7 most common dog choking hazards and how to avoid them

Dogs love to explore the world around them. This often leads them into dangerous situations, such as choking on objects they find lying around. In this blog post, I would like to discuss 7 common dog choking hazards and how to avoid them. Knowing what these hazards are can help keep your dog safe and healthy!

Dogs often chew on things that are too small, like sticks, rocks, and even coins. These objects can easily get lodged in their throats and cause them to choke.

But how do you actually know your dog is choking? And how can you help a choking dog? Let’s dive in 😊

While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

dog on a beach

What are the signs of a dog choking?

If your dog is showing any of these signs, it’s important to act quickly.

The most common signs that a dog is choking are:

  • pawing at their mouth 
  • drooling excessively 
  • coughing, gagging, or wheezing
  • blue gums
  • difficulty breathing 
  • loss of consciousness

The best thing you can do is to call your vet, he can instruct you further and also prepare for a potential emergency patient.

dog choking signs

How to save a choking dog

Firstly, I know that when your pet is choking it’s a very scary and stressful situation for everyone. But you need to keep calm. I know it’s hard, take a few deep breaths if you need to, it’s still better to wait a few seconds than go into full panic mode. If you panic, you won’t be able to help your pup. 

❗️Secondly, your dog is literally fighting for his life. He doesn’t know you are trying to help him and might accidentally bite you. You need to be very careful❗️

Always call a veterinarian, even when you were able to remove the obstruction. It most likely caused some damage and your dog should be checked out. 

If your dog can’t breathe or is unconscious, get him to an emergency vet clinic as soon as possible. 

If your dog is choking on splintered bone or sticks, you need to get him to a vet as soon as possible to safely remove them. If it’s a small ball, stone, or some other object, you can try to remove it (and then call your vet). 

You need to restrain your dog but don’t muzzle him. Be careful not to compress his chest when you hold him. You will need both your hands to help your pup, so it’s better if you have someone else who is restraining him. And even better is if you have someone else shining a flashlight into your dog’s mouth who can eventually pull out the obstruction while you hold your dog’s mouth open. 

So here’s how you can try to help a choking dog: 

  1. Restrain your dog
  2. Use both hands to open the dog’s mouth. Here’s how: one hand goes around your dog’s snout and grasps his upper jaw. Your palm is on his snout and you hold his jaw with your fingers. The other hand goes under his lower jaw and grasps it from below, so your palm is under his chin and your fingers hold his lower jaw. Press your dog’s lips between your fingers and his teeth. The end result should be a firm grip on his upper jaw from above with his lips between your fingers and his teeth and a firm grip on his lower jaw from below again with his lips between your fingers and his lower teeth. I would recommend practicing this maneuver when there is no emergency. 
  3. Look inside the mouth if you can see the obstruction (here comes the flashlight and another person handy). You can carefully try to remove the obstruction with your fingers or tweezers, but if it’s a bone or splintered wood, don’t try to pull it out! Your dog needs to be sedated to remove splinters safely. 
  4. If you cannot see the obstruction or are unable to remove it, call your emergency clinic. They will tell you what to do and can instruct you how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog if necessary.
  5. Call your emergency vet clinic, regardless if you were able to remove the obstruction. 
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7 most common dog choking hazards

1. Sticks

Sticks are one of the most common dog choking hazards. Dogs love to play fetch and gnaw on them. The problem is that they can splinter and get stuck in your dog’s mouth or throat. And your dog would need surgery to safely remove them. 

There are 2 types of dogs that love sticks – those who carry them around (hello Retrievers! 😊) and those who chew on them. If your dog likes to chew on sticks, it’s better to make sure he doesn’t pick them up. 

2. Balls

The beloved tennis balls… I’m in a few veterinary forums and recently a vet clinic published a photo of 7 tennis balls they removed from one dog’s stomach. The owners brought him to a clinic because they saw him eat one, but no one was expecting to see 7 in his belly! 

Dogs have very strong jaws and it’s no problem for them to either compress the ball (which can then obstruct their airways) or tear it into small pieces (which can again get stuck in their airways). 

3. Bones

Bones are a topic for a whole new article. The truth is, bones are dangerous. They pose a choking hazard, can splinter and puncture the stomach or intestines (which can result in a very painful death if not treated immediately), and cause severe bowel obstipation. So please, there are better and much safer treats your pup will love.

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4. Toys

Some dog toys can be dangerous, especially if they have small parts. They pose a choking hazard or if eaten can cause severe gastrointestinal issues. Always buy certified dog toys and be careful if you have small children whose toys are lying around. 

5. Rawhides or dental treats

These are very popular dog treats. I recommend bigger rawhides and approved dental treats. 

6. Food

Another common dog choking hazard is eating food that is too big. Dogs often try to eat their food as quickly as possible, leading to them swallowing large pieces of food whole. These pieces of food can then get stuck in their throats and cause them to choke. To avoid this, make sure you cut your dog’s food into small pieces before giving it to them.

Dogs often wolf their food so quickly that they choke on it (looking at you Retrievers ☺️ ❤️). Ever seen a dog “inhale” his food? Well, sometimes it happens literally… ðŸ¤·â€â™€ï¸

If you have a dog that eats really quickly and sometimes even chokes on his kibbles, make sure you feed him smaller meals more often throughout the day. You can also try feeding him from a slow feeder bowl or puzzle toy to help them eat slower. 

7. Other small objects

Every day small objects are also a common cause of choking in dogs. Things like kid’s toys, stones, coins, socks…you name it. Here’s my personal confession – my dog once ate my panties. Yep, no idea why or how he got them out of my laundry basket. Luckily (?) he vomited them out before we had to cut him open 🤦‍♀️ Unfortunately you just never know with dogs…

How to avoid dog choking hazards

There are a few things you can do to prevent your dog from choking in the first place. The best way is to keep an eye on him when he’s outside and make sure he’s not chewing on anything he shouldn’t be. 

You should also keep small objects and kids’ toys out of reach.

One of the most important commands you should teach your dog is “drop it!”. 

Buy certified dog toys and dental treats that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. 

Your dog’s toys and treats should be appropriate for his size. Never give small toys to a large dog! Make sure your dog only chews on toys that are the appropriate size for his mouth.

Don’t give your dog any bones. 

If your dog likes to gnaw on sticks, try to find him something else he can safely gnaw on (rawhide…), or try to keep him busy with play. 

Be careful when playing fetch – avoid small balls and always supervise your dog. 

If you think your dog is choking, call your emergency vet clinic! Time is of the essence in these situations.

I hope this article helped you understand the dangers of dog choking hazards and how to avoid them.

Stay safe! ☺️❤️

This post is a part of my series on how to keep your pup safe. You might be interested in the other articles:

How to keep your dog safe this Halloween

How to keep your dog safe during Christmas

PS: If you love animals and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Today you will get a free pet planner as a bonus ðŸ¤—

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