How to Save a Choked Dog: 13 Steps

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How to Save a Choked Dog: 13 Steps
How to Save a Choked Dog: 13 Steps

Dogs use their mouths to explore the world, and luckily their anatomy includes guards that make choking rare. However, it is not impossible for a dog to choke, and it is important that you be able to tell the difference between a choking dog and an animal that is dealing with an illness or other problem. In a life-threatening emergency, there may not be time to contact a veterinarian, in which case you will need to administer first aid yourself. But if your dog is uncomfortable but not in danger, your best bet is to keep him calm and see a veterinarian. This article explains how to tell if your dog is choking and what to do if that is the case.


Part 1 of 3: Assessing the Dog's Condition

Save a Choking Dog Step 1

Step 1. See if he is coughing

In the beginning, if the dog is able to cough, wait a while to see if he can expel the obstruction himself.

  • Expect this possibility only if the dog is breathing well.
  • If the dog is also panting or having difficulty breathing, call the veterinarian immediately.
Save a Choking Dog Step 2

Step 2. Look for signs of choking

Dogs can demonstrate that they cannot breathe in a number of ways. When trying to find out if the animal is choking, start by trying to calm it down; the more panicked he gets, the greater the demand for oxygen and the worse the situation will get. Signs that a dog is choking include:

  • Excessive effort to vomit or drool (see if the animal can swallow; if it can, it is less likely to have a physical blockage);
  • Stand in the "thirsty for air" position, with your head and neck down and straight;
  • Act in an agitated or frantic way, put your paw to your mouth and cry;
  • Force coughing, panting or panting;
  • Gray or blue gums;
  • An object visible at the back of the throat;
  • Exaggerated chest movements;
  • Fainting;
  • Loss of consciousness.
Save a Choking Dog Step 3

Step 3. Encourage the dog to swallow

This is a useful strategy to help you know if he's actually choking.

  • To do this, you can offer him food, massage his throat gently, or pinch his nostrils.
  • If the sound stops after it swallows, the animal is neither choking nor in danger.
Save a Choking Dog Step 4

Step 4. Look inside the dog's mouth

By checking his mouth visually, you can find out if an object is obstructing his airway and act accordingly.

  • Gently open his mouth by squeezing his upper lip inward and over the large molars at the back of his mouth. At the same time, apply downward pressure on the jaw point to open your mouth even further.
  • Look at the dog's throat as far as you can; if you have a flashlight and someone to hold the animal, it helps. Look for obstructions such as a piece of bone or a stick.
  • Restrict larger dogs' movements before opening their mouths. To do this, take the fur between the ears and hold the dog's head firmly.
  • If you can see something in the throat, try to grab the object with tweezers and remove it. Be very careful that you don't end up pushing it any further.
Save a Choking Dog Step 5

Step 5. Call the veterinarian

If the dog is choking, giving signs of choking or having difficulty breathing, always ask the veterinarian for advice unless the dog has passed out or has lost consciousness. In these cases, start administering what first aid you can.

  • You may be given first aid instructions while waiting for emergency help, and you will probably need to take the dog to the clinic immediately.
  • If you are unable to get in touch with the veterinarian, look for emergency professionals 24 hours a day. Their number will likely be in the phone book; otherwise, you can call an animal shelter or rescue group for details. Emergency veterinarians or veterinary hospitals are often available in major cities.
  • If you can't find the phone number for a veterinary hospital or emergency worker, firefighters may be able to help.
Save a Choking Dog Step 6

Step 6. Find someone to help you

It's best to call someone else to help you take the dog to the vet or administer first aid.

  • If you need to drive to an emergency veterinarian, it's best for a person to stay with the dog to help immediately if the situation gets worse.
  • If the veterinarian advises you to try to move the object, it is a good idea to do so with the help of another person.
Save a Choking Dog Step 7

Step 7. Discard other causes

Since you can do more harm than good by performing certain maneuvers on a dog that doesn't need them, it's important to be as certain as possible that the dog is actually choking and in danger, and not just appearing to choke. The following illnesses can cause a dog to behave similarly to choking.

