What Should You Do If Your Puppy Chokes?

Shar-Pei Pitbull Puppy Laying on Couch

Puppies are renowned for grasping, tasting, and eating anything within reach, making choking a risk. When a foreign item becomes lodged in a puppy's windpipe, it may get agitated, choking, retching, and coughing to release it. It may also claw at the ground or rub its face against it.

If the item becomes stuck in your puppy's airway, it might kill him. A little toy, for example, can suffocate a puppy by sealing its windpipe like a cork in a bottle. In this instance, first aid will be required to preserve your puppy's life. The air is going through if you hear wheezing, but even a partial obstruction might induce fainting and death.

What Causes Choking in Puppies?

Aside from inhaling a foreign object, any medical condition that causes the airways to become blocked can cause choking or symptoms similar to those of choking.

  • A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can lead to swelling that makes breathing difficult.
  • Respiratory infections can cause a puppy's airway to become blocked with mucus and other materials, leading to coughing and gagging.

Treatment

Make an appointment with the local veterinarian right away. However, if you try to help your dog yourself, proceed with caution. If you reach into your choking dog's mouth while it is still aware, the animal will almost certainly bite you. Only reach into the dog's mouth if it is unconscious.

  • Pull the dog's tongue to the side and open the mouth widely. Use a cloth to grip and move the tongue out of the way. This action may actually help dislodge the object.
  • Perform a finger sweep. Can you see an object at the back of the throat? Use your finger in a sweeping motion from the side of the mouth to the center to try to dislodge it (without pushing it further into the throat). You can also use tongs or needle-nose pliers to try to grasp the object and gently pull it out.
  • Use the standing Heimlich maneuver. Puppies are shaped differently from people, but the same principle applies. For a small pup, hold its back against your stomach (head up, paws down), and find the soft hollow under its ribs. Your closed fist should fit into this spot. Pull up and in two or three times toward your own tummy, using a thrusting motion. Remove the object once it jars loose.
  • Use the kneeling Heimlich. If your pup is too big to lift, place it on its side and kneel behind its back. Place your closed fist in the hollow under its rib cage, and push upward and inward sharply, in the direction of the pup’s head and your knees. Remove the object once it jars loose.
  • Perform rescue breaths and chest compressions: If your dog doesn't begin breathing on its own after the object has been removed, begin CPR.
  • Turn on the air conditioning. Since puppies stay cool by panting, ​when they choke on something and can’t breathe, they also have trouble staying cool. During the car ride to the vet, be sure you have the air conditioning blowing. You can also dampen their feet to help them stay cool.

How to Prevent Choking

Playtime should be supervised, and your home should be puppy-proofed. Secure any rubbish and trash cans, for example, and ensure sure any choking dangers are out of reach of your dog. Any little object that your dog could place in its mouth could become a choking hazard.

Even if ingested items do not induce choking, they can be harmful if they cause gastrointestinal injury or a blockage. Give your dog no bones or chew toys that will fit completely in its mouth (the temptation to swallow the item may be too strong).

Follow-Up Care

When the foreign item that strangled your dog is removed, the inside of its mouth or throat may be damaged. This can take many days to recover, and the puppy may find it difficult or uncomfortable to consume its usual meal. If required, put your dog's regular diet through the blender with warm water to soften it.

Even if your first aid removes the choking concern, it's a good idea to have your dog examined out by a veterinarian. Your dog may have bitten its own tongue or the inside of its mouth, or the foreign item may have caused abrasions or worse. You may need to give your puppy medicine to help prevent infection, control swelling, and relieve discomfort from these injuries.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

CITATION

"Shmuel, DL., Cortes, Y. Anaphylaxis in Dogs and Cats. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (San Antonio). 23,4,377-94, 2013, doi:10.1111/vec.12066", "Vieson, Miranda D et al. A Review of the Pathology and Treatment of Canine Respiratory InfectionsVeterinary Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) ,3, 25-39, 2012, doi:10.2147/VMRR.S25021", "Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Dogs. VCA Hospitals." ;

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