What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed Something They Shouldn’t Have

PetMD Editorial
Written by:
PetMD Editorial
Published: October 7, 2019
Updated: March 3, 2022
Vet Reviewed by Lauren Jones, VMD
What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed Something They Shouldn’t Have

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on March 3, 2022, by Dr. Lauren Jones, VMD

If your dog swallowed something toxic or potentially toxic, such as antifreeze, chocolate, medications, supplements, or drugs in any form, contact your veterinarian or ASPCA poison control (888-426-4435) immediately. If your dog is having trouble breathing, contact your veterinarian right away.

Dogs frequently swallow things they shouldn’t, especially inquisitive pups, but also dogs whose chewing drive is high (Labrador RetrieversPit Bulls, etc.).

Although some objects may be small enough to swallow and pass through the digestive tract with minor consequences, others may get stuck or do damage at some point—in the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach or intestines. 

If you are unsure whether your dog could have ingested something, it is best to be cautious and visit your veterinarian. Left untreated, swallowed objects can be fatal.

Any sudden onset of choking that affects respiration should be dealt with immediately.

Immediate Care for Swallowed Objects

The specific steps to take will depend on what your dog ingested, how long ago it happened, and your dog’s symptoms. Here is a general guide for dealing with swallowed objects:

  1. If you know your dog swallowed an object, call your veterinarian immediately and take your dog to the vet’s office as soon as possible. The doctor may be able to induce vomiting or retrieve the object from the stomach before serious problems set in.
  • Never induce vomiting yourself without first speaking to a veterinarian. Many objects and chemicals are more dangerous if vomited. See “Poisons (Swallowed)” for guidelines.

  • If your dog swallowed something that might be poisonous, call the ASPCA poison control at 888-426-4435 for guidance.

  1. If the dog is choking, check their mouth for foreign objects that may be lodged there.
  • If there are bones lodged deep in the dog’s throat, do not try to pull them out. You will need to take your dog to the vet immediately to have them sedated so the object can be removed safely.

  • If you can see thread, string, or another form of cord hanging from the dog’s mouth, do not pull it or cut it. Doing so may cause injury to the throat or esophagus, among other sensitive structures.

  • If the swallowed object is sharp, do not try to remove it yourself.

  • If the dog is choking and you can’t see anything in the mouth, especially if the dog has become unconscious, skip to the dog Heimlich maneuver instructions.

  1. If you can see the object, you can try to remove it only if it’s very easily accomplished without injury to yourself.
  1. Even with one hand on the upper jaw and the other on the lower, any dog can bite, so use every precaution. If you are working by yourself, keep an index finger on your lower hand free to perform step 5.
  1. Look inside the mouth and sweep your finger from the back of the mouth forward to try to remove the obstruction.
  1. If you can’t move the object with your fingers, call your veterinarian or the emergency clinic right away.

Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs

Here are the steps for performing the Heimlich maneuver for dogs:

Small Dogs

Carefully lay your dog on their back or on their side, using one hand behind their back to steady. Place the palm of your hand on the abdomen just below the sternum and push inward and forward quickly. 

Large Dogs

Do not try to pick up a large dog; you may do further damage due to the animal's size. Instead, follow these steps:

  1. If the dog is standing, put your arms around their belly and clasp your hands. Make a fist and push firmly up and forward, just behind the sternum. Place the dog on their side afterward.

  2. If the dog is lying down on their side, place one hand on their back for support and use the other hand just below the sternum to squeeze the abdomen upward and forward.

After performing the Heimlich maneuver, check the dog's mouth and remove any objects that may have been dislodged using the steps described above. If the dog is not breathing, provide two rescue breaths (giving air through the nose and mouth), and immediately contact a veterinarian.

For dogs who have swallowed a ball and are unconcious, the eXternal eXtraction Technique (XXT) can be performed. With the dog on their back, extend the neck forward so the head is on the ground. Straddle the dog, identify the trachea (wind pipe), the stuck ball, and the "V"-shaped jaw. Grasp the jaw with both hands and use a swooping J-like motion to get down and under the ball for removal. Once retrieved, give two rescue breaths and seek veterinary care immediately.

Commonly Swallowed Objects

Here are some objects that dogs commonly swallow and the damage they could cause: 

Item

Choking

Hazard

Poisonous/

Toxic

Puncture

Risk

Intestinal 

Blockage

Ballons

X

  

X

Batteries

X

X

X

X

Bones

X

 

X

X

Chapstick/

Lipstick

X

 

X

X

Cigarette

 

X

  

Cough Drop

X

X (some)

  

Food Wrappers

(aluminum, plastic)

X

 

X

X

Fruit Seeds/Pits

X

X (some)

 

X

Gum

X

X (some)

 

X

Pencils/Pens

X

 

X

X

Plastic

X

 

X

X

Rocks

X

 

X

X

Rubber Bands/

Hair Ties

X

  

X

Silica Gel Packet

X

X (mild)

 

X

Socks

X

  

X

String

X

 

X

X

Tampons

X

 

X

X

Toys and/or squeakers

(especially tennis balls

and rope toys that dogs

enjoy chewing)

X

 

X

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Will Happen at the Veterinarian’s Office?

Treating a dog that has accidentally swallowed an object can vary widely from simply plucking the object from the mouth or throat while sedated to performing gastrointestinal surgery that may require the removal of large portions of bowel. The potential severity of a swallowed corn cob or sock cannot be underestimated.

A veterinarian will be able to perform a physical examination and use X-rays, an ultrasound, or an endoscope to determine if your dog swallowed something and what it might be. Based on what it is and where it is in your pet’s body, your veterinarian may recommend surgery, endoscopic removal, or other forms of treatment.

Tips for Preventing Your Dog From Eating Dangerous Household Objects

Although it’s almost impossible to stop dogs from putting things in their mouths, here are some preventive measures you can take:

  • Always supervise your dog while they’re chewing on toys or treats.

  • Avoid keeping moisture-swollen (well-chewed) dog chews around your home that can break apart easily.

  • Be diligent in picking up items like socks and underwear.

  • Remove large pits from fruit and dispose of them safely.

  • Take away chew toys and natural chews before they reach a size small enough to fit fully inside your dog’s mouth.

  • Don’t leave dog toys lying around when you are not home to supervise.

If your dog is a known chewer, they may need a basket muzzle when left unsupervised unless they are crated or in another safe environment. These types of muzzles allow your dog to breathe, pant, and even drink water while preventing them from eating anything they shouldn’t.


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