Every kid learns the universal hand signals to indicate when food gets stuck (they’re pasted in every restaurant by law), but with animals it’s not always so clear, notes Dr. Erika Loftin, a critical care specialist at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
“Choking can be mistaken for a variety of other activities, including coughing, gagging, reverse sneezing or vomiting,” Loftin tells The Dodo. “If the animal is able to engage in any normal activities/interactions, it is unlikely to actually be choking.”
The real trouble occurs when your pet experiences a life-threatening airway obstruction. Pet owners should look for signs such as “discolored tongue or gums (blue, gray, white), high-pitched squeaking or whistling noises (if any air is able to get through), anxiety or panic, and loss of consciousness (if it goes on for very long),” Loftin explains. If your pet is panicking and pawing at her mouth, that is a clear sign that she may need immediate attention.