Dog choking or cat hacking scares us to death, because pets often chew up and swallow stuff they shouldn’t. Have your pets ever choked on something they chew? Shadow-Pup loves to chew up inedible objects, no matter how much we supervise. Learn how to administer the pet Heimlich to save a life!
When Karma-Kat came to live with us, that put lots of cat toys within Magical-Dawg’s reach. Seren had never been too keen on such things, and she was already nine years old when Magic came as a puppy. He loved to swipe Seren’s “sparkle-balls” and ended up with sparkly poop. Once Karma’s toys added to the kitty quotient, the big ol’ dog had a field day seeing how many cat toys he could stuff into his jaws.
Bravo played with rocks. And Shadow-Pup loves to chew sticks. He’s already got one caught in the roof of his mouth. That’s the perfect opportunity for choking, and a need for the pet Heimlich. I hope that we’ll never need it, though. In case you do, read on!
Also refer to this post on why cats and dogs suckle on objects.
Bravo continued the tradition. He chewed lots of things–and the vet says one of his baby tooth canines (the “fang” teeth) was dark, cracked and dead, probably from chewing something hard. He enjoyed the cat toys enormously and, like Magic before him, REALLY liked my husband’s socks. In fact, during one car ride, he URPED up two of the socks. YIKES! Thank doG he didn’t choke.
Shadow-Pup hasn’t been quite so focussed on socks. But he got ahold of a used clothes dryer sheet, and felt very sick, vomiting multiple times. Since then, we guard these items religiously!
Common Cause of Pets Choking
Anything that can be swallowed is a potential choking hazard. Dogs and especially puppies are notorious for grabbing, tasting, and chewing anything within reach, so choose safe dog toys. Our first dog often played with sticks, and more than once he ran crying to us, mouth wide open with a crunched piece of limb jammed into the roof of his mouth.
Cats more typically paw-pat and grab items, but some also chew. Karma-Kat gnawed the toes off my house slippers. String type objects may end up gulped because once kitty starts to swallow, she can’t stop until the whole ribbon or thread gets gulped. Karma also likes to crunch feathers, and those little sharp pieces can be a problem for cats, too. He still chases dog balls and grabs small plastic rings from the milk jug. I suspect his middle name is “Jaws.”
Signs of Dog Choking & Cat Choking
Swallowed objects that are small enough may not pose any problems if they pass out of the body. A dog’s interest in cat toys (or even swallow-able pieces of canine toys) can create dangers if cause an intestinal blockage, and hopefully they’ll pass out of his system with no problems.
But when the object lodges in the throat or windpipe, puppies can become frantic as they try to dislodge it with gagging, retching and coughing. That’s when the Heimlich comes in handy. They might paw their mouths or rub their face against the ground. If the object blocks the airway, choking can kill your pet.
Even a partial blockage could cause fainting. Small balls can stopper the throat like a cork in a wine bottle, in which case you have minutes to save your pet’s life. Here’s what you need to do.
What To Do About Choking Pets
When your pet chokes, restrain your dog or your cat. You can’t help him if he’s flailing around. He may bite you out of panic when you try to look inside his mouth.
Use a cloth to grip and pull the tongue out of the way. That may actually help dislodge the object. If the pet will allow it, use tongs or needle-nose pliers to grasp the object. If you hear wheezing, air is getting through—but only try twice and if unsuccessful, speed to the ER for help!
For sticks or bones, bolt cutters or similar tools that cut through the stick to release the pressure, to remove it. When the item is deeper in the throat beyond reach, try using gentle compression on both sides of the chest while he’s standing to force enough air out to dislodge the object.
Pet Heimlich Maneuver
You can also use a modified Heimlich. Pets are shaped differently than people, but the same principle applies.
For small pups and cats, hold his back against your stomach (head up, paws down), and find the soft hollow under the ribs. Your fist should fit into this spot. Pull up and in two or three times, toward your own tummy, using a thrusting motion.
If your dog is too big to lift, place him on his side and kneel behind his back. Place your fist in the hollow under his rib cage, and push upward and inward sharply, in the head’s direction and toward your knees. Remove the object once it jars loose. If it doesn’t, you can continue the Heimlich in the back seat of your car while somebody drives you to the vet clinic for help.
What to Do After Dog Choking & Cat Choking
In most cases, getting rid of the choking obstruction allows the pet to breathe again on his own. But it’s still important to have your pet checked out by the veterinarian, even if your first aid gets rid of the choking hazard. The foreign object could have left abrasions inside the mouth or throat that require treatment. You can find A-to-Z answers about pet first aid in my book. *s*
We can prevent dog choking and cat choking by keeping small items away from pets. Puppy and kitty proof your pet’s toys, and supervise playtime outside. Anything that doesn’t move faster than he does could be a choking hazard waiting to happen! So . . . my husband and I must now be diligent about counting socks and dryer sheets.
What about your pets? Ever had a choking incident? Or have they eaten something they shouldn’t? What did you do? Please share!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!