First aid for choking

isolated cat dog and rabbits

Overview

  • Choking is a serious life-threatening problem that needs immediate action.
  • A choking pet will have difficulty breathing, will make choking sounds, might paw at their mouth and you might see their lips, gums and tongue turning blue.
  • Common choke risks include: balls, raw hide chews and small toys.
  • Be careful: a choking pet may panic and bite.

What to do if your pet is choking

Step one: Is your pet choking?

  • Choking or coughing? Can they breathe? If your pet is coughing, they will still be able to breathe-in, if they are choking, your pet will struggle to breathe at all.
  • Do you know what they could be choking on? Were they just playing with a toy or did they have a chew?
  • Is there anything obvious you can remove from their mouth?

Step two: Try to remove what they are choking on

  • Keep your pet calm.
  • If you can see something in the mouth:
    • Use pliers or tweezers to get hold of it and remove it.
    • Do not stick your fingers in your pet’s mouth if they are conscious, this may make them panic more and could lead to you getting bitten
  • If your pet is unconscious:
    • Open their mouth, gently sweep your fingers across the back of their throat and remove anything that is lodged there.
  • If you can’t remove the object:
    • Lay your pet on their side.
    • Place both hands on the side of your pet's rib cage.
    • Push quickly and firmly or strike the rib cage with the flat of your hand three to four times.
    • The idea is to push air and the object out of their lungs. Keep repeating this until the object comes out.

Step three: Call your vets if you still can’t remove the object

  • If you are unable to dislodge the object, call your vet straight away for an emergency appointment.

How to prevent choking

  • Choose balls and toys that are the correct size for your pet, preferably with holes in. Ask your local veterinary practice for advice if you are unsure.
  • Always supervise your pet when they are playing with toys or eating chew sticks.
  • Do not throw toys and food to be caught in mid-air, always aim for them to be picked-up from the ground.
Published: March 2020

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst