Choking is one of the most unpleasant accidents that can happen. The simple act of eating can be the trigger for such an undesirable situation.
The animal coughs forcefully and, although it tries to expel it, it does not succeed: it has more and more difficulty in breathing. What to do ? In this article from Tu Gato Curioso we are going to tell you how you should act.
Here’s what to do if your dog or cat is choking on their food
- What is choking?
Choking is the total or partial obstruction of the airways by a foreign element, the most common being choking on food. This obstruction makes it difficult or impossible for air to enter the lungs.
When the obstruction is partial and air is flowing, albeit with difficulty, into the lungs, it is not considered an emergency. However, measures must of course be taken.
On the other hand, if the obstruction is total and there is no breathing, immediate action is necessary, as the animal’s life is in imminent danger.
- 1.- If a dog or cat is choking:
The first thing to do is to stay calm. Then try to relax him, and don’t put your hand in his mouth. When a dog or cat has choked, the first thing to do is not to increase the animal’s anxiety even more:
“If the dog becomes nervous, he will breathe harder and inhaling the air will push the swallowed object even further into his airways”, explains Marisol Cuenca, of the Veterinary Association of the Basque Country.
Petting, using a calm tone of voice and kind words are good allies in trying to calm a choking dog or cat.
- 2.- Do not put your hand in the mouth of the choking dog.
A dog or cat that is choking because a piece of food has gotten stuck in its trachea has great difficulty breathing. “If we put our hand in the dog’s mouth with the intention of removing the piece, we will block the air inlet even more”adds the veterinarian.
Putting your hand in the mouth of the choking animal poses an additional problem: it can bite you, because it is normal for the dog or cat to feel pain.
- 3.- Raising the hind legs or Heimlich maneuver
The key to helping a dog or cat who is choking on an object is to try to get it to open its respiratory system. But how to do it ? The Heimlich maneuver in dogs and cats involves raising the hind legs to help the object that is choking the dog or cat out.
We must lift the rear legs of the animal and hold them between our legs, with the help of our arms (like a hug). In this way, the posterior third of the dog or cat will be raised. The animal should adopt a posture similar to that of a handstand, although the dog does not have to be in a completely upright position.
This operation is an adaptation of what is called the Heimlich maneuver in humans. And the goal is similar: to work in favor of gravity. This way it will be easier for the object that is choking our animal to fall to the ground by itself – or with help.
Sometimes owners of small dogs or cats try to perform a particular version of the Heimlich maneuver. Adaptation involves holding the animal in your arms – as if it were a human baby – and opening its front legs to make room in its airways.
However, this operation does not always work: the animal can become nervous when it feels that it is losing contact with the ground. He will then breathe hard and push the object that is suffocating him. So what to do? Act in the same way as for large dogs: place the animal with its hind legs raised, in a stake position.
- 4.- Pressure to remove the object: for experienced hands only.
The Heimlich maneuver may be enough to help the dog or cat expel the choking object. The animal will cough, and this strong pulse of air usually pushes the stuck fragment out of its body.
Dry pressure with our hands can also help. To do this, locate the end of the dog’s rib cage and kiss it using dry pressure. However, this maneuver is not without danger: inexperienced hands in first aid for dogs or cats may have difficulty. If the animal’s stomach is compressed, this technique will be ineffective and even dangerous.
If the animal has also just eaten, this pressure is likely to cause vomiting with undesirable consequences: the expulsion of food will further block the airways of the dog or cat, making it more difficult to breathe.
That’s why, with no experience in pet first aid, the right thing to do is to keep the dog’s or cat’s hind legs up, no more. And try to relax the animal as much as possible (with affectionate words). With a little luck, the object will come out on its own.
- 5.- Ask for help from a veterinarian.
In most cases, a visit to the vet is not an option, as you only have a few minutes to act. As always, it’s best to be prepared.
When there are two people at home to help the animal in distress, the safest option is for one person to help the dog or cat while the other calls the veterinarian. The canine or feline doctor will give the animal a sedative, in order to relax it. Then, using veterinary forceps, the object or fragments remaining in the animal’s trachea can be removed.