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First Aid for Coughing and Choking in Dogs

Learn what to do if your dog is coughing or choking.

A dog that is coughing does not require immediate aid. However, if your dog coughs for more than a few minutes, it worsens, or is persistent, take her to the veterinarian.

If a dog is choking, immediate assistance is required to clear her airway. A dog will die within several minutes of having her airway completely obstructed.

How Can You Tell Whether a Dog Is Coughing or Choking?

If your dog stops and rests in between bursts, breathing normally, she is probably coughing. If she appears panicked, isn't getting any noise out, and seems to be gasping, she might be choking. She may swipe at her mouth with her paw in an attempt to dislodge an object. Collapse and blue-tinged gums also indicate that your dog is not getting enough air.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Choking

If your dog is choking, you will need to attempt to check for something in her mouth which is blocking her airway.

Be careful! You could be bitten by your dog because she is scared.

If possible, carefully open your dog's mouth. Do so by placing one hand over her muzzle, then using your thumb on one side and fingers on the other to gently press her lips into her gums. Once she's opened a bit, use your other thumb to pull down on her lower jaw from the front. Hold the top teeth open with your other fingers.

If you can see the obstruction, see if you can grab it. You may be able to carefully use tweezers or a hemostat, which are great items to keep in your canine first aid kit.

If you are unable to grab the object or you can't see a foreign object in your dog's mouth, do the following:

  1. If your dog is small (less than 15 pounds), try holding her upside down by holding firmly to her back legs, using the other hand to support her chest. Don't shake her, just hold her gently upside down to see whether gravity will remove the foreign object for you.
  2. If your dog is large, leave her front feet on the ground and raise her back feet in the air as though she is a wheelbarrow.
  3. If holding her upside down doesn't work, perform a Heimlich maneuver on your choking dog:
    1. With your pet in a standing position, kneel down behind her and wrap your arms around her waist. Place your hands together into a fist, and put them about an inch behind her sternum.
    2. Thrust quickly and firmly in an upward direction 4 or 5 times quickly to dislodge the obstruction.

Once you have dislodged the object, check for breathing and a heartbeat and perform rescue breathing or CPR as required.

Take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

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