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Choking and the Heimlich Maneuver

How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver if your Dog is Choking


Most dogs will chew nearly anything: bones, toys, shoes, socks, etc. But would you know what to do if something became lodged in the windpipe or stuck on the palate and your dog began to choke? It's important that you do not wait for veterinary assistance, as the dog may suffocate.


What To Watch For


If the dog is suffocating, it will often panic. A dog may paw at its mouth if something is lodged, though this does not necessarily mean it is choking. Another suspicious sign of choking is an unresponsive or unconscious dog; in these cases, check the throat and mouth for foreign objects.


Primary Cause


Almost any small object can cause choking, though the most common are hard rubber balls, lumps of gristle, and chew toys or sticks that have become swollen due to moisture.


Immediate Care


Be very careful when dealing with a choking dog, as even calm animals will panic when they cannot breathe. Protect yourself by restraining the dog, but do not muzzle it.


  1. Use both hands to open the mouth, with one hand on the upper jaw and the other on the lower.
  2. Grasping the jaws, press the lips over the dog’s teeth so that they are between the teeth and your fingers.
  3. Look inside the mouth and remove the obstruction with your fingers.
  4. If you can’t move the object with your fingers, use a flat spoon handle to pry it away from the teeth or roof of the mouth.


If the dog is still choking and you can’t see anything in the mouth, or the dog has fallen unconscious, follow these guidelines.


For a SMALL Dog


Pick the dog up by its thighs and gently shake and swing it. If his condition does not improve, apply forward pressure to the abdomen just behind the ribcage.


For a LARGE Dog


Do not try to pick up, shake, or swing a large dog; you're more likely to do further damage due to the animal's size. Instead, perform the equivalent of the Heimlich maneuver:


  1. If the dog is standing, put your arms around her belly, joining your hands. Make a fist and push firmly up and forward, just behind the rib cage. Place the dog on his side afterward.
  2. If the dog is lying down, place one hand on the back for support and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upwards and forwards.
  3. Check the dog's mouth and remove any objects that may have been dislodges with your fingers.


Note that the object might be quite a way back towards the throat, so you might have to hunt around and hook it out with your index finger. If the dog required artificial respiration or CPR, seek immediate veterinary attention.


Veterinary Care


It is likely objects stuck in the throat have caused damage. Depending on the length of time the dog was without oxygen and the damage to the throat, the dog may require hospitalization for a few days. In some cases, bronchoscopy (whereby a small camera is inserted into the windpipe to visualize and remove the foreign body) may be recommended.


Although this may just be minor scratching, it is still important that a veterinarian examine the dog for potential problems. Sometimes foreign bodies stuck in the esophagus such as bones can cause respiratory distress and mimic choking.




The best way to prevent choking is to treat your dog as you would a small child. Although it’s almost impossible to stop them putting things in their mouth, you should always be present and keep an eye on what they’re chewing. Avoid moisture-swollen chew toys or sticks, and cut up large chunks of food, especially gristle. T-bones are also known to cause choking when given to dogs.


Learn how to perform: Artificial Respiration for Dogs


Comments  10

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  • Choking dog
    08/11/2015 10:14am

    Hey your article say's "Make a fist and push firmly up and forward, just behind the rib cage." Shouldn't that say just BELOW the rib cage. Thanks

  • 08/11/2015 12:59pm

    "Behind" indicates the opposite of "in front of". I think behind is the better descriptor here.

  • 08/12/2015 03:38am

    How can one get behind the dogs rib cage? You can only place your thumbs below it!

  • 08/12/2015 03:09pm

    You and butchholland seem to want to try to find something to nitpick. This sounds like good advice to me. If you have a Chihuahua or toy poodle you may only get your thumbs into that position, if you have a bigger dog you may get your entire fist into that position, (or possibly both fists). The basic principle is the same regardless of the size ratio of your hands to your dog. If you want to be a doofus and make fun of this advice instead of taking it seriously, it's your choice, but it may be your pet's life that could be in jeopardy if you pass off serious advice as something to make fun of. I have two dogs, one is twice as big as the other, and I can see how the technique would be the same but applied slightly differently on each dog.
    I'll accept this advice as serious and well intentioned and I will accept your comments as being that of a possible troll, no offense intended but if you don't want to be considered to be a troll don't post comments that make you look like a troll.

  • 01/18/2016 08:56am

    I think butt head would be the better descriptor for Amazon and Butch!

  • 12/01/2015 11:20am

    That is "behind"...you are thinking "within".

  • 12/01/2015 11:18am

    No. Behind not below.

    Naturally a dog's rib cage is horizontal, with the front towards the head and back towards the rear. This is different from a human where the rib cage is naturally vertical, with the top towards the head and bottom towards the feet. When doing the heimlich for a HUMAN you would place your hands just *below* the rib cage, "below" meaning downward from the ribcage closer to the feet. For a DOG you would need to place your hands just *behind* the rib cage, "behind" meaning further back closer to the rear of the dog.

    Place your hands behind the rib cage and thrust upward (towards the ceiling) and forward (towards the dog's head).

  • 01/19/2016 02:32pm

    Alchemy, I'd say you understand it as well as anyone was expected to understand it. A few seem to have a bullheaded opinion and refuse to look away from their narrow minded viewpoint. I envisioned sitting on the floor and holding the dog in front of me for better control. I imagine holding the dog as if it's sitting on the floor in front of me or on my lap, with it's front legs off of the floor, in other words sitting on it's ass with it's spine perpendicular to the floor. That would mean that my hands/arms would be wrapped around the dog as they would be wrapped around a human, therefore "below" would be a proper descriptor. If it would be a big dog and that position not practical I imagine the dog on all four standing on the floor making "behind" the proper descriptor.
    Anyone who isn't capable of making the distinction and relationship of the position shouldn't be attempting to even feed a dog much less perform such a maneuver. If something that simple and obvious is too much to comprehend how can it be expected for the person with that mentality to be able to determine how much pressure to apply to be effective without being so much as to cause injury to the dog? Do the world a favor and resolve to NEVER own a pet so you don't risk putting yourself into a position where you might have to think on a level beyond that of a toddler.

  • 01/19/2016 02:56pm

    I can see how you would have that image. Although, just fyi, sitting a dog back on its haunches could do more harm than good. Gravity would not be on your side and with all the motion of the maneuver and possibly flailing of the dog, the object could end up moving further down the throat.

    I wholeheartedly agree though that if you can't figure out, at the very least through context, how to interpret "behind" vs "below"... You really shouldn't be left responsible for another living being!

  • Angry!
    05/21/2016 07:09am

    Just want you to know that I am angry with this site. Yesterday my dog started choking. I had read on this site what to do and had saved the link. I had my computer open and clicked on choking for a fast look to make sure I did the right thing. While I was glancing at your instructions a pop-ad came up, obscured the instructions, and I could NOT GET RID OF IT. What a total waste of time this site has been for me. Thanks for nothing.


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