How to Help Your Choking Dog



Some dogs will chew and scarf down almost anything! Would you know what to do if something became lodged or stuck in their windpipe and they began to choke? When your pet is experiencing a life-threatening airway obstruction, you need to remain calm but act quickly!

Choking can be mistaken for other symptoms, including coughing, gagging, reverse sneezing or vomiting. If your animal is able to engage in any normal activities or interactions, chances are they are not choking. Signs of choking include discoloured tongue or gums (blue, grey or white), anxiety, panic or loss of consciousness. If your pet begins to panic and is pawing at their mouth, it’s a clear sign that they may need immediate attention.

Follow these simple instructions:

  1. If your dog is coughing, give them a few moments initially to expel the object.
  2. If the object is not expelled, gently open your dog’s mouth to perform a sweep through with your fingers to dislodge any foreign objects. It’s important to remain gentle and calm as you don’t want to push any object down further into the throat.
  3. If the object cannot be removed, try one of the following techniques:
  • Using the heel of your palm, give a gentle but sharp blow between your pet’s shoulder blades about 5 times.

Pet Heatlh - Hand position for choking dogs

  • Gently lift your dog’s hind end off the floor with their head facing down like a wheel barrel to help expel any foreign material in the right direction.

Pet Health - lifting dogs for choking

  • If you are unable to clear an object from the airway, you will need to try the Heimlich Maneuver. Standing behind or to the side of your dog, place a fist against your dog’s abdomen just where the sternum ends.

Pet Health - Heimlich for dogsPet Health - Heimlich for dogs


Please note: for photo purposes, positioning the dog on back feet is not recommended, rather it’s being shown to clarify the position of the fist or double fist placement just behind the xiphoid (ribs & sternum).


  • With the other hand grasp your fist and push upwards and forward (towards the dog’s shoulders), quickly and forcefully.

Pet Health - Heimlich for dogs

Do this thrusting action 4-5 times and then proceed to check the dog’s airway again and clear any debris out of the mouth. Repeat the chest thrusts if necessary. If the dog is unconscious, clear the airway and perform rescue breathing.

Remember, it’s always best to take your dog in to see a veterinarian after a choking episode, especially where any kind force was used. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your dog for any damage to the throat, back or ribs that may require further care.

To learn CPR and other pet first-aid techniques, talk to your veterinarian, or local St. John Ambulance.

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