Dog Choking ? Recently a K-9 officer was credited with saving the life of a family pet who was choking. Harry, a lovable Shih Tzu, began choking on a raw-hide treat at his home in West Hartford. Frantic, Harry’s owners called for emergency assistance and K-9 officer Tom Lazure responded to the call. When Officer Lazure arrived, Harry had stopped breathing. Using his basic first-aid training for pets, Officer Lazure was able to administer a modified version of the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the treat and restore Harry’s breathing. A local veterinarian says that Harry should fully recover. Would you know what to do if your dog was choking?
It is important to recognize the symptoms of choking in a dog. Coughing while pawing at the face and/or gagging are signs that your dog may be choking. If your pet displays these behaviors while eating, chances are he has food stuck in the airway.
Before you approach your pet, remember that he or she may not respond favorably to your advance. Many pet owners have been bitten by otherwise docile animals while trying to administer first aid. Of course you want to help your dog, but be mindful that he or she may not view your actions as helpful at this point.
If you believe your pet is choking, immediately remove any collar that may be around his neck. Once you are certain there is nothing on the outside that may be interfering with his ability to safely swallow, the next step is to look within his mouth. Calmly talk to your pet while you attempt to look inside his mouth. If you can clearly see an obstruction, insert one or two fingers into your dogs throat and make a sweeping motion to dislodge the item. If you successfully remove the item that is cutting off the air supply for your dog, he should begin to breath and swallow normally. If you cannot see what is causing your dog to choke, or if you cannot safely remove the item, you will need to administer a modified Heimlich maneuver.
Hold your pet next to your body with his back to your chest or abdomen. With hands clasped together in a ball, position the choking dog so that your hands are located at the base of the sternum, between his chest and abdomen. You will want to make a quick upward thrusting motion with your hands to forcefully expel air from your dog. You may need to repeat this action several times before you can successfully dislodge the stuck item. After three or four attempts, if you are unsure if the item has been removed, check your dog’s mouth to see if you can see the item. If you can, attempt to remove it manually with your fingers using the sweeping motion described above. If you still cannot see anything, repeat the modified Heimlich process.
Another option for attempting to remove items that are causing your dog to choke would involve administering a firm blow to the back of the dog between his shoulder blades.
It is imperative that any pet that has experienced a choking episode be seen by a veterinarian immediately after the event, even if you are able to remove the offending item relatively quickly. If you are not having success in restoring proper breathing to a choking dog by using the methods described above, call for emergency assistance.
To learn more about Harry and Officer Lazure, you can read the Associated Press article here.
Wonderful article Dr. Carol. Thank you for sharing your information and insight about the many values dogs have brought to our lives.