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What To Do If Your Dog Is Choking

How to perform the Heimlich maneuver and CPR on pets

By: College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University

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Header photo: Isselee

Some dogs—especially puppies—will chew on nearly anything in sight. Dog and cat owners may find their curious pet chewing on shoes, furniture, and even clothing. Although it can be hard to stop young pups and playful cats from chewing on objects other than toys, it is still possible for pets to choke on their toys, other objects, and even food. In addition to learning how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking dog, it is equally important to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a dog in case of an emergency.

“Pet owners should perform the Heimlich maneuver on their pet if they believe the pet is choking on something,” said James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Usually this means that the owner has seen the pet swallow something and that the pet has been having trouble breathing since. This can be an object that was swallowed unintended, but it can also be something like a toy or a rawhide.”

What To Do if Your Dog Is Choking

• If a dog or cat is suffocating, it may start to panic. In this case, pet owners should approach their pet and carefully restrain it.

• Do not muzzle the dogs.

• First, check to see if the object can be removed with your fingers.

• Open the animal’s mouth using two hands and use your fingers to remove the object. Be sure to not push it further in, 

• It may also be helpful to use the flat side of a spoon to push the object closer if it is out of reach.

  • If you see a large object, such as a ball or toy, press your thumbs underneath both sides of the dog’s jaw near the base of the throat and press upwards. This might dislodge it.

Heimlich Alternative For Small Dogs

  • If the object cannot be removed with fingers, objects may be removed from SMALL DOGS’ and cats’ throats by the owner gently picking up the dog or cat by their thighs and swinging them from side to side. Apply forward pressure to the abdomen just behind the ribcage if the condition does not improve. Larger dogs require the Heimlich maneuver if the object cannot be removed with fingers.



How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on large dogs:

If your large dog is standing, place your arms around its belly and make a fist with your hands. Push up and forward just behind the rib cage.

If the dog is lying down, place one hand on its back and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upward.

Be sure to check and remove any loose objects in or around the dog’s mouth that have become dislodged.

To ensure the object did not damage the animal’s throat or cause any other injury, take your pet to the veterinarian after the incident.


Sometimes serious choking and lack of oxygen requires your pet to receive CPR, which is a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration. CPR should be used when you cannot feel or hear the animal’s heartbeat and when the animal is unconscious. Here’s a step-by-step for how to perform CPR on your dog via the Red Cross.

In addition, Barr recommends keeping a first aid kit in case of any pet emergency. (Here’s how to make your own pet first aid kit or buy one here.) “A human first aid kit is quite helpful when taking care of pet injuries,” Barr said. “The only addition I would add would be a small leash and a muzzle. These can be helpful in helping the owner to manage the animal during the post injury phase.”

Knowing How to Perform the Heimlich Maneuver Saves Lives

Although we try our best to prevent pets from chewing on foreign objects, accidents still happen. It is important to be prepared for any choking episode to prevent your pet from serious injury or death. This information saves lives! From a Modern Dog reader:

I just wanted to write and let you know that your magazine helped save my dog’s life.  I recently subscribed to Modern Dog and my first issue was the Summer 2012 issue.  I read in there about how to perform the Heimlich on a dog and at the time thought to myself this is great information that may come in handy!  Little did I know I would need it about a month later.  I had given my Leopard Catahoula mix, Ruthie, two small strips of duck jerky for a treat and sat down.  I noticed she looked like she was trying to cough but not having any luck.  I was able to use the information I had learned from your article and with one swift jerk, the jerky came out.  She was so happy afterwards that she was wagging her tail and bouncing up and down.  So, a huge thank you from Ruthie and myself to Modern Dog magazine for helping us avert what could have been a tragedy.  I am so happy that I have subscribed to your magazine and am looking forward to the issues to come! Thanks, Andrea and Ruthie


Last Updated:

By: College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University
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