  • A long soft palate: An anatomical abnormality found in many dogs is a tongue and soft palate that are too long for the mouth. It is mainly common in brachiocephalic dogs (with reduced snouts and childish faces) such as the pug, Pekinese, lhasa apso and shih tzu, although it also occurs in small breeds such as poodle, West Highland White Terrier, dachshund, spitz and the Pomeranian lulu. The result is that when the dog takes a deep breath, it sucks the end of the soft palate into the entrance to the windpipe, which temporarily narrows or blocks that passage, and the dog makes a series of terrible choking or snoring sounds, as if was choking. The crisis is only temporary, because when the animal swallows, the soft palate leaves the trachea and the dog can breathe again. If you're not sure, feed the dog. If you swallow it, he's not choking.
  • Kennel cough: This is an infection that inflames and irritates the airways. Even the simple act of breathing cold air can bother the throat and initiate coughing episodes that can be severe and are often mistaken for an obstruction in the throat. Again, see if the dog can swallow by offering him something to eat. If he succeeds, he is extremely unlikely to be choking. However, contact your veterinarian to see if the provider recommends a kennel cough test.
  • Heart disease: An enlarged heart constricting the airway or failing can sometimes mimic a choke. The dog may breathe with difficulty, cough and even have blue gums. It is more difficult to differentiate this problem from a choking, but in general, symptoms develop slowly, with the dog becoming less energetic and more lethargic a day or two earlier. Choking, on the other hand, is far more common in active and curious dogs, and it comes all of a sudden.

Part 2 of 3: Moving the Object

Save a Choking Dog Step 8

Step 1. Pick up the obstruction with tweezers or tongs

If you can see the object blocking the airway and your veterinarian recommends it, try gently removing the occlusion.

  • Only make this attempt if you can see and pick up the object clearly and if the dog is not agitated. You run the risk of pushing the obstruction even deeper by accidentally pushing it without being able to see it.
  • If the dog is agitated, you could end up getting a nasty bite. Go to an emergency veterinarian or veterinary hospital immediately.
Save a Choking Dog Step 9

Step 2. Help your dog move the obstruction

Gravity can help the animal move the object. To help, you'll need to hold the dog upside down and try to shake the lock to release it.

  • Grab a small or medium dog by its hind legs, hold it upside down and try to shake the object out of its mouth with the help of gravity.
  • You won't be able to hold a larger dog upside down, so instead keep its front legs on the ground and lift its hind legs, as if you were holding a wheelbarrow, leaning the animal forward.
Save a Choking Dog Step 10

Step 3. Hit the dog on the back

If you can't help the dog move the object by leaning forward, you can tap him on the back to try to move the obstruction.

  • Using the heels of your fingers, give four to five quick strokes between the dog's shoulders. Be careful not to use too much force against small dogs as there is a risk of fracturing ribs, which can be life threatening if a lung is punctured.
  • If this gesture doesn't work at first, try again.
Save a Choking Dog Step 11

Step 4. Consider doing the Heimlich maneuver

Since you can easily hurt your dog using this maneuver, do it only after you've exhausted all other options.

  • Only start the Heimlich maneuver if you are sure the animal has choked on something.
  • Put your arm around the dog's waist. The dog's head should be pointed down, as gravity will help move the object during the procedure.
  • You should hold the animal firmly, but not too tight.
  • Getting someone to help you by holding the dog by the back of the head during the maneuver is a good idea, as it will help keep the dog steady and may restrict a restless animal.
  • Make a fist with one hand and cover with the other. Your two-handed fist should be placed on the soft spot just below your ribs. The size of the dog will affect the exact position of the hands.
  • If you have a small to medium dog, use two fingers instead of a fist so as not to damage the animal's ribs. However, apply the same force.
  • Quickly and firmly, give three to five pulls in and out. Repeat in three or four sets of three to five pulls.
  • Be careful not to use too much force, or you could break ribs or rupture the animal's spleen.

Part 3 of 3: Dealing with the After Situation

Save a Choking Dog Step 12

Step 1. See if the dog is breathing normally after removing the object

If not, start giving him artificial respiration immediately.

  • If the dog has no pulse, start CPR on him.
  • If the animal needs resuscitation procedures, do what you can immediately and ask someone else to call the veterinarian for further advice.
Save a Choking Dog Step 13

Step 2. Take the dog to the vet

Even if you can move the object, it's a good idea to take the dog to the vet to see if there are any more problems or injuries.

  • Keep the animal calm and take him to the vet as safely and quickly as possible.
  • Pay close attention to the dog to see if he is able to breathe normally.


  • If you are alone when the dog starts choking, call a neighbor or someone who can help you quickly.
  • Before giving the dog first aid, make sure he is choking and not dealing with another problem, such as an illness. Check symptoms carefully.
  • Fishing hooks can be removed from a dog's mouth or tongue by cutting off the barbed end with pliers. However, only a veterinarian should do this, using a tranquilizer to do so.


  • Be careful when removing bones. Easily chipped ones can cause even more problems, including a perforated airway.
  • Keep calm and still so as not to make your choking worse.
  • The Heimlich maneuver can seriously injure your dog, especially if he isn't actually choking. Do not use it unless you are absolutely sure the dog cannot breathe and is out of options.

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