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How Do You Save a Dog from Choking? (Heimlich Maneuver)

dog choking

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When it comes to saving a choking dog, the Heimlich maneuver is the best way to go. This emergency procedure can be performed on both dogs and humans, and it is relatively easy to learn. The most important thing is to remain calm and act quickly.

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What You Should Know Beforehand

First and foremost, don’t wait too long to try and help your pup – time is of the essence when it comes to choking! And secondly, not all dogs respond to the Heimlich in the same way. Some might gag or vomit, while others will simply cough up the obstruction. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide on how to perform the Heimlich on your furry friend.

What Is the Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs?

The Heimlich maneuver works by dislodging the object that is blocking the airway. This is done by applying sudden and sharp pressure to the abdomen, just below the ribcage. The goal is to force the object out of the throat and into the stomach, where it can be safely digested, or expelled out of the mouth depending on how far down the throat the object is.

Things to Keep in Mind

While the Heimlich maneuver is generally safe, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Never perform the Heimlich on a puppy – this can cause serious injury.
  • If your dog is pregnant, it’s best to take your dog to the vet instead of trying to perform the procedure yourself.
  • If your dog is small or fragile, you please take your dog to the vet for a check-up after the incident in order to be on the safe side.

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a Dog to Save Them From Choking

If your dog is standing…

  1. While your dog is standing, wrap your arms around its belly.
  2. Make a fist with one hand and place it just below the ribcage, in the soft spot between the stomach and the ribs.
  3. Use your other hand to wrap around your fist and hold it in place.
  4. Quickly thrust your fist upwards and inwards.
  5. Repeat the thrusts until the object is dislodged and your dog is able to breathe normally again.
  6. Lay the dog on its side and gently remove the object from the dog’s mouth.
  7. Take your dog to the vet to make sure everything is okay.
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If your dog is lying down…

  1. Place one hand on your dog’s back.
  2. Use the other hand to squeeze upward and forward toward the spine.
  3. Repeat until the object is dislodged.
  4. Gently remove the object from your dog’s mouth.
  5. Take your dog to the vet to make sure everything else is okay.

Advanced Tips for the Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs

  1. If your dog is too big to comfortably perform the Heimlich on, you can try placing them on their back and kneeling over their chest. From here, you can place your fist in the same spot and perform the thrusts.
  2. If you’re struggling to reach your dog’s stomach, you can try using a book or a rolled-up magazine to apply pressure. Just be sure not to use anything too hard or sharp, as this could injure your pup.
  3. If your dog is still struggling to breathe, you can try gently sweeping their tongue out of the way with your fingers. This will help to clear the airway and allow them to breathe more easily.

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About Reaching into Your Dog’s Mouth

man pulling object out of dog's mouth
Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

One common concern people have is reaching into their dog’s mouth to remove the object. While it is possible to do this, it can be dangerous and is not always successful. If you decide to go this route, be very careful not to push the object further down the throat or cause your dog to gag.

This is an emergency procedure and should only be performed if your dog is truly choking and you are unable to remove the obstruction yourself. If you are able to see the object, be careful when trying to remove it with your fingers – this could push it further down the throat and make the situation worse. If you can see the object but can’t remove it, take your dog to the closest vet immediately.

Dog Heimlich Maneuver FAQs

A choking dog is scary, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Here are some common questions to help you build your confidence.

How do I know if my dog is choking?

The most common sign of choking is pawing at the mouth or throat – your dog might also make gagging noises or have difficulty breathing.

What should I do if my dog starts to choke?

If your dog is choking, the first thing you should do is try to remove the object that is blocking their airway. If you can’t do this, or if your dog is having difficulty breathing, then you should perform the Heimlich maneuver.

What if my dog is pregnant?

pregnant beagle sitting inside the house
Image Credit: Nina Buday, Shutterstock

If your dog is pregnant, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take your dog to the vet to perform the procedure or dislodge the object so that you don’t harm the puppies.

My dog is small – can I still perform the Heimlich?

Yes – the Heimlich maneuver can be performed on small dogs, but you’ll want to use extra care and be sure not to thrust too hard on your dog’s abdomen. Follow up by taking your dog to the vet to make sure everything is okay.

How often should I perform the Heimlich on my dog?

Ideally, you should only need to perform the Heimlich once – however, if your dog is still choking after a few thrusts, then you can repeat the procedure.

What if the Heimlich doesn’t work on my dog?

If the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t dislodge the obstruction, then you should take your dog to the vet immediately – they might need surgery to remove the object.

How can I prevent my dog from choking?

border collie dog holding black toy ball in mouth
Image Credit: Julia Zavalishina, Shutterstock

The best way to prevent your dog from choking is to keep an eye on them when they’re eating and to make sure that they don’t have access to small objects that they could swallow.

Does the Heimlich maneuver hurt my dog?

No, the Heimlich maneuver is not painful for dogs – however, they might feel a bit of discomfort when you thrust your fist into their abdomen. If you use too much force or pressure, you could cause internal injuries, so it’s important to be gentle.

Do I need to take my dog to the vet after performing the Heimlich?

It’s always a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a check after a choking incident. This is especially true if your dog is small or fragile, as they might be more susceptible to internal injuries.

Are there some breeds you shouldn’t do the Heimlich maneuver on?

No, the Heimlich maneuver can be performed on any dog breed – however, it is important to use caution with small breeds, as they are more likely to be injured by the procedure. You should also avoid performing the Heimlich on pregnant dogs, as it could harm the puppies.

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Conclusion

If your dog is choking, don’t wait too long to try and help – time is of the essence! The Heimlich maneuver is relatively easy to learn and can be performed on both dogs and humans. Just remember to remain calm and act quickly, and your pup will be back to their normal self in no time.


Featured Image Credit: McGraw, Shutterstock

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