Choking Or Airway Obstruction In Animals: How To Quickly Help Your Distressed Pet

Posted on: 8 August 2018


Seeing your pet suddenly lurch about or cry out in discomfort or pain is quite distressing, but if you think they're choking or may have something stuck inside their mouth, you need to keep your cool and lend a hand quickly. Your actions could be life-saving, whatever the cause of the emergency may be.

1. Approach Your Pet Cautiously

Even if, under normal circumstances, your pet is a very docile creature, you can't predict how they'll react when they feel threatened. It's important that you realize the animal may react differently than what you'd expect, such as by biting, scratching or otherwise resisting your efforts to intervene. Have someone else help you, if at all possible.

2. Know The Signs Of Choking And Respiratory Distress

If your cat or dog has something caught in their windpipe, they're not going to be able to breathe or at least breathe properly. The stomach may heave, in an attempt to force the blockage free and your pet is likely to be in a state of (understandable) panic. Under these conditions, you can either attempt the Heimlich maneuver, in which you apply a thrusting action to the animal's abdomen, or contact an emergency vet, pronto. They may advise you to try something on your own, right then and there, or tell you to bring the animal to their clinic, immediately.

If you don't suspect respiratory distress or airway obstruction, such as if the animal is pawing at the mouth and hacking, rather than choking and unable to breathe, still consider the situation an emergency and keep working to resolve it.

3. Check Inside The Oral Cavity

Sometimes, an object can become lodged in a pet's mouth, such as a splinter of wood or bone wedged at the roof of the mouth (held in by the teeth on either side). A freakish situation may also be underway, like a toy or piece of plastic stuck between teeth or lodged in the gums. Protect yourself with heavy gloves, and separate your pet's jaws as best you can. If you can see a foreign object, at least you have something to go on and you know the animal isn't choking; however, getting it out can be a problem and your immediate concern should be keeping the animal calm, so it can be helped.

If your pet is cooperative and you can reach in for the object, be as quick as you can, paying close attention to the delicate tissue of the mouth. An object caught between teeth, for example, might be harmless, until it's ripped out of place and makes unfortunate contact with the gums. If you don't think you can safely extract the object, trust your instincts and stop what you're doing: The animal needs to be seen by a veterinarian.

4. Carefully Transport Your Pet To The Nearest Vet Clinic

Even if it's the middle of the night, your pet should be seen immediately, so the foreign object can be removed in haste and with as little damage or discomfort as possible. If you can, have someone sit beside the animal on the way, constantly reassuring them that everything will be okay. The calmer your dog or cat is, the better off they'll be. As soon as you arrive at the 24 hour animal hospital, verify the circumstances, along with the disposition of your pet, to the staff.

Your cat or dog should be fine and nearly back to normal within a short time, unless the lodged object damaged any tissue. In that case, a soft diet may be in order until healing is complete. Follow the instructions you receive from the vet and be sure and give your four-legged friend some extra TLC, because the ordeal was probably quite frightening, from their perspective.