What to do if your dog chokes!

When the unexpected happens it’s time to think fast. If your dog began choking, would you know what to do? When a person chokes, someone must perform the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge any object blocking the airway. In the case of a choking dog, the process is surprisingly similar. When a dog is choking, you can do a modification of the Heimlich maneuver. Today I’d like to give you some tips on performing this lifesaving process. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but it’s best to be prepared.

Take a minute now to learn how to do the step-by-step procedure for dogs. I recommend printing out this list of instructions and posting it somewhere that’s easy to find. You might even want a copy of it for your wallet or purse. The procedure is fairly easy, but remember to be aware of your dog’s relatively small body size in comparison to humans. Never distress a healthy dog by “practicing” on them; you could hurt them in doing so.


1. Clear Blockages: After determining that your dog is choking, remove any item that may be constricting the neck such as a collar or leash. Visually examine inside the mouth and remove any foreign object you see. Do not blindly place your hand down your pet’s throat and pull any object you feel. Dogs have small bones that support the base of their tongues. Owners probing the throat for a foreign object have mistaken these for chicken bones. Do not attempt to remove an object unless you can see and identify it. If your pet is small and you cannot easily remove the object, lift and suspend him with the head pointed down. For larger animals, lift the rear legs so the head is tilted down. This can help dislodge an item stuck in the throat. Another method is to administer a sharp blow between the shoulder blades using the palm of your hand. This can sometimes dislodge an object. If this does not work, a modified Heimlich maneuver can be attempted.

2. Position Animal: Grasp the animal around the waist so that the rear is nearest to you, similar to a bear hug with the dog facing away from you.

3. Place a fist just underneath the ribs.

4. Compress the abdomen several times (usually 3-5 times) with quick pushes inward and slightly upward.

5. Check the mouth to see if the foreign object has been removed.

This maneuver can be repeated one to two times, but if it is not successful on the first attempt, suspend further attempts and immediately take your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital. Even if you are successful in removing a foreign object, veterinary examination after choking is recommended. Internal injury such as rib fractures could have occurred that may not be apparent.

Choking is just one of the many medical emergencies that can happen to dogs. It’s a trying experience for both dogs and humans and one that I hope you never have to experience. Being prepared and knowing what to do in a medical emergency can save your dog’s life.