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What to Do When Your Pet is Choking

We’ve all been worried from time to time when our pet coughs, listening closely and wondering, “is she choking or just coughing?” Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference at first. Asthma, respiratory infection, allergies, and constricting collars are a few reasons why your dog may be coughing, reverse sneezing, or hacking. Relentless coughing could mean an esophageal obstruction and your pet may start to panic. Keep calm and read on! It’s important to be prepared if your pet ever gets something caught in their throat and begins to choke.

What to do when your pet is choking

  1. They may be able to cough it up on their own. If the cough sounds productive, let them try to hack it up on their own. If they begin to panic, paw at their mouth, or make high-pitched squeaking or whistling noises, they need assistance. If their airway is obstructed, their tongue and gums will start to look discolored, and they may begin to lose consciousness.
  2. If they can’t move the object on their own, carefully open their mouth and look down their throat. If you can see the object, you can try to remove it. Be cautious so you don’t get bit or push the object farther down.
  3. If you or your pet can’t remove the object, it’s time to drive to an emergency clinic. Make sure the number and address of your closest emergency clinic is saved in your phone. An emergency clinic will have the availability and resources to perform any necessary procedures to remove the object and clear their airway.
  4. If you’re more than twenty-five minutes away from an emergency clinic, you can try to dislodge the object by performing a variation of the Heimlich maneuver on your pet. Only do this if you have to! Make sure you weigh the option of driving to an emergency clinic first.
    • For small dogs and cats, hold their back against your stomach (head up, paws down) and find the soft hollow under the ribs. Your closed fist should fit into this spot. Pull up and in two or three times, toward your own tummy, using a thrusting motion.
    • If your dog is too big to lift, place them on their side and kneel behind their back. Place your closed fist in the hollow under his rib cage, and push upward and inward sharply, in the direction of your dog’s head and your knees.
    • Only ever do this if there is no other option, as it can cause damage to the chest. Your dog should be checked afterwards by a vet for injury, especially if they were unconscious at any point. Chest trauma, internal abrasions, and tongue and throat injuries can be caused by a traumatic choking event.

Preventative Measures

  • Treats, rawhides, bones, and toys should never be smaller than their mouth. If they can swallow it, there’s always a possibility they will.
  • Make sure your trash can and laundry basket are on lockdown, either in a closet or with lockable lids. Corn cobs, bones, socks, underwear, and other miscellaneous items can be simply irresistible to your pet. Make sure it’s not an option.
  • Don’t leave them unattended with a rawhide or toy they can chew up. If they’re alone during the day, it’s possible to break the bone or item into smaller, swallowable bits. Instead, leave them heartier toys that don’t break, like a Kong or a rope. Puzzle toys are also fun to play with and are usually too large to swallow.
  • Hairballs can become stuck in a cat’s throat. If your cat hacks up hairballs regularly, it’s worth it to keep them on a flavored Laxatone. This helps them digest the fibers comfortably, decreasing the risk of a hairball getting stuck.
  • And just like we can get a piece of food lodged in our windpipe, our pets can, too! Make sure you’re monitoring their feeding time.

Recommended Emergency Clinics

IndyVet Emergency & Specialty Hospital
5425 Victory Dr
Indianapolis, IN 46203
317-782-4484
indyvet.com

Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Care South
4625 East Stop 11 Road
Indianapolis, IN 46237
317-534-6000
vsecindy.com/south

VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center
7712 Crosspoint Commons
Fishers, IN, 46038
317-578-4100
vcahospitals.com/advanced-veterinary-care-center

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