Pet First Aid: Choking & CPR  

Posted by — Kim in , , , , , , , , ,

Here's a great article that I thought I would pass's good to be prepared! –Kim

Pet First Aid: Choking & CPR
Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM

Recently I had an emergency call from a client who thought that her pet had stopped breathing – her pet had been chewing on something behind the couch.

This scenario has happened before...meaning, it could happen to YOUR dog or cat.

I tried to talk her through performing some rescue breaths to see if his airway was really obstructed. Then, if so, I was going to try and describe how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

This is hard on the phone, and virtually impossible to do in an emergency.

An Emergency is NOT the time to learn!

But, being in this situation sure is not the time to learn this stuff. There are a few things that you need to do first.

  1. KNOW how to check if your dog or cat stops breathing.
  2. PRACTICE what to do IF this ever happens.

I have done a HUGE Dog and Cat First Aid Video Presentation that shows you all of these steps in detail.

The video is here (for cats and dogs):

The signs of choking are much the same as a person: Your dog is struggling to breathe, with their mouth open. They may be pawing at their mouth. They may be attempting to vomit. You may hear an unusual sound as they attempt to breathe and pull air through a foreign object lodged in their throat.


The causes of choking are with anything that can lodge in the throat. An example would be a dog fetching a ball, and having it lodge in their throat. A variety of food objects can lodge in your dog's airway.


CALL YOUR VET IF NEEDED. Dogs are notorious for trying to swallow things that are a little too big. The result can be choking where an object lodges in the airway.

REMOVE THE OBJECT. When time is of the essence, you must act quickly.

  1. Open your dog's mouth.
  2. Grasp the upper jaw with one hand over the muzzle.
  3. Press the lips over the upper teeth with your fingers on one side and the thumb on the other so that the dog's lips are between its teeth. Firm pressure may be required. The dog then can't close its mouth without biting itself and is less able to bite you. Pull his tongue out of the way.
  4. Reach deeply in to the back of your dog's throat and try to grasp the object. If it is a ball, and you are unable to move it, try using some type of instrument; tweezers, pliers or even a spoon shaped tong.
  5. If this method does not work for extracting the object from your dog's throat, try this technique. Lay your dog on its side. For small pets, place your palms behind the last rib on both sides of your pet's abdomen and press your palms together quickly 2-3 times. Repeat if necessary. For larger dogs, place both hands behind the last rib and push down and slightly forward sharply. Repeat rapidly until the object is dislodged.
  6. If you still can't remove the object and if your dog can breathe, transport him to your veterinarian. However, if your dog can't breathe you must continue to try to dislodge the object either by compression or by using the Heimlich, as your dog is unlikely to survive the delay in reaching veterinary aid.
  7. COMPRESSIONS. Gentle compressions on both sides of the widest point of the chest may help dislodge a ball or other object. Place both hands at the back of your dog over the widest point of the chest while he is standing, and give 5 firm compressions to dislodge the ball.
  8. HEIMLICH. If after trying to manually remove the object, and after gentle compressions it won't move, and your dog is still not breathing, then proceed with the Heimlich.
  9. TURN your dog upside down, with his back against your chest.
  10. WITH both arms, give sharp thrusts to the abdomen.
  11. AFTER 5 thrusts, stop and check to see if the object is visible in the airway. If so remove it and give 2 mouth-to-nose rescue breaths. If the breaths do not go in, repeat HEIMLICH.
  12. In some cases, your dog is too large to pick up. You can lay him on his side, and make a fist. Put your fist into the hollow beneath the rib cage, then push firmly inward and upward. Repeat 5 times, and then check to see if the object has been dislodged.
  13. If, after a few attempts, it is still lodged, but you can still hear wheezing and some noise when your dog is breathing, then you have time to rush to your vet.
  14. CPR. If your dog completely stops breathing, then you will have to know the CPR steps (see below).
  15. After the airway has been opened, you may need to give artificial respiration.
  16. CLOSE your dog's mouth and breathe directly into his nose until his chest expands. If the chest doesn't expand then go back to STEP 2 – "AIRWAY" (see CPR below).
  17. VENTILATE at 15 breaths per minute. One BREATH every 4 seconds.
  18. PROCEED to STEP 4 – "CIRCULATION" (see CPR below).

In some cases of choking, your pet's mouth has been injured. This means feeding a soft food for 7-14 days while the wounds heal.

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

See Pet CPR Video here.
  1. Assess Responsiveness. Before you start CPR, ensure that your pet is not still breathing, and their heart is not beating. If so, they DON'T need CPR.
  2. AIRWAY. Establish a PATENT airway. Perform 2 rescue breaths by wrapping your hand around their muzzle and blowing into their nose. If the chest rises, then the airway is patent. If the chest DOES NOT rise, then you need to check for an OBSTRUCTION. If this is the case then you need to do the HEIMLICH. In this procedure you are holding your pet upside down, their head is pointing down and their spine is against your body. You give 5 sharp thrusts to the abdomen – you are putting force on the abdomen to help dislodge any obstruction.
  3. ONCE you have a patent airway – you give 2 rescue breaths. When you see the chest rise and fall, and you know that the airway is open, then you proceed to Step 4 – Circulation.
  4. CIRCULATION. In this step you are compressing the chest, and that in turn compresses the heart. This is best performed by having your pet on their right side. The heart is easiest located on the left side of the chest, behind the left armpit. For a large dog use 2 hands, For a cat use your thumb and forefinger. Compress 15 compressions – 3 compressions every 2 seconds, then follow this up with 2 rescue breath.

Continue until your pet starts breathing again or you have emergency care at a Veterinarian.

Copyright © Four Paws Online Ltd.

Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM has been a practicing Veterinarian for almost 20 years. He is a strong advocate of Natural Pet Health Care, and knows that the most important way to heal our pets and prevent disease is through proper nutrition. He developed Ultimate Canine to give our dogs that extra advantage – something that will provide them with everything they need to develop stronger immune systems to fight disease, heal sore or stiff joints, and help them live longer, happier lives. Dr. Andrew Jones' main focus is on alternative, non-traditional remedies for pets. His interest in alternative pet medicine culminated in the writing of his book, Veterinary Secrets Revealed.

Also, see:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at Wednesday, November 02, 2011 and is filed under , , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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