How to Save a Choking Dog's Life
How to Save Your Dog's Life
If your dog is choking, and you want to save his life, you do not have time to look in the phone book for the name of the closest emergency vet.
This is what you need to do to save a choking dog:
- Open your dog's mouth, being sure to roll the fleshy part of his muzzle over his canine teeth. Doing this means if the dog bites down, he will put pressure on his own skin, so he will be unlikely to close his mouth.
- If you have someone with you, tell that person to shine a flashlight down into the dog's mouth.
- If you see the object your dog is choking on, just reach in and pull it out. (If you think this is gross, get over it. Dog spit washes off.) If you cannot see it, you are unlikely to get it out and may push it down even deeper by trying.
- If you cannot see the object, move around behind your dog, put your hands underneath his belly, and lift him up, leaving his front feet on the ground. (See photo below.) (If you have another person with you, they should hold the dog's head because this is uncomfortable and the dog may try to bite.)
- You can also try striking your dog on the back (between the shoulder blades) with the flat of your hand.
- Keep checking the dog's mouth to see if the object has been dislodged and you can grab it.
- If your dog is still pawing at his mouth and choking, you can move your hands up from his belly to his solar plexus (where his abdomen stops and his rib cage starts, on the midline). Clasp your hands together like a fist and pull up, hard, three times. (Unless you have a small dog, in which case you want to use just a few fingers so that you will not break his ribs.) If nothing happens, do it three times, again.
Note: Do not follow the bad advice given at other websites and stick a pair of pliers or tweezers down in your dog´s mouth. If he jerks his head when you are shoving a foreign object down his throat, you may end up cutting his mouth or puncturing his larynx. Lacerations in the mouth bleed profusely and sometimes do not stop. If you damage his larynx, he may not be able to breathe.
Note: There is a chance you will be bitten trying to save your dog´s life. You will have to do what you think is right—I cannot make this decision for you.
If You Can't Dislodge the Object
- If the object still will not come out, and your dog loses consciousness, you must reach down and find the obstruction. At this point don't stop to worry about pushing the object further down his throat. If you are not able to clear your dog´s airway, he will probably die.
- If your dog stops breathing, you have a small chance of getting him going again. Even if his heart stops beating, he still has little chance of making it. CPR will not usually keep a patient alive; despite what you may have seen in movies or on TV, it only works in about 5-10% of humans, and it works even less for dogs. However, CPR will restore partial blood flow until the heart can be started again, so if you live close to an emergency clinic, you have a chance to get him there before your dog suffers serious and permanent brain damage.
Training Your Dog to Allow a Mouth Inspection
If you haven't trained your dog to feel comfortable having his mouth inspected, you'll have trouble helping him stop choking. If you have not already trained your dog to allow this, you need to do so right away.
If your dog is still young, read this article on training your puppy to be handled.
If you have a Presa Canario or one of the other large breeds with strong jaws, training may be impossible, but you should try to use classical counterconditioning to get your dog used to being handled.
What to Do After You've Cleared the Object
Unless you live next door to an emergency clinic that never closes, you need to keep a first aid kit on hand and learn how to take care of choking and other problems yourself.
One tool that I recommend every dog owner keep on hand is a stethoscope. They are inexpensive and easy to become familiar with. Take a look at the stethoscope here or look for one at a local pet superstore.
Even if you are comfortable listening to your dog´s normal chest sounds, be sure to take your dog to an emergency vet after the incident is over. His mouth may be scratched up, larynx damaged, ribs may be broken, and he may have even vomited and aspirated (which will lead to pneumonia).
How to Prevent Your Dog from Choking
The only way to prevent this from ever happening is to remove all of your dog´s toys, feed her only small kibble or wet food, make sure she never gets a bone, and remove everything but the walls and floor from your house. In other words, it's not possible.
If choking does happen, though, do everything you can to avoid your dog losing consciousness and collapsing. Even if I were to be bitten reaching down my dog´s throat, I think her life is worth it. I hope you feel the same about your dog.