Know What To Do When Your Small Dog Chokes On Something

Small dogs love to play and chew on things, but some things can be a hazard for choking.

Here are the top 5 choking hazards.

  1. Bones. Chicken and lamb bones splinter and can penetrate into the back of the throat, the esophagus, or gastrointestinal tract, creating holes that leak fluids and cause infection.
  2. Small toys. Don’t leave small kiddie toys like Lego and marbles on the floor where they can be easily swallowed by your pet. Any ball that can fit past your dog’s front teeth is too small and poses a choking risk. Some toys are made for small dogs; these small dog toys or cat toys can easily cause choking in a medium or large breed dog.
  3. Chew toys. Some dogs will chew the knotted ends off the raw hides, which can quickly become life-threatening airway obstructions. Cow hooves can break into slippery pieces: just the right size for getting stuck in the airway or esophagus. Also, poor quality rubber dog toys can also break apart – choose high quality dog toys and keep an eye on them… if your dog can start to break through even just a piece of it, remove the toy immediately!
  4. Plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is a major hazard to your dog. Keep in mind that plastic wrap is usually most appealing when it is surrounding something that smells delightful and scrumptious to your dog. Your dog does not have the reasoning skills to understand that he must unwrap the food before eating it. This can lead to him trying to eat the entire package and choking on the plastic.
  5. Rocks and sticks. Dogs enjoy grinding and chewing on things and if you do not provide enough approved items for your dog then chances are he will snatch a rock or stick out of the yard to chew. When you let your dog out in the yard to play, do a quick scan and make sure that he cannot access anything that could be a potential choking hazard. Offer him positive toys that you feel safe allowing him to chew.

Check for signs of choking.

Dogs may show several telling behaviors if they aren’t able to breathe. When trying to determine if your dog is choking, begin by first attempting to calm it–the more panicked it becomes, the greater its demand for oxygen and the worse the situation.

Signs that a dog is choking include:

  • Gagging or drooling excessively
  • Standing in the “air hunger position” with its head and neck held low and in a straight line
  • Acting unusually agitated or frantic, pawing at its mouth, and whimpering
  • Coughing forcefully, wheezing, or gasping for breath
  • Having grey or blue gums
  • Having a visible object in the back of its throat
  • Collapsing
  • Losing consciousness

Rule out other causes.

The following conditions may cause a dog to behave similarly to a dog that is choking:

  1. A Long soft palate. Many brachycephalic dogs such as the Pug, Pekingese and Shih Tzu or small breeds such as the West Highland Terrier, Dachshund and Pomeranian have a long soft palate. When the dog breathes in sharply, it physically sucks in the end of the soft palate temporarily blocking the windpipe and causing the dog to gasp or snort.
  1. Kennel Cough. Kennel cough is an infection that causes the airway to become sore, inflamed, and irritable. Even the simple act of breathing in cool air can tickle the throat and trigger coughing episodes.

What to do if your dog is choking.

Choking is something that can happen to any dog. Knowing before hand how to reacting if your dog starts choking can save your dog’s life!

  1. If the dog is struggling to get the object up himself, or starts to show signs of impaired breathing such as wheezing, gasping for air, general struggling, and/or pawing at the mouth, then it’s time to intervene.
  1. Use both hands to open your dog’s mouth and look to see if you can see the object that is causing the choking. Be very careful trying to pull the object out, choking dogs will usually be stressed and will be more prone to bite.
  1. If this doesn’t work, the next step is to try back blows. This is exactly what it sounds like. With the palm of your hand, give the dog 4 or 5 sharp blows between the shoulder blades.
  1. For a small dog, you can pick them up by their thighs and gently shake and swing it.
  1. If this does not work, the next thing to try is the Heimlich maneuver. Making sure your dog’s head is pointed down, place one hand on the back for support and use the other hand to push the abdomen in the soft spot directly below the ribcage upwards and forwards.
  1. Once the object is removed from your dog’s throat, closely monitor your dog to make sure that he is breathing normally. If your dog does not begin breathing normally on his own, you may need to start artificial respiration. If your dog does not have a pulse, begin CPR. 

Giving CPR to a Small Dog

If your small dog collapses and stops breathing, you have no time to lose. You can perform CPR on your pet. WATCH THE FOLLOWING VERY IMPORT VIDEO OUTLINING THE PROPER TECHNIQUE FOR DOG CPR:

  1. Put animal on his side, being careful not to overextend his neck.
  2. Put your hand on their chest to feel for breathing.
  3. Check for a pulse (watch the above video on how to check for a pulse on your dog)
  4. Practice the ABC’s of CPR
    1. A: Airway – Check for foreign objects in his throat, swiping with a hooked finger to remove anything blocking his airway. Gently pull your pet’s tongue forward so it’s even with his teeth (to prevent the tongue from slipping back into his throat) and close the dog’s mouth.
    2. B: Breathing – Mouth to Snout. Exhale gently into the dog’s nostrils, hard enough that you can see his chest expanding. Doing so makes his chest inflate. Take your mouth off the dog and let him exhale naturally. Repeat, giving one breath about every two seconds, checking for breathing after every four to five breaths.
    3. C: Circulation – Do chest compressions – note there is a difference on the technique depending on the size of your dog. Pay close attention to the technique for your dog outlined in the above video.

If your dog starts breathing, stop breathing for him.

This type of pet emergency doesn’t happen often, but it’s worth knowing the basics of first aid for canine choking in case you are ever faced with this situation.