Dogs are especially curious and greedy, at every moment sniffing something with their noses and picking up objects they find interesting with their mouths. In these circumstances, blocking the airways with foreign objects is not a rare situation.
A lot of dogs get to the emergency room every year because they suffocate due to obstructions in the throat or mouth. Often, however, the lack of time does not allow us to get to the nearest veterinary medical office, so we, the owners, have to take measures and save the life of the beloved animal. In this article, I will go over the emergency measures to be taken if your dog shows signs of suffocation due to objects stuck in its throat.
The signs of choking are represented by: cough, panting, wheezing, the dog rubbing his nose with his paws, hypersalivation, vomiting, blue tongue and gums, the dog gives clear signs of suffocation, shaking, denoting a state of discomfort.
Most of the time, the blockage is removed immediately by the dog without any external help. Coughing is the first reflex by which the object is dislocated and eliminated. The cough confirms that the animal can breathe. At the first signs of choking, we wait for a few episodes of coughing to see if the dog manages to remove the foreign object on its own. If the situation gets worse or he fails to recover, it is time to intervene.
First, you will try to find out what caused the obstruction of the airways. Slowly, you will try to open the dog’s mouth and see the foreign object. Caution: A dog in this situation is stressed and may bite, involuntarily. You, open the dog’s mouth, move the tongue with 2 fingers and look for the blockage. If necessary, you can use a flashlight.
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If the foreign object is accessible, you will try to remove it with your fingers or with long tweezers. If you are unsure of the success of this maneuver, it is better to give up. There is a risk of pushing the object further down the larynx and worsening the prognosis. As a rule, in small dogs, this is more difficult because of the tight space of action.
Next, if the object could not be removed manually, you will call for the help of gravity. Small and medium-sized dogs will be grabbed by their hind limbs, lifted, and shaken gently so that you do not damage their joints. Large dogs will be raised by the hind limbs but supported by the forelimbs. As above, you shake them slightly, hoping that the object will be removed.
If this maneuver does not work, you will apply some interscapular slaps to the animal. With the palm bridge, you hit the region between the shoulder blades briefly and strongly. The shock waves provided by this hit should dislodge the foreign object.
Ultimately, when none of the above solutions works and the dog does not recover, you turn to the Heimlich maneuver, which is successfully used in humans. Do not use this method unless you are absolutely convinced that the animal has its airway blocked by a foreign object. The maneuver can cause rib fractures or internal injuries if not applied correctly. However, asphyxiation puts your dog’s life at greater risk than a rib fracture, so it’s a risk you need to take.
To perform the Heimlich maneuver, you will offer a hug to the dog as follows: you position yourself on his back; the active hand with which you will press, will be made a fist and placed where the sternum ends, the first part of the abdomen (attention: you do not press on the chest but on the soft side of the abdomen); with the other hand you wrap the fist. Once the position for Heimlich is fixed, you perform 4-5 sharp and firm movements, pressing on the abdomen and at the same time pulling the fist toward the front, toward the dog’s shoulders. In this way, you will urge the diaphragm to press on the lungs and rapidly propel a column of air to dislodge the foreign object. After an episode of 4-5 pressures, you stop and check if the object has been removed. It can be thrown out of the body or it can be in the mouth.
If the animal is not breathing, you will need to proceed with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
If the animal is breathing and out of danger, go to the veterinarian to make sure that any danger has passed. In the future, watch your dog carefully and never leave around the house objects that may become dangerous.
To prevent choking, you should always check for the presence of small toys, balls, or other easy-to-choke-on objects in the house where your dog is allowed to play.
Outside, in the yard, or where you take it for a walk, check for the presence of sticks, stones, and other dangers that your dog might swallow and get rid of them, or do not let your dog loose in areas where they exist.
Do not give your dog bones. However, there are certain types of chewing rewards for dogs that are safe.
If you have a brachycephalic dog, be aware of signs of tracheal collapses, such as coughing that sounds like a goose scream, excessive salivation, exercise reluctance, and choking when drinking water or food. Take your dog to your veterinarian if you notice that he has these symptoms.