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Dogs, much like humans, can encounter a sudden and frightening situation: choking. When your four-legged friend starts coughing or showing distress, it’s essential to know how to react. 

Choking occurs when an object becomes lodged in the throat, blocking the airflow, and it requires immediate attention. Recognizing the signs—a paw at the mouth, distress, difficulty breathing—is the first step toward safety. Acting swiftly and wisely can make all the difference in these tense moments.

Common Causes of Choking in Dogs

Choking can come at the most unexpected times, often triggered by the usual suspects:

  • Small Toys and Objects: Items that are too small for your dog’s mouth can be swallowed easily.
  • Bones and Food: Large pieces of food or bone can get stuck in your dog’s throat.
  • Choking During Play or Exercise: Dogs often accidentally inhale objects when they’re excited or playing.

Immediate Actions When Your Dog Starts Choking

A calm and systematic approach is vital when you suspect your dog is choking:

  • Approach your pet gently to avoid added stress or aggression.
  • Conduct a quick but careful assessment to determine if the object is visible.
  • If the object is within reach, use your fingers to remove it gently, avoiding pushing it further down.

Early Detection of Complications

One early indicator of potential choking complications can be unsettling discoveries like finding a dog pooping blood. This can be a sign of a severe health issue and warrants immediate veterinary attention. It could suggest a foreign body has caused internal damage or point to other serious health concerns.

Steps to Help a Choking Dog

When it comes to assisting your choking dog, there are several recommended steps:

  1. Open your dog’s mouth carefully to see if the object is visible and removable.
  2. Gently encourage coughing, which can help dislodge the object.
  3. If coughing doesn’t work, apply firm pressure with back blows or chest thrusts, depending on the size of your dog.

Understanding When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, at-home interventions may not be enough. In such scenarios:

  • Transporting your dog to a vet immediately is warranted, especially if they are unconscious or unresponsive.
  • On the way, monitor your pet while keeping them calm and reassured.
  • Prepare to provide your vet with all the necessary details of the incident.

Emergency Veterinary Services and Choking

In cases when standard veterinary hours are not an option, it may be necessary to seek an emergency vet in Memphis or your respective locale. After-hours emergency vet services are equipped to handle such life-threatening situations and provide critical care. Don’t delay, as time is of the essence in choking emergencies.

Heimlich Maneuver For Dogs

When all else fails, and if your dog is conscious but still unable to dislodge the object, performing the dog Heimlich may be necessary:

  1. For small dogs, hold the dog with their back against your stomach, place a fist under the rib cage, and push firmly upward and forward.
  2. For larger dogs, if they can’t stand, place them on their side and apply pressure to the abdomen in a thrusting motion.
  3. For standing dogs, wrap your arms around their belly and apply a quick thrust upward.

Post-Choking Care for Your Dog

After a choking event, it’s important to monitor your pet and seek veterinary care:

  • Watch for any signs of distress or recurrent choking.
  • Even if the object was removed, complications may arise, and a vet can conduct a thorough check-up.
  • Provide a quiet and comfortable space for your dog to recover.

It’s always better to be cautious and get your pet checked out to ensure their safety.

Prevention Strategies to Avoid Future Choking Incidents

Preventing your precious puppy from choking involves thoughtful supervision and preventive measures. Here’s a more detailed look into keeping your four-legged companion out of harm’s way:

  • Toy and Chewable Safety: It’s crucial to pick toys and edible chews that match your dog’s size, breed, and chewing behavior. Avoid toys with detachable parts or those that can be easily broken into smaller pieces. For powerful chewers, opt for durable options designed to withstand strong jaws. Regularly inspect toys for signs of wear and tear and replace them before they become a choking risk.
  • Dietary Precautions: Pay close attention to the size and hardness of the treats you give your dog. Large chunks of food can get stuck in the throat, so consider the dog’s bite capacity when choosing treats. Avoid giving your dog cooked bones, which can splinter and cause choking or other injuries. It’s also wise to feed your dog in a quiet, stress-free environment where they are less likely to gulp down food rapidly.
  • Training and Behavior: Training your dog to “drop it” or “leave it” can be a lifesaver. Encourage these commands, especially if your dog tends to pick up dangerous items like stones, sticks, or small toys. Reward-based training strengthens these commands and increases the likelihood your dog will comply in a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Environmental Management: Dog-proofing your home is another layer of prevention. Ensure small items that could be swallowed are kept out of reach. Be especially mindful of this when there are young children in the home, as their toys often fit the profile of potential dog-choking hazards. Similarly, when outdoors, keep an eye on your dog, as public spaces can harbor various choking dangers.
  • Supervised Play: Whenever your dog is playing, whether with toys, other dogs, or children, maintain a level of supervision to intervene if necessary. Promptly remove any broken toys or unsafe objects they may encounter.
  • Regular Veterinary Checks: Routine vet visits can help identify and manage conditions that may predispose your dog to choking, such as dental issues or an inclination to ingest foreign objects (Pica). Your vet can offer personalized advice based on your dog’s health and behavior.


Seeing your dog can be a terrifying experience, but knowing how to react can save their life. Stay attentive, learn the prevention tips, familiarize yourself with emergency procedures like the dog Heimlich, and keep the contacts of your local vet and an emergency vet in Memphis at hand. Always remember, when in doubt, professional help is the best course of action. Keep calm, act swiftly, and you’ll be prepared to handle such a situation should it ever occur.