Dog choking occurs when there is an object lodged in the airway. This prevents normal breathing. Choking in dogs is an emergency situation that requires immediate intervention to save your dog. Some of the common items dogs choke on include chew toys, balls, rawhide, chicken bones, sticks, treats and dry food. Below we explore the signs of a choking dog, why they choke on food, water, rawhide and when coughing.
- Dog Choking Signs and Symptoms
- Dog Choking On Food
- Swallowing Difficulties
- Eating too Fast
- Dog Choking Cough
- Kennel Cough
- Reverse Sneezing Dog Choking Sound
- Dog Choking On Rawhide
- Dog Choking on Water
- Dog Choking What to Do – How to Save a Choking Dog
- 1. Evaluate the Severity
- 2. Check Inside the Mouth
- 3. Upside down Maneuver
- 4. Back Blows
- 5. Heimlich Maneuver
- 6. Check Breathing
- Sources and References
Dog Choking Signs and Symptoms
Pet owners at times confuse coughing with choking. While choking gives the dog difficulties in breathing, a dog will breathe normally while coughing. Here are some more symptoms to help you tell the two conditions apart:
- General agitation
- Labored coughing
- Respiratory distress
- Lips and tongue turning blue
- Pawing at the mouth
- Exaggerated chest movements
- Unconsciousness in severe cases
Other associated effects may include coughing, wheezing, throwing up and drooling.
Dog Choking On Food
Food is among the most common causes of dog choking. Dog choking may occur while eating or even after. Some will choke on dry food while others will choke on any type of food. Basically, dog choking on food is never anticipated and a dog that has not had problems eating may at some point get themselves experiencing this emergency. Puppies being weaned can easily choke since they are not used to solid foods. Other reasons why your dog may suffer food-related choking include:
Swallowing difficulties in dogs are referred to as dysphagia. It can be seen as a dog choking on food and can occur at various points. These are in the mouth, the pharynx and at the end of the pharynx while entering the esophagus.
With this condition, the dog’s eating routine is altered. As such, they may appear to be straining to swallow food and gagging at the same time. It could be caused by anatomical conformation, paralysis, pain, neurological and neuromuscular causes.
While this may make it appear like the dog is choking on food, it normally is a swallowing difficulty. This can be treated following a correct diagnosis.
Eating too Fast
When a dog feeds too fast, they may seem to get choked. This, however, is most of the time gagging on the food. However, they could choke on food if the dog gobbles on large amounts. To stop this, slow feeding bowls can help. In case there are multiple dogs in the home, feed them separately to eliminate competition and ensure dogs feed at a normal rate.
Dog Choking Cough
Normally, a dog coughs to get rid of dust, germs and anything else that may seem to be inhibiting their normal breath. Where you are experiencing a dog choking cough, the cause could be a kennel cough or reverse sneezing.
This is characterized by a deep honking sound followed by bouts of hacking, wheezing, coughing and gagging. These make it appear like a dog is choking.
A kennel cough is contagious and dogs will pick it when they visit parks or are in shelters. The condition though is not serious and as long as he is acting normal and feeding well, he is bound to get better within no time.
Reverse Sneezing Dog Choking Sound
Reverse sneezing in dogs is caused by a spasm in the soft palate of the mouth and the laryngeal area. Instead of the air being expelled as happens in normal sneezing, the air gets gasped inwards. This leads to the dog making choking sounds and noises leaving you wondering why it seems to be choking on nothing.
The condition may be triggered by a number of factors including mucus irritation, inflammation, chronic vomiting as well as obstruction among others.
Reverse sneezing is not usually a serious condition and the dog should be okay once the episode is over. However, if it is caused by a serious health condition, it is necessary to see your veterinarian as soon as you can.
Dog Choking On Rawhide
Webmd.com lists choking as one of the risks associated with giving your dog rawhide treats. This occurs when your dog swallows large pieces of the rawhide. These could get lodged in the air passage. The severity will depend on the size and on which part the hide is located. Small pieces located towards the upper part of the digestive system can be removed easily through the throat by your veterinarian. This kind of dog choking requires immediate attention as if the blockage is not resolved soon enough it could lead to death.
Dog Choking on Water
There are two main reasons why your dog may appear to be choking on water. When a dog has a kennel cough, they may cough after drinking water. Additionally, dogs suffering a collapsed trachea may seem to choke on water.
A collapse of the trachea occurs when the cartilage in it loosens making the trachea weak and lacking proper support. Other additional symptoms of a collapsed trachea include low energy, difficulties in breathing and coughing. If your dog keeps choking and you notice these additional symptoms, see your veterinarian for your dog’s immediate treatment.
Dog Choking What to Do – How to Save a Choking Dog
When your dog is choking, what do you do? Dog chocking and gagging are life-threatening emergency situations that require pet owners to have the first aid procedures at their fingertips. The help to be offered depends on severity as well as the size of the dog.
1. Evaluate the Severity
To begin with, it is necessary to observe the dog and see how severe the situation is. If dog choking is followed by coughing and the dog appears to be breathing well without wheezing or gasping for air, wait for a while to see if they will cough out the obstructing item.
2. Check Inside the Mouth
Checking the mouth of the dog can help identify what is obstructing the airway. Open its mouth gently by squeezing the upper lip inwards at the back of the mouth. Using a flashlight, look deep for any visible obstructions. In case you see something, use tweezers to grab it carefully and get it out. The removal should not be forceful.
3. Upside down Maneuver
Where the above does not work, you can make use of the force of gravity to help dislodge the object. This works best in small sized dogs. Hold the dog by its hind legs and gently try to shake it while tilting it forward.
4. Back Blows
For huge dogs which cannot be placed in the upside down position discussed above, try giving them back blows. Use the palm of your hand to give your dog up to five blows between the shoulder blades. Repeat the process until the item is dislodged.
5. Heimlich Maneuver
If all the methods on how to stop dog choking discussed above do not work, use this as a last resort. It should be done with caution since excessive force may injure the dog.
- With the dog’s head pointing towards the ground, place your hands around its waist. The grip should be firm but not tight.
- Form a fist with one hand and bring the other around it. Place the two-handed fist on the spot below the ribcage. This is best suited for large dogs. For miniature dogs, replace the fist with two fingers.
- Firmly and at quick succession, give the dog three to five thrusts with breaks in between for up to four times.
- Take caution not to use excessive force as this could cause rupture of the spleen or crack the ribs.
6. Check Breathing
Once the object has been dislodged from the air passage, check if the dog is breathing. If breathing difficulties are observed, conduct cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.
In case even after successful removal of the object resulting in dog choking the dog appears dull, take them to the veterinarian for further checks. You should also seek emergency attention in case the choking results in your dog losing consciousness.