Being the inquisitive creatures they are, dogs are somewhat prone to eating (or attempting to eat) things they shouldn’t, such as kids’ toys, household objects, and random things on the ground outside. This can result in choking, which is a medical emergency that requires urgent attention.
If you’re a dog owner and aren’t sure what to do if they choke, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know.
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- What Are the Signs My Dog is Choking
- Why is My Dog Choking
- What to Do If Your Dog is Choking
- How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
What Are the Signs My Dog is Choking
You might expect a choking dog to be loud and, well, chokey, but that’s not always the case. Dogs, cats, kids, humans, and other animals can choke completely silently, with people in the room not even aware of what’s going on.
- Excessive drooling;
- Changes to breathing sounds (wheezing, rasping, whistling);
- Shaking or pawing at the face or mouth;
- Anxious movements — pacing, walking in circles;
- Changes to tongue, lip, or gum color from pink to blue or purple;
- The tongue might hang out of the mouth;
Your pet is likely to be in great distress if they’re choking. For that reason, they may act in ways you wouldn’t expect, such as biting, snapping, growling, or being otherwise unusually aggressive. It is safe to restrain your dog as best you can, but it is not safe to muzzle them. Doing so will result in your dog’s breathing being restricted even further, panicking them even more.
Prevention is key to avoiding choking incidents, so supervise or monitor your dog with a Pet Camera during play, avoid giving them small objects they could swallow, and ensure their toys and treats are appropriate for their size.
Why is My Dog Choking
Choking in dogs, also known as tracheal obstruction or foreign body obstruction, occurs when an object becomes lodged in the dog's airway, preventing the normal flow of air into and out of the lungs. This can lead to respiratory distress, and if not promptly addressed, it can be life-threatening.
The choking incident typically begins when a dog inhales or swallows an object that is either too large to pass through the trachea (windpipe) or gets lodged in the trachea itself. Common objects that dogs might choke on include small toys, bones, pieces of food, or other foreign objects.
Once the object is lodged in the trachea, it blocks the normal flow of air. This obstruction prevents the dog from being able to breathe properly, leading to a decrease in oxygen intake and an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the body.
Some dogs are at a higher risk of suffering from choking, according to the American Kennel Club research. These include:
- Fast-eating pups;
- Dogs with anxiety, such as separation anxiety;
- Dogs with obsessive-compulsive disorders;
- Rescue dogs (fast binge-eaters).
What to Do If Your Dog is Choking
To stop your pet from choking, the obstruction needs to be removed. If the obstruction is not promptly removed, your dog's oxygen levels will continue to decrease, leading to low oxygen levels, medically known as hypoxia. This can result in cyanosis, where the dog's gums, lips, and tongue may turn bluish or grayish due to an insufficient oxygen supply.
If you do not remove whatever is causing the airway blockage, your pet will essentially suffocate. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to try and dislodge the stuck object.
Remove the Object by Hand
If you can see the object causing the choking and it's easily reachable, you may attempt to gently remove it. However, you must be cautious not to push the object further down the throat. You shouldn’t attempt to remove the item by hand (or with tweezers, etc.) if you aren’t sure that you can do it safely.
Doggy Heimlich Maneuver
If the object is not easily reachable with your hands, you can perform a modified Heimlich maneuver that’s safe for puppies.
If you have a small dog, you can lift them with their hind legs and gently apply pressure to their abdomen, just below the ribcage. For larger dogs, stand behind them, place your fists just below the ribcage, and apply quick upward pressure.
Remember, it's important to stay as calm as possible in this situation. If you're unsure about performing the Heimlich maneuver, focus on getting professional help quickly.
Emergency Veterinary Care
If you are unable to dislodge the blockage using the above means, you must seek urgent, immediate medical attention for your pet. The outcome will be fatal if you don’t. Your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic can provide further guidance and perform the necessary procedures to clear the airway and restore proper breathing.
Whether you manage to dislodge the obstruction in your dog’s airway or not, seek medical attention anyway. It’s best to have them checked out to ensure there’s no permanent damage. Oxygen reduction and deprivation can have several negative side effects, especially on the brain.
How Can the Emergency Fund Help with Treatment
Choking is a medical emergency that must be dealt with immediately, and that’s just what Petcube’s Emergency Fund is for. For less than $1 per day, you will get access to up to $3,000 in healthcare for up to six of your precious pets — and that’s not all! With telehealth vets available around the clock, you’ll always be prepared when your furry friends need you the most.
Is it dog hiccups or choking?
The two might sound the same, but there is a big difference between doggy hiccups and doggy choking (obviously). Hiccups are intermittent, and your pet will usually not feel panicked, but choking is constant. There’s no doubt your dog will feel scared, and that will be evident in their behavior, body language, and even face.
My dog keeps gagging and choking – why?
There are several reasons why this might be happening to your pet, and it is highly recommended to seek advice from a vet. Your dog might be eating or drinking too quickly, but they also might have an underlying medical condition, such as a blockage caused by a tumor, that requires diagnosis and treatment.
How can I tell if my dog is choking?
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you have even the slightest inkling that your pet might be choking or struggling to breathe, seek medical attention urgently. Sometimes, it won’t always be easy to tell whether your pup is choking, hiccupping, or having another random body reaction that isn’t life-threatening.
I know you don’t want to think about your poor pets having a medical emergency, but it is something you’ll likely have to face at least once in your pet parent life — especially if you have an inquisitive dog or cat that likes to eat everything they see! Being prepared and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency is smart — and having Petcube’s Emergency Fund as your backup plan is even smarter!
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