Is My Dog Choking?! 6 Signs Of A Choking Pet And How To Help

Here's when (and how) to do the Heimlich maneuver.

dog choking

Realizing your pup’s choking is a pet parent’s worst nightmare. It’s a medical emergency, so if it happens to your BFF, you have to act quickly.

We spoke with Jamie Fischer, a veterinary nurse with DodoVet, to find out how to spot when a dog’s choking and what you can do to help.

Dog choking signs

If you aren’t sure if your dog’s choking, look for signs like:

  • Coughing
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Pawing at mouth or face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Keep in mind that if your pup’s airway is fully blocked, he’s not going to make any noise at all.

How to help a choking dog

If your dog’s choking, here’s how to help.

Step 1: Try to remove the foreign object yourself

The first thing you should do is try to remove the obstruction yourself, if at all possible.

“If you can, and it is safe, try to use two fingers to swipe the forgeign material up and out of the mouth,” Fischer told The Dodo. “This can be risky as your pet will not be acting like themselves and could bite you by accident.”

When you do this, it’s important to be super careful that you don’t accidentally push the object deeper into your pup’s throat.

Step 2: Adjust his position

If step one doesn’t work, try switching up your pup’s position — carefully, of course — to see if it loosens whatever’s blocking his windpipe.

  • Small dogs: Carefully pick them up by their thighs and gently shake them in a downward motion about four times.
  • Big dogs: Put them in a wheelbarrow position (with their head facing down) by lifting their hind legs.

Step 3: Perform the dog Heimlich maneuver

If the first two steps are unsuccessful, you might need to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog. According to Fischer, how you perform the dog Heimlich maneuver will depend on whether or not your pup can manage to stand on all fours while he’s choking.

If your dog can stand:

  • Put your arms around his belly.
  • Make one hand into a fist and use the other to push your fist firmly up and forward behind the rib cage.

If your dog can’t stand:

  • Put one hand on your dog’s back to support him.
  • Use your other hand to push his abdomen up and forward.

Step 4: Bring him to the vet for a followup

Once you successfully get the blockage out of your dog’s system, the immediate danger’s over. But you should still bring your pup to the vet for a checkup to make sure the scary experience didn’t cause any harm or trauma to his throat.

How to prevent a dog from choking

According to Fischer, there are a couple things you can do to prevent your dog from choking.

  • Keep an eye on any toys that your pup’s done a bit of damage to, because any parts that break off could be a choking hazard.
  • Toss any broken or destroyed toys.
  • Avoid giving your dog bones or rawhide.
  • Make sure his food is in bite-sized pieces (especially human food that’s safe for your pup to eat).

Realizing your dog is choking can be super scary. But now you know the best course of action in this emergency situation.

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere.Learn more here.