What to Do When Your Dog Is Choking

What to Do When Your Dog Is Choking

We all love our furry friends, but sometimes accidents happen. One of the most common emergencies dog owners face is when their beloved pups start choking. Dogs are naturally curious creatures, and they often chew on things they shouldn’t. From plastic bags to sticks, socks, and toys, they will put anything in their mouths. Unfortunately, these objects can sometimes get lodged in their throats, making it difficult for them to breathe.

Knowing how to help a choking dog is crucial for every responsible pet owner. In this article, we will guide you through the signs of choking, the steps to take when your dog is choking, and what to do if your initial efforts fail.

Signs Your Dog Is Choking

Choking occurs when something obstructs your dog’s airway, preventing them from breathing properly. If their airway is only partially blocked, you might notice your dog retching, pacing, pawing at their mouth, or struggling to whine. However, if the airway is completely blocked, your dog will be silent and unable to make any sounds.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Choking

It’s crucial to act quickly and calmly when your dog is choking. Follow these steps:

  1. Restrain your dog gently to avoid harm to both of you. Avoid using a muzzle as it can make breathing even more difficult. Remember, a choking dog may panic and thrash around, so be cautious.

  2. Open your dog’s mouth and examine the inside. If you can see the object causing the obstruction, try to remove it with tweezers or by reaching into their mouth. Be cautious to avoid getting bitten. If you’re unsure or unable to remove the object safely, take your dog to the vet immediately.

  3. Some dogs, such as Labradors, have an additional cavity at the top of their mouth where objects can become lodged. If you can see a solid object lodged at the back of your dog’s throat, hold their mouth open carefully while another person uses tweezers or forceps to remove the item.

  4. Avoid pushing the object deeper into the dog’s throat with your fingers or attempting to locate it with a finger sweep. These actions can cause further harm.

  5. For larger objects like balls or pieces of rawhide, try applying firm pressure with both thumbs underneath the jaw at the base of the throat. This may help dislodge the object.

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Remember, if your attempts are not successful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence, and professional help may be required to save your dog’s life.

If the Above Steps Haven’t Worked

Sometimes, the initial methods may not be enough to dislodge the obstruction. In that case:

  • For small dogs, pick them up by their thighs and gently shake them three or four times in a downward motion.

choking dog how to help

  • For larger dogs, support their head downward against yourself or lift their hind legs as if you were handling a wheelbarrow.

If these maneuvers don’t work, you can try the Heimlich maneuver:

  • Standing dogs: Place your arms around their belly, make a fist with one hand, and use your other hand to push firmly up and forward just behind the ribcage.
  • Lying dogs: Keep one hand on their back to provide support, and use your other hand to squeeze the abdomen upwards and forwards.

After attempting these methods, check your dog’s mouth and remove any dislodged objects with your fingers.

What to Do If Your Efforts Fail

If you are unable to dislodge the object and your dog is still choking, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention. Call your vet and inform them of the situation. In most cases, removing the obstruction allows the dog to begin breathing again on their own.


Whether you were successful in removing the object or not, it is important to have your dog thoroughly checked by a vet. There may be damage to the mouth, throat, or internal organs that needs attention. Trauma to these areas can cause pain and difficulty eating.

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Remember, prevention is always better than cure. It is highly recommended that you learn basic dog first aid techniques in advance. Proper knowledge and quick action can save your dog’s life in an emergency. Consider enrolling in an online dog first aid course to equip yourself with the necessary skills.

For more useful resources on pet emergencies, including videos and online courses, visit Karen’s Kollars.

Written by Emma Hammett for Karen’s Kollars