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Choking - What to Do: A True Story


Last week, we had a very scary event with one of our VoycePack dogs.  Sammy, the German Shepherd, had a chewy treat and while he was chewing it, started to choke on it.  His mom, Emily, had stepped out of the room for a minute, and in that brief time, Sammy had gone from happily chewing to almost losing consciousness.  When she returned to the room a minute later, Sammy was on the floor, and his tongue was turning blue.


Luckily, this story has a happy ending.  Emily correctly assessed the situation and performed the correct steps to help clear Sammy’s trachea; essentially she completed a doggie Heimlich maneuver.  Both Sammy and Emily were of course terrified about the event, but everyone has made a full recovery.  If your dog was choking, would you know what to do? Here are a few steps to follow for a better chance of a positive outcome and recovery like Sammy and Emily. 

Step 1: Assess your pet.  Is he breathing at all?  Can you see an obstruction in his mouth?  If so, remove it!

Step 2: Lift.  Elevate his midsection and rump, so his head is pointed down.  This allows you to take advantage of gravity.  If he is on a bed or sofa, hang his head off the bed, and raise his rump.

Step 3: Coupage.  Coupage is the fancy word for “inducing cough.”  Forcefully apply pressure to both sides of your dog, to encourage him to cough.  The air moving quickly from his lungs, through his trachea, will hopefully help force the foreign object out of his airway.

Step 4: Clear.  As you force him to cough, clear away any debris from his mouth.  This may include the foreign object, but it may also include saliva, foam, or froth.  If you are by yourself, lower his rump in order to clear his mouth.  If you have a friend or assistant, she can clear while you continue to coupage.

Step 5: Repeat.  Repeat steps 2-4 as needed to fully clear the airway.  In some cases the airway is easily cleared; your dog may even try to eat what he was just choking on!  In other cases you may need to repeat the steps several times to fully clear the airway. 

Keep in mind that brachycephalic dogs (smush-faced dogs, like Pugs), overweight dogs, or dogs with small tracheas (like Yorkshire Terriers), are more predisposed to choking. I recommend giving these dogs small portions of food or treats, in bite sized pieces.  Encouraging slow eating may help prevent choking as well.  Prevention is always easier than treating, especially for choking.  And it is always a good idea to be prepared for any type of emergency that may occur.

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Posted on May 30, 2016 by ostanfield Behavior & Training