Choking is a common emergency that you may experience with your pet.


Most dogs will chew nearly anything including bones, toys, sticks and plastic (to name a few!) which can get lodged in the windpipe – with a choking dog, knowing how to respond could save your pet’s life as you might not have enough time to rush to the vet.


Do you know what to do if  your dog began to choke? It’s important that you do not wait for veterinary assistance, as the dog may suffocate.

Signs of Choking



  • Panic / agitation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Choking/hacking sounds
  • Blue coloured lips or tongue
  • Unresponsive or unconscious dog

What to do:


  1. Be alert – a choking animal may panic and be more likely to bite.
  2. Stay calm, your panic is contagious to your dog, speak in a strong reassuring voice.
  3. Using both hands, open your dog’s mouth – one hand on the upper jaw and the other on the lower.
  4. Grasping the jaws, press the dog’s lips over the teeth so that they are between the teeth and your fingers. If the dog bites down there will be pressure on his own skin and will encourage your dog not to close his mouth.


  • If there is someone with you, use a flashlight and shine into the dog’s mouth to better see any object obstructing airflow.
  • If you can see the item your dog is choking on, carefully reach in and extract it. If you are unable to visibly locate it, you are unlikely to get it out and may push it down even deeper by trying to find it with your finger.
  • Do not use tweezers or pliers – if your dog jerks his head with a foreign object in his mouth, it can cause more damage such as puncturing the larynx, causing your pet not to be able to breathe, or could lead to a mouth laceration which can bleed profusely.
  • You can also try striking your dog on the back (between the shoulder blades, like how you would assist a human that is choking) with a flat hand.     
  •  Tilt your pet by lifting the back legs, could help when your dog is choking on fluids.
  • Keep inspecting your pet’s mouth to see if the object has been dislodged and if you can pull it out.


If the dog is still choking and you can’t see anything in the mouth, or the dog has fallen unconscious, follow these guidelines.


Small Dog: Carefully invert your dog and apply pressure to the abdomen just below the rib cage.


Large Dog: Do not try to pick up a large dog – you might do more damage due to the pet’s size. Instead, perform the equivalent of the Heimlich manoeuvre:


If the dog is standing, put your arms around the belly, joining your hands. Make a fist and push firmly up and forward, just behind the rib cage. Place the dog on his side afterward.

  • If the dog is lying down, place one hand on the back for support and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upwards and forwards.
  • Keep checking the dog’s mouth to see if the object has been dislodged and you can remove it.

If the object is still lodged you must reach down and find the obstruction. At this point don’t stop to worry about pushing the object further down his throat. If you are not able to clear your dog´s airway, he will probably die. Note that the object might be quite a way back towards the throat, so you might have to hunt around and hook it with your index finger.


Be sure to take your dog to an emergency vet after the coking incident is over. There might be lacerations to the mouth, the larynx might be damaged, ribs broken, or fluid on the lungs from vomiting.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Choking

Almost any small thing can cause choking, though the most common are lumps of gristle, bones, chew toys, hard rubber balls or sticks that have become swollen due to moisture.

The best way to prevent choking is to treat your dog as you would a small child. It might be almost impossible to stop them putting things in their mouth, but remove any unsafe item and keep an eye on what they’re chewing. Avoid moisture-swollen chew toys or sticks, and cut up large chunks of food, especially gristle. Hard rubber balls, rawhide and T-bones are also known to cause choking when given to dogs.


If choking does happen, though, do everything you can to avoid your dog losing consciousness and collapsing.

Training Your Dog to Allow a Mouth Inspection


If your pup has not been trained to allow and feel comfortable having their mouth inspected, you’ll have difficulty helping him stop choking. If you have not already trained your dog to tolerate this, you need to do so right away.

First aid care is not a substitute for professional veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life. Always remember that any first aid administered to your pet should be followed by immediate veterinary care.

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