A choking pet is scary and something that requires immediate attention. If you don’t know what to do and how to do it, your pet may lost their life. Read on for information about what to do for a choking pet, including the Heimlich Maneuver and Pet CPR.


The signs of choking are much the same as a person. Your dog or cat is struggling to breathe, with their mouth open. They may be pawing at their mouth. They may be attempting to vomit. You may hear an unusual sound as they attempt to breathe and pull air through a foreign object lodged in their throat.


The causes of choking are with anything that can lodge in the throat. This is fairly exclusive to dogs – cats are usually more particular. An example would be a dog fetching a ball, and having it lodge in their throat. A variety of food objects can lodge in your pet’s airway.


CALL YOUR VET IF NEEDED. Dogs are notorious for trying to swallow things that are a little too big. The result can be choking where an object lodges in the airway.

REMOVE THE OBJECT. When time is of the essence, you must act quickly.

For a dog

  • Open your pet’s mouth
  • Grasp the upper jaw with one hand over the muzzle.
  • Press the lips over the upper teeth with your fingers on one side and the thumb on the other so that the dog’s lips are between its teeth. Firm pressure may be required. The dog then can’t close its mouth without biting itself and is less able to bite you. Pull his tongue out of the way.
  • Reach deeply in to the back of your pet’s throat and try to grasp the object. If it is a ball, and you are unable to move it, try using some type of instrument; tweezers, pliers or even a spoon shaped tong.

For a cat

  • Grasp the cat’s head so that your palm is over the cat’s eyes and ears, and your thumb and index finger are behind the canine (eye or fang) teeth.
  • Tilt the cat’s nose upwards. In most cases this causes the cat to automatically relax the jaw muscles so that you can open the mouth easily
  • You can then use the index finger of the opposite hand to gently open the mouth. Place the fingertip on the lower incisors (the small teeth between the canines) and gently push the lower jaw down.
  • An alternative is to push your thumb and index finger of the hand holding the cat’s head towards each other. Some cats resent this more and it is easier to get bitten but it does hold the mouth open while the opposite hand is now completely free to hold tools etc.
  • Examine the mouth and if you can see the object it may be possible to remove it with your fingers, tweezers or small pliers immediately. Do not attempt to remove a needle embedded in the roof of the mouth but take your cat to your veterinarian.
  • It may be possible to gently pull the tongue forward to gain better access, but some cats will not allow this.

If this method does not work for extracting the object from your pet’s throat, try this technique. Lay your pet on its side. For small pets, place your palms behind the last rib on both sides of your pet’s abdomen and press your palms together quickly 2 – 3 times. Repeat if necessary. For larger dogs, place both hands behind the last rib and push down and slightly forward sharply. Repeat rapidly until the object is dislodged

If you still can’t remove the object and if your pet can breathe, transport him to your veterinarian. However, if your pet can’t breathe you must continue to try to dislodge the object either by compression or by using the Heimlich, as your pet is unlikely to survive the delay in reaching veterinary aid.

Gentle compressions on both sides of the widest point of the chest may help dislodge a ball or other object. Place both hands at the back of your pet over the widest point of the chest while he is standing, and give 5 firm compressions to dislodge the ball.


If after trying to manually remove the object, and after gentle compressions it won’t move, and your pet is still not breathing, then proceed with the Heimlich.

Turn your pet upside down, with his back against your chest.

With both arms, give sharp thrusts to the abdomen.

After 5 thrusts, stop and check to see if the object is visible in the airway. If so remove it and give 2 mouth-to-nose rescue breaths. If the breaths do not go in, repeat HEIMLICH.

In some cases, your dog is too large to pick up. You can lay him on his side, and make a fist. Put your fist into the hollow beneath the rib cage, then push firmly inward and upward. Repeat5 times, and then check to see if the object has been dislodged.

If after a few attempts it is still lodged, but you can still hear wheezing and some noise when your pet is breathing, then you have time to rush to your vet.


Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is the most important First Aid technique that every pet owner should be comfortable with. Chances are that you will never have to use it, but it will save your pet’s life if a ball is lodged in his airway.

There are some very basic steps:

1. Assess responsiveness
2. Establish a patent airway
3. Perform rescue breathing
4. Cardiac massage – establishing circulation


The first step is making sure that your pet is truly unresponsive.
1. CHECK his breathing by placing your hand in front of his mouth and nose.
2. CHECK for his heartbeat by placing your ear against the left side of his chest. This is the area where his left elbow touches his chest, immediately behind his left armpit.


The second step in CPR is obtaining a patent airway.

1. PULL the tongue out of your pet’s mouth, but be careful to not get bitten.
2. STRAIGHTEN the neck by moving the head to be in line with the neck.
3. PERFORM two rescue breaths, by closing the mouth and performing mouth to nose ventilations. IF they continue, then proceed to STEP 3, BREATHING.
If there are no breaths, then look into the mouth.
4. VISIBLY inspect the mouth and look down the throat for a foreign body. If you see something, reach into the airway and remove it.
5. IF the airway is still not open, attempt HEIMLICH (shown in following steps).
6. TURN your pet upside down, with back against your chest.
7. WITH both arms, give sharp thrusts to the abdomen.
8. AFTER 5 thrusts, stop and check to see if the object is visible in the airway. If so remove it and give 2 mouth-to-nose rescue breaths. If the breaths do not go in, repeat HEIMLICH.


After achieving a patent airway, perform RESCUE BREATHING.

1. CLOSE your pet’s mouth and breathe directly into his nose until his chest expands. If the chest doesn’t expand then go back to STEP 2 – AIRWAY.
2. VENTILATE at 15 breaths per minute. One BREATH every 4 seconds.


1. ENSURE there are no major points of bleeding. Control as necessary.
2. GENTLY lay your pet on his right side.
3. LOCATE the heart, which is found on the lower half of the chest on the left side, behind the elbow of the front left leg. Place one hand below the heart to support the chest; place the other hand over the heart.
4. COMPRESS the chest 15 times followed by 2 rescue breaths. 3 compressions every 2 seconds. Compress the chest 1/2 inch for small pets and 1 1/2 inches for large pets.
5. EVERY 15 times follow up with 2 rescue breaths.

Continue heart massage compressions and the rescue breathing until you hear a heart beat and feel regular breathing. Once your pet is breathing and his heart is beating, CALL your veterinarian immediately!


In some cases of choking, your pet’s mouth has been injured. This means feeding a soft food for 7-14 days while the wounds heal.

For more information on how to handle just about any pet emergency, for your pet’s sake, check out First Aid Secrets. The life you save may be your pets!

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