Pets, like children, can choke by chewing on small toys, balls, pieces of toys, bones, rawhides, etc. Often, an object may simply be lodged between teeth or at the back of the throat, and although it does not hinder breathing, it will be extremely annoying to the animal. A true choking victim has the object completely blocking the airway, allowing minimal or no air to pass. These patients are critical, and time is crucial.
- Coughing or gagging.
- Gasping or inability to breathe or cough.
- Pawing at mouth.
- Severe drooling/salivation.
- Cyanotic mucous membranes (blue/purple gums).
- Staggering or loss of consciousness.
- Visualization of foreign object in mouth/throat.
- Foul odor from the mouth (if the object has been caught for some time).
Be very careful about placing your fingers into the mouth! They will bite as a reflex, and may scratch vehemently.
Animal may be frantic. Attempt to calm the animal (and yourself).
Try to visualize the object. If reachable, use hemostats, pliers, etc., to dislodge the object. (Again, be very careful about using your fingers.)
If the object is still lodged deep in the throat, and the animal is not able to pass any air, use the Heimlich Maneuver.
Always check the mouth after 3-4 chest or abdominal thrusts for loosening of the choking object.
Weight UNDER 20 lbs:
~ Position the animal head down. Use a support hold, propping him/her between your knees, on pillows, etc.
~ Place 3-4 gently thumps on the side of the chest.
Weight OVER 20 lbs:
~ Place the animal on its back.
~ Place the palm of one hand at the base of the sternum (very front of the abdomen). Put your other hand over the first hand for more support.
~ Use gentle thrusts from the abdominal cavity, upward into the rib cage.
Once the object of the choking victim is successfully dislodged, transfer the animal to a veterinary facility as soon as possible to allow guidance on the necessary follow-up treatments or diagnostics. Severe secondary damage can happen to the throat tissues, as well as the lungs and ribs, compromising the health of the seemingly recovered victim and may even lead to death well past the choking event.
- Do not allow pets to play with small objects.
- Ask your veterinarian what size limitations are appropriate for your size pet.
- Do not allow your pets to chew on rawhides or similar chewables without supervision.
- Once a chew piece gets too small, do not allow further chewing. Throw it away!
- Check all toys for removable parts.
- Use only chew resistant toys.
- Do not give bones as chew toys. Even bones that do not splinter can still cause choking if the animal tries to swallow too large a piece. Other bones can become lodged around the jaw.