Category Archives: choking

What to Do If Your Dog Starts Choking

By Langley Cornwell

It always happens. Every time I write about a dog or cat, I fall in love with him or her. In fact, I become like a star-struck groupie, and celebrate each dog or cat’s successes as if they were my own. My husband laughs at me because I always update him: An ESPN writer just published a book about Wallace, the famous Disc Dog! Or – Fire Safety Dogs Tango and Siren just got a television deal! Or – there was a new monument erected for Stubby, the most decorated War Dog!

Recently, my news wasn’t so exciting: “Therapy Dog Stacey Mae died unexpectedly,” I told him through tears. She was only five years old and did so much for so many during her short time here. At first they thought the cause of death was choking, and I couldn’t shake the thought of how terrible that would be. I knew that if my dog started choking, I wouldn’t know exactly what to do. Would you?  

The veterinarians at say that pets often come to the vet because of what people think is choking, but that many pet owners mistake vomiting or coughing for actual choking.

Signs that your dog may actually be choking: 

Acting anxious and in distress
Having difficulty breathing
Having difficulty swallowing
Pawing at his face
Throwing up

True choking can be caused by two major things: a foreign object stuck in your dog’s throat, or your dog’s throat swelling closed because his neck is overly constricted. In both cases this is a real emergency, and you must take action and get your pet to a vet immediately.

Dogs explore with their noses and mouths. It’s their curious nature and undiscerning eating practices that get them into trouble; all kinds of things can get stuck in their throats. Anything that can fit into the opening to their trachea can cause serious harm, but the most common offenders are small balls such as golf or ping pong balls, real bones, cellophane, plastic toys and pieces of wood or cloth.

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