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What to Do If Your Pet Is Choking?

Many adults have received basic training on the Heimlich maneuver and know what to do if another person is choking. But do you know the right response if your pet starts choking? Dogs and cats are furry members of the family, so it can be horrifying to see your pet struggling because something is lodged in their throat.

Signs Your Pet Is Choking

The first thing you need to know is how to identify if your pet is choking. Common signs include:

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Visible distress

  • Retching

  • Gagging

  • Salivation

  • Coughing

  • Rubbing their face on the ground

What To Do When Your Pet Is Choking

If you see any of the above signs, it’s best to act as quickly as possible. A fast response could save your pet’s life!

  • Restrain the Pet: You’ll need to hold the pet down, which means it might be necessary to have two people (depending on the animal's size). When a pet is choking, it’s likely they will struggle and fight against you.

  • Remove the Object: If possible, find the object and remove it. Open their mouth and look for anything that is identifiable. If you can see it, swipe their throat with a finger to get the object out of the mouth. Never poke your finger down their throat if you can’t see anything because going too far can cause injury or potentially push the object further down.

  • Heimlich Maneuver: In a similar way that the Heimlich Maneuver can dislodge objects from a human throat, this strategy can also work for pets. Lay the animal on its side, then check the mouth to see if you can see the object. If you can’t see anything, hold the pet with its back against your stomach and heads facing the same direction. Place one closed fist in the soft hollow under the animal’s ribs and use a sharp thrusting motion to pull up two or three times.

Even if you are able to dislodge the object from their throat, it’s still a good idea to take the pet in for a checkup with a veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet will ensure that the choking didn’t cause any other harm that needs to be treated.

Written by Becki Andrus in partnership with stethoscope distributors,

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