How to help your choking dog

How to help a choking dog

Choking occurs when something gets stuck in the back of the throat and blocks the airway. When the airway is partially blocked the animal may start retching, pacing back and forth and pawing at their mouth. If their airway becomes totally blocked they may be unable to make any sound at all. Dogs can choke on anything, from plastic bags, balls, socks, toys or anything they can get hold of, if it goes down the wrong way it may leave them unable to breathe.


Your pet may show clear signs of distress and paw at their mouth, gag or retch and drool, they are also likely to panic and may become wheezy. If they are struggling to breathe, they may appear to cough, struggle breathing and their mucous membranes may start turning blue. If untreated they will collapse and die.

First Aid for Choking

If your pet us unable to breathe, every second counts. Start First Aid immediately, but if you are unable to dislodge the object within a couple of minutes do not delay getting to the vets.

Get Veterinary advice quickly

Firstly, restrain your dog to protect yourself, but do not muzzle them as they are struggling to breathe and a muzzle will make things worse. Choking dogs of all ages and temperaments will struggle, potentially causing harm to themselves and to you as they may thrash around and bite in their panic.

Open their mouth and look inside. An object in the mouth such as a stick or piece of bone may be able to be removed with a large pair of tweezers or by reaching into the dog’s mouth, with the help of another person. DO NOT put yourself at risk of being bitten.

Some dogs such as Labradors have an additional cavity at the top of their mouth where objects can become lodged. If a solid object is lodged at the back of the throat (e.g. rawhide or a pig’s ear), one person could extremely carefully hold the mouth open (try to press their lips over their teeth to protect your fingers) and another reach into the dog’s mouth with tweezers or forceps to grasp the item and remove it. Do not push at the object with your fingers as you may lodge it deeper. Do not stick fingers down the throat or finger sweep to try and locate an object as this is likely to cause damage to the delicate tissues at the back of the throat.

How to help a choking dog

Do not put yourself at risk of being bitten – if concerned take the animal straight to the Vet to remove the object.

Large objects, such as balls or pieces of rawhide, can sometimes be dislodged by placing firm pressure with both thumbs underneath the jaw at the base of the throat and pushing forwards and upwards towards the mouth.

For a SMALL Dog

how to help a choking dog

Pick the dog up by its thighs and gently shake 3 or 4 times in a downwards motion.

For a large dog

Try and support the dog head downwards against yourself or lift their hind legs in a wheelbarrow type motion.

Choking how to help a large dog

If this doesn’t work – try the Heimlich Manoeuvre for dogs:

Choking Heimlich manoeuvre for dogs

  1. If the dog is standing, put your arms around its belly, make a fist with one hand and with your other hand on top push firmly up and forward, just behind the rib cage.
  2. 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.

Check the dog’s mouth and remove any objects that may have been dislodged with your fingers

If this hasn’t worked, you need to get to your nearest vet ASAP.

In most cases, getting rid of the choking obstruction allows the dog to begin breathing again on its own. Remember that as they are scared they are very likely to bite even when the object has been removed – they will also pick up on your panicked heart beat which will add to their fear and anxiety.

If your dog is unconscious and not breathing you may wish to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute 30 compressions to 2 breaths and continue these until at the veterinary practice.

Whether the item is dislodged or not, it is essential that the animal is thoroughly checked by a Vet as there may be damage to the inside of the mouth or throat once the object is removed, or damage to their ribs or internal organs if you have attempted a Heimlich Manoeuvre.

Trauma to the inside of the mouth or throat can take many days to heal, and can also make it hard or painful for the dog to eat his regular food. Making the normal diet soft by running it through the blender with warm water may help. Your vet may dispense pain relief to help during the recovery period.

Suffocation and strangulation has similar symptoms to choking but you are likely to be able to spot the cause relatively easily. Strangulation can be caused by a cable, string or other item wrapped around the neck, carefully use a pair of scissors to cut the object. Suffocation is most commonly caused by plastic bags.

It is strongly advised that you attend a practical or online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for life / provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. Always take veterinary advice.


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