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Cat & Dog Choking: What To Do When Your Pet is Choking

Cat & Dog Choking: What To Do When Your Pet is Choking

Between playing, eating and having adventures, accidents are bound to happen. While most accidents involve injuries there is also the possibility of your pet choking. Our Lacey emergency vets discuss choking in dogs and cats as well as what steps to take in this situation.

What are the Signs of Choking in Dogs and Cats?

Most dogs and cats will display some combination of the following symptoms if they are choking:

  • Distress
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Rubbing their face against the ground
  • Gagging or retching
  • Salivation
  • Coughing
  • Blue mucous membranes (cyanosis)

If your dog or cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, perform the following steps and contact our emergency vets immediately to have your pet seen.

What To Do If Your Cat or Dog is Choking

Attempt to Remove the Object Blocking Your Pets Airway

First, restrain your pet. Choking cats and dogs will struggle, and this can potentially cause them harm. If they are choking because a cord, string or other item is wrapped around the neck, carefully use a pair of scissors to cut it off.

If the cat or dog is choking on something lodged in their mouth or throat, open the mouth to see if you can locate the object. If you can see it, try to swipe it away with your finger.

If you cannot see it, don't try to poke your finger down your pet's throat in an effort to find it, as this can cause injury. If you can't dislodge the object by swiping it away, do not try to poke it or push on it, as this could force it further down the throat.

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats & Dogs

If you are not able to remove the object your pet is choking on, you'll have to do the Heimlich maneuver:

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats:
  • Sweep your cat's mouth for the object, if you cannot locate and remove then perform the Heimlich Maneuver
  • Hold your cat with their back against your chest and feet hanging down
  • Use your hands to gently but firmly push on her belly in quick, upward thrusts, about five times
  • Check if the object has been dislodged
  • If not, hold the cat by the back hips with their head down and sweep their mouth
  • Firmly tap their back and sweep their mouth again
Heimlich Maneuver For Smaller Dogs
  • Carefully hold your dog on your lap and turn them onto their back
  • Using the palm of your hand apply pressure right beneath the rib cage
  • Push firmly inwards and upwards five times in a thrusting motion
  • Roll your dog back onto their side and check their mouth for the food or object that was causing the issue
Heimlich Maneuver For Medium and Large Dogs
  • If your dog is standing, put your arms around them so your hands join at the abdomen
  • Make a fist with your hands and firmly and swiftly push up and forward five times in a thrusting motion
  • Check that object has been fully dislodged and removed from the mouth
  • If your dog is laying on the floor, place one hand on the dog's back and use the other hand to push or squeeze their abdomen upwards and forwards toward the spine
  • Check their mouth to ensure that object has been dislodged and cleared entirely from the mouth

Performing CPR on Your Dog or Cat

If this doesn’t work and your cat loses their pulse, begin CPR at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute and continue these until at the veterinary practice.

Next Steps After You Have Stopped Your Pet From Choking

Even if you remove the object that is choking your cat or dog, it is wise to bring your pet to the vet anyway. The vet will be able to ensure that the choking didn't cause any harm to your pet's body that you can't see.

How to Prevent Your Cat or Dog From Choking

To minimize the chances of your pet choking in the future, make sure to keep an eye on anything that could be a potential choking hazard.

Generally, dog and cat food is formulated with the animal's size in mind, but it's always a good idea to monitor them when eating.

Monitor your dog or cat during play and make sure any toys do not include pieces that could break off and become potential choking hazards.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat or dog begins choking you should contact and visit our Lacey emergency vets right away.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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