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Suffocation, or hypoxia, occurs when the lungs do not get a sufficient amount of oxygen to pass on to the body's tissues.

What Causes Suffocation?

There are a few common emergencies that can cause a dog to suffocate:

  1. Choking due to an object or food article lodging in the throat
  2. Lung injury
  3. Drowning
  4. Being trapped in spaces lacking air, boxes, cupboards, etc.
  5. Carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from the dog being kept in unventilated spaces, such as car trunks, garages with a car running, in basements or laundry rooms with fuel burning appliances, and in rooms with fireplaces or wood burning stoves
  6. Being trapped in a burning building
  7. Inhalation of toxic gases low in oxygen, such as smoke and fumes from gasoline, propane, refrigerants, solvents, etc.

What are the Signs of Suffocation?

The first sign of suffocation is extreme anxiety, gasping, or straining to get a breath with the head and neck extended. If oxygen continues to be scarce, the dog will lose consciousness.

A state of cyanosis may be seen, where the tongue and the mucous membranes turn blue in color. In some cases, when suffocation is due to carbon monoxide poisoning, the tongue and mucous membranes may become cherry red in color.

What is the Treatment for Suffocation?

When a dog suddenly gasps or struggles to breathe, check to see if a foreign object is lodged in the throat. Perform the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the foreign object, if this is the case. If the dog is suffocating due to other reasons, it is essential to get the dog breathing freely again.

If you find that the dog is not breathing, or is breathing shallowly, provide artificial respiration and take the dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian so that ventilator support can be provided. Suffocation from carbon monoxide poisoning normally happens when smoke or fumes are inhaled. Oxygen in large quantities, given immediately, will help the dog to breath and regain consciousness.

If the dog has an open lung injury due to a chest wound, pinch the skin together over the wound to close it. Do this with the help of a bandage wrapped around the chest and immediately take the dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian.

A dog suffering from suffocation can be saved with timely help and treatment.

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