choking.

But the only Pet CPR course offered in San Francisco was full at the time, and the next available class wasn't for a couple months. When I checked back in a couple months, it was full again. Then I just forgot about it. Well, little did I know that I'd be facing a real life situation wishing I knew how to help my poor pup from choking.

Brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced, short-nosed) are at a higher risk to choking.

While I wish your dog will never have to suffer from choking, I hope that you will be prepared if it ever does happen. I was very fortunate that this was a minor incident and Humphrey was able to dislodge the object on his own. In some instances the dog will become unconscious, and in the worst situations choking can lead to death.

Our dogs are our best friends, and they rely on us to take care of them.

So, are you ready to learn what to do to help a choking dog? Here goes:

1. Remain calm

This is easier said than done, but it is so crucial to remain calm. If your dog senses your nervous energy it will only make him or her panic even more. Also keep in mind that even the kindest, sweetest dogs could snap and potentially bite out of panic as you reach in to help. Be calm and act with confidence so that the dog can trust you.

2. Take immediate action!

Time is of the essence when your dog is choking. Check inside your dog's mouth. If you can see food or a foreign object that is stuck, try to remove the object with your fingers. If you can’t see anything, don't try to stick your finger in as you may push the object down even further. Instead, perform the following actions to try to dislodge the object.

3. Dislodge the Stuck Object

Repeat the following:

  • Lift your dog up by the hind legs so that your dog is in a vertical position with his or her head facing down (aka "wheelbarrow pose"). Skip this step if you have a large dog.
  • Wrap your arms around your dog's abdomen and use both hands to press hard below the ribs. Do this five times in rapid succession.
  • Look inside the mouth and check if you can see the stuck object. If you can see something, do a quick sweep with your fingers to see if you can get it out.
  • Place your dog in a standing position and give five sharp taps between the shoulder blades.

Once successful, check inside your dog's mouth again to remove any remaining food or foreign object to prevent from choking or swallowing.

4. Contact Your Vet

You should contact your vet or go in for a check up after a choking incident, especially if your dog was unconscious at any point.

"Vet visits are never fun, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

I've attached a couple infographics I found online that might be useful. Have it printed out at home, or refer to it time to time to keep this fresh in your memory. As for me, I finally checked back for the next available Pet First Aid and CPR course. There happens to be one just next week, and you know what, I took the last seat remaining! All it takes is a quick online search (e.g. "Pet CPR class in San Francisco") to find one in your area.


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