Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
How to Stop a Dog From Choking
If your dog is choking, and you want to save his life, you won't have time to look in the phone book for the name of the closest emergency vet.
Steps to Saving 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 on other websites and stick a pair of pliers or tweezers into 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.
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, look up how to train 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. I keep an extra in my kitchen and another in my barn since they are inexpensive, lightweight, simple to use, and easy to become familiar with. Take a look at the stethoscope linked above.
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).
Read More From Pethelpful
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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have a blue Staffy. I have given him beef jerky and although they say it is okay for dogs he has coughed and choked. I hit him between the shoulder blades and now he is drinking milk and seems all right. Can I let him have these treats?
Answer: Pigs ears, rawhide, and anything else can potentially be a choking hazard, even when they are labelled okay for dogs. All are potentially dangerous.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2020:
Kori, if it is just Kleenex and it is already in his GI do not worry about it. Yes, it will just digest. Glad to hear he is okay now.
Kori on September 06, 2020:
Our Boston choked on something yesterday we think maybe Kleenex. we couldn’t clear anything but he came to. He seemed out of sorts and stunned for a bit. He was his normal self all day and night . He had the same episode again and can’t see what he’s choking on. Will it eventually digest if it is Kleenex?
Mechelle Hutson on March 28, 2020:
My Boston almost choke to death this evening
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 28, 2018:
Hi Roxy you do not need to set up an account to leave a comment. I left an answer to your question above. Rawhide is just pressed leather; dogs like to chew it but if they swallow the pieces they can swell and cause a choking hazard. Pigs ears, beef jerkey, and things like that can all cause choking.
I give my Pitbulls large bones to chew on--the long bones from cows that I get at a butcher. They also are on a raw prey type diet so they eat bones (mostly chicken and rabbit) as part of their regular diet.
I hope your Staffy is okay. Let me know if I can answer anything else for you.
Gloria on June 17, 2016:
Thank you so much for your post on choking. My Westie stopped breathing and went limp as I tried to dislodge a piece of pork cutting off her airway. I had no other choice but to reach down beyond the obstruction to lift it out. Thanks to your information, I was able to save her. I took her to the pet er and they gave her a clean bill of health.
Constance Caron on March 20, 2016:
Not only does my dog bark excessively. Also, has severe crying, howling loud when I leave for appointments I am disabled so I am home every day with her. When it cool I take her with me she patiently waits in the car. I live in Arizona so not to many cool days.
shiloahshouse on March 08, 2016:
I love how everyone here says they wouldnt hesitate to do anything to save their baby and how much they love them.. i hope everyone reads this.. please give your dog something else to chew on besides rawhide.. goggle it and see what you come up with .. they are poison not to mention dogs choke on them easily... when i found out what was in rawhide chews i never again gave them to my babies..a while ago my cocker spaniel was eating one and started choking.. i just reacted.. shoved my hand down his throat and grabbed it..it took hrs for my heart to calm down.. when you almost lose your baby right in front of your eyes its a nightmare...especially something as simple as watching what your dog eats and what you give them to eat...have a glorious day and dont forget to give your baby a kiss goodnight... everynight..yes....