Be Prepared: How To Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Dogs

​Be Prepared: How To Perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Dogs

Whether you’ve just gotten a puppy or you’ve had your canine companion for years, you want to honor your dog with a happy, healthy life. But try as you may to pet-proof your home and choose the safest toys, chances are you’ve learned the Murphy’s Law of pet ownership: If a dog can find the worst possible thing to chew on, it probably will.

While a dog’s chewing instinct can be comical and frustrating, it can also lead to life-threatening consequences. Avoiding the most common choking hazards for dogs and learning the canine Heimlich maneuver can help you prevent problems, prepare for emergencies — and perhaps even save your pet’s life.

1. Confirm Your Dog Is Choking

Before taking rescue measures, confirm your dog is truly in distress. Signs of choking include:

•    Panicked or anxious behavior
•    Violent coughing or retching
•    High-pitched whistling or squeaking noises
•    Gasping for breath
•    Discolored gums or tongue
•    Bulging eyes
•    Pawing at the face or muzzle

2. Check Your Dog’s Mouth

Once you confirm your dog is choking, check its mouth for obstructions. Use both hands to gently open your dog’s jaws. If you see an object, attempt to dislodge it with a free index finger. Use extreme caution to avoid getting bitten, lodging objects deeper or injuring your dog’s throat.

If you can’t see an object, you can’t dislodge it easily or your dog loses consciousness, use tilting or the Heimlich maneuver.

3. Use Tilting

Before performing the Heimlich maneuver, try the tilting method to dislodge airway obstruction with gravity. Lift a small dog by its thighs, gently shaking its body with its belly toward you. While a larger dog stands on all fours, lift its rear legs at the thighs like a wheelbarrow, and tilt it forward.

If tilting is unsuccessful and your dog is still choking, proceed with the Heimlich maneuver.

4. Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

Dr. Katy Nelson, petMD veterinary expert, recommends the following steps to safely perform the canine Heimlich maneuver:

•    For small dogs: Gently pick up your dog, inverting its body in one of your arms. Use your free hand to apply upward pressure on the abdomen just beneath the ribcage.
•    For medium and large dogs standing upright: Stand behind your dog and reach around its belly. Join your hands, make a fist and place it just beneath the ribcage. Using firm pressure, push upward and forward. Place your pet on its side afterward.
•    For medium and large dogs lying down: Support your dog by placing one of your hands on its back. Using your free hand, firmly press the abdomen upward and forward.

Check your dog’s mouth for dislodged objects. You may need to perform an oral sweep with an index finger if the object was lodged deeply in your dog’s throat.

​5. Seek Veterinary Care

​Seek veterinary care immediately if you can’t dislodge the object, your dog loses consciousness or a pulse or your dog becomes unresponsive. You may need to perform artificial respiration or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while someone else provides transportation.

Even if your dog seems fine after choking, seek follow-up care from your veterinarian to determine if additional treatment is necessary.

At Smart Healthy Dogs, we’re committed to helping dogs live their best lives every day. Contact us to learn more and receive assistance from our knowledgeable team.