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Choking and Reverse Sneezing in Dogs

The sudden onset of forceful coughing, pawing at the mouth, and respiratory distress in a healthy dog suggest a foreign body caught in the larynx. This is an emergency! If the dog is conscious and able to breathe, proceed at once to the nearest veterinary clinic.

If your dog is gagging and retching but is not experiencing difficulty in breathing, assume a foreign object such as a bone splinter or rubber ball is caught in her mouth or in the back of her throat.

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Fortunately, a foreign body in the larynx is not common. Most objects are expelled by the forceful coughing that results from laryngeal stimulation.

Treatment: If the dog collapses and is unable to breathe, place her on her side with her head down. Open her mouth, pull out her tongue as far as you can, sweep your fingers from side to side, grasp the object, and remove it. Then administer artificial respiration or CPR as necessary.

If the object cannot be easily removed, do not try to get around it with your fingers. This will force it further down the throat. Instead, proceed to the Heimlich Maneuver.

The Heimlich Maneuver

Abdominal compressions. It may be easiest to hold the dog upside down in your lap, with her back against your chest and her head highest, but facing down. Place your arms around the dog’s waist from behind. Make a fist and grasp it with the other hand. For a small dog, you may have to just use two fingers. Place your fist or fingers in the dog’s upper mid-abdomen close to the breast bone at the apex of the V formed by the rib cage.

  1. Compress the abdomen by forcefully thrusting up and in with the fist or fingers four times in quick succession.This maneuver pushes the diaphragm upward and forces a burst of air through the larynx. This usually dislodges the object. Proceed to step 2.
  2. Finger sweeps. Pull out the tongue and sweep the mouth. Remove the foreign body and proceed to step 5. If you are unable to dislodge the object, proceed to step 3.
  3. Artificial respiration. Give five mouth-to-nose respirations.Even a small volume of air getting past the obstruction is beneficial. Proceed to step 4.
  4. Chest thumps. Deliver a sharp blow with the heel of your hand to the dog’s back between the shoulder blades. Repeat the finger sweeps. If the object is still not dislodged, repeat steps 1 through 4 until the object is dislodged.
  5. Ventilation. Once the object is dislodged, check for breathing and heart rate; administer artificial respiration and CPR if necessary. When the dog revives, proceed to the veterinary hospital for further treatment.


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