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
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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.
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.
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.
Artificial respiration. Give five mouth-to-nose respirations.Even a small
volume of air getting past the obstruction is beneficial. Proceed to step
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
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.