What Do I Do If My Puppy Is Choking?

Raising a puppy, in many ways, is like raising a child. As their pet parent, you must teach them everything about the world. For example, what things they can chew and can’t chew and to avoid running out into the street.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg, of course, as the typical puppy will need to be taught many other new things. How to get along with other dogs, sit, stay and fetch, behave, etc.

As a pet parent, there are many things you have to learn as well, just like when raising a child. How to know if they are sick, for example, and what to do when they are.

You need to learn about your puppy’s moods, what kind of food they like best, and how to console them if they’re having a bad day.  Doing all of this without being able to communicate with your puppy using words makes it a bit more of a challenge.

Every so often, you might also be confronted with an emergency of some sort. Your puppy might get attacked by another dog or animal, get hit by a car, get burned by something, etc.

Puppy emergencies, luckily, don’t happen too often, especially if you’re a diligent puppy parent. However, they do occur, and it’s best to be prepared. 

I was thinking about preparing for a puppy emergency the other day after a visit to my local big-box pet store. The gentleman in line in front of me was talking about how his dog had choked on a rubber ball, and you could tell from his voice that it had shaken him up.

That reminded me of a question I’ve heard several times over the years from concerned puppy parents; what do I do if my puppy is choking? 

The first thing to do if your puppy is choking is not to panic. Panicking will only lead to more problems, so do your best to stay calm and cool, which, I know, can be difficult as you watch your precious puppy choke.

The next is to determine if your puppy is in imminent danger of death or if you have time to rush them to your local veterinarian. If it’s the former, you’ll have to take action right away.

The first step is to use a cloth and grab your puppy’s tongue, move it to the side and open their mouth as wide as possible. Next, perform what’s known as a “finger sweep,” which is when you use your finger to sweep your puppy’s mouth from one side to the other and try to dislodge whatever is causing them to choke.

If that doesn’t work, but you can see the object causing your pup’s problem, you can also use kitchen tongs, needle-nose pliers, or any other grabbing tool to try and grab the object and gently pull it out.

The next step is where proper preparation comes into play. It would be to use either the standing or sitting Heimlich maneuver to try and remove the object.  

Knowing how to do the Heimlich maneuver ahead of time would be extremely helpful, as would knowing how to perform rescue breaths and chest compressions. You can learn both by taking a class in your town or online.

Now that you know what to do if your puppy is choking, I’m sure you have other questions about this important subject. What to give a dog if they are choking, for example, and how do you know if a puppy is choking?

I’ve got the answers to those important questions for you below. If preparing yourself for emergencies like this is your goal, read on. It’s important information that every pet parent should know. 

How Do you Know if a Puppy is Choking?

In most cases of choking, a puppy or dog will display several different signs and symptoms. Some will be very obvious, while others less so, including:

  • They will appear to be in some sort of distress.
  • Your puppy will paw at their mouth as if trying to remove something from it.
  • They will salivate profusely.
  • A puppy that’s choking will cough, gag, and often wretch.
  • Your puppy will rub their face vigorously against the ground to dislodge whatever is choking them.
  • Sometimes, your puppy’s skin will turn bluish due to a lack of oxygen in their blood. 

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on a Puppy

The Heimlich maneuver has been used for several decades to help people who are choking and can be very successful if done correctly. You can also use the Heimlich maneuver on your puppy if necessary. To do so, follow these steps;

  1. Pick up your puppy gently and place them on your lap.
  2. Turn your puppy over onto its back.
  3. Place the palm of your hand beneath your puppy’s rib cage.
  4. Push downwards and inwards 5 times using a thrusting motion.
  5. Roll your puppy onto their side and check for the object causing them to choke. (It might fall out onto the floor.)
  6. If the object causing the choking problem hasn’t been dislodged, repeat steps 3 through 5. 

Once the object has been dislodged from your puppy’s throat, you should consider bringing them to your local veterinarian for a quick exam. An exam is especially essential if your pup has been choking for a long time. 

Keep in mind that choking can be very stressful and also cause damage to your puppy’s throat. The damage can be painful but difficult to detect. At your veterinarian’s office, they will often perform a bronchoscopy to make sure your puppy’s throat hasn’t been badly damaged.

Why is My Dog Coughing like Something is Stuck in its Throat?

If your dog or puppy is coughing a lot as if something is stuck in their throat, but you’ve checked, and nothing is there, they may have kennel cough.

Kennel cough is a contagious condition but is also self-limiting, which means it will typically go away on its own. If kennel cough is causing your dog to cough like something is stuck in his throat, there’s no need to panic. 

It might be a good idea to bring your pup to the veterinarian, however, so that they can perform an exam and ensure everything is genuinely okay.

If your puppy is a smaller breed and is coughing like something is stuck in their throat, they may have a serious but relatively rare condition called tracheal collapse. 

If you are unsure what is causing your puppy to cough a lot, a trip to the vet is always a good idea, especially for a smaller breed. If they have tracheal collapse, it should be taken care of sooner rather than later.

What if My Puppy is Choking but Still Breathing?

Suppose your puppy is choking but can still breathe. In that case, your best choice is to load your pupper in the car and take them to your local veterinarian or veterinary emergency center as quickly as possible.

Things can change very quickly when a puppy is choking. One moment they might be choking but still be able to breathe, and the next, they might not be able to breathe. That’s why bringing them to the vet immediately is essential.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what to do if your puppy is choking is critical to saving their life if the need arises. It’s also a great idea to learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and have the phone number and address of an emergency veterinary clinic handy at all times.

I hope today’s blog was helpful and informative and that all your questions about what to do if your puppy is choking have been answered. If you have more, please refer to my other blogs. I do my best to fill every blog with valuable, real-world information for new puppy parents. 

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