All choked up

Q: My German Shepherd almost choked on his chew recently, but he managed to regurgitate it before things got worse. What should I do if this happens again?
By Dr Chong Lip Ren
Published on Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Q: My German Shepherd almost choked on his chew recently, but he managed to regurgitate it before things got worse. What should I do if this happens again?

Choking on foreign objects such as toys, slippers or even food—like big pieces of dehydrated treats or bones—can be very dangerous. Hence, it is important that owners monitor what their pets have access to. Toys should be safe and durable, while food should be bite-size.

Possible signs of a choking animal

  • Gagging action
  • Drooling excessively
  • Inability to swallow
  • Stretching out its neck to get more air
  • Sometimes frantic and agitated (due to distress)
  • Collapsing and losing consciousness

In times of distress, a choking dog may panic and bite/injure his owners. If your furkid allows it and it is safe to do so, you can open his mouth and check whether you can see any foreign object. If you do and can reach in safely, try to remove it without pushing it further in. If you cannot visualise anything, stop and move on to perform a Heimlich-like manoeuvre.

Similar to what is done in humans, a fist is made under the sternum and short upward thrusts are used to force air out of the lungs and behind the foreign object to expel it. This may be enough to dislodge the object so your furkid can manipulate it out with its tongue.

Position and technique for small dogs

  • Position your dog in a standing position and kneel next to your dog.
  • Position your knuckles just under his last set of ribs and have your other hand supporting over the knuckles.

Position and technique for large dogs

  • Have your dog in a standing position and stand over your pet.
  • Position a fist just under his last set of ribs and have your other hand wrapped over the fist (hugging him from the top).

Heimlich manoeuvre for both small and large dogs

  • Push firmly inwards (towards you) and upwards (towards the pet’s head) quickly five times.
  • Check his mouth and dislodge any foreign object (if safe and possible).
  • If the pet is still choking, quickly repeat another set of five.
  • If he is still choking, rush him down to your veterinarian to seek medical attention.
  • At any point, if your dog becomes unconscious, start CPR and mouth-to-snout breathing on him while en route to your vet.