Cat and Dog Choking: What To Do

Choking is an emergency that requires immediate attention.

If you experience an episode of your dog or cat choking on something, there are simple steps you can take to try and help them regain their airway. Always remember to stay calm in these types of situations as your pet can sense your state of mind and a sense of calm will make the situation easier to manage.

Signs of Cat and Dog Choking

If your cat or dog is choking on something, they will show signs of distress – especially if they cannot get enough air. They will cough, gag, drool and often shake their head or paw at their face. You may hear high pitched whistling sounds coming from their throat if a small amount of air is getting through or no sound at all if their airway is completely blocked. When cats and dogs are choking, their gums and tongue may turn from pink to a blue or purple colour because their airway has been compromised. In severe cases of dog or cat choking, your pet may collapse.

What To Do When Cats and Dogs are Choking

The first step of helping a choking pet is to determine if they are actually choking.  Coughing and gagging can look like choking, so first you must restrain them and identify the problem. If they are coughing or gagging they can still breath, so you should still see them taking breaths.  If they are choking, their airway can be partially or completely blocked and they have trouble getting air.  They act panicked when they cannot breath. Once you know they are chocking, determine if they are choking due to something around the outside of their neck that is putting pressure on their airway or if it is something inside their throat. If there is anything that is visible on the outside, quickly remove it or cut it off.  

If the object is inside their mouth, open it up and see if you can visualize the object. If you can see it, attempt to flick it to the side. Do not try to push or grab at it as that could lodge the object further down their throat. If you cannot see the object or it is too far down to attempt to dislodge, you can attempt the Heimlich maneuver.

Be cautious as a choking pet may be quite panicked.

The Heimlich maneuver can be done on choking dogs and cats by holding your pet with its back to you up against your chest (best for cats, smaller dogs or if a puppy is choking) or by standing over top of your pet like you were riding a horse (for larger dogs). Place your hands around your pet’s waist and join them together just behind your pet’s ribcage. Make a quick thrust upwards and towards you. You can attempt this multiple times if you are not successful on the first attempt. If your pet cannot stand, you can attempt to do it while your pet is lying on its side. Check to see if the object is dislodged. If not, repeat the process. If you have been successful at dislodging the object, make sure to clear all debris from their mouth by flicking it to the side.  

If your pet continues to choke or is in respiratory distress, you should proceed to your nearest veterinary emergency clinic. If your pet is unconscious, start CPR as you proceed to emergency care.

Cat and Dog Choking Prevention

It is best to try and prevent your pet from choking in the first place. Always be aware of what your pet is chewing on and get rid of any toys or treats that can break down into smaller pieces. We do not recommend giving your pet bones to chew on as they can be choking hazards.


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