Why is My Dog Choking? Understanding the Causes and Taking Action

why is my dog choking

Seeing your dog choke can be a terrifying experience.

Dogs explore their world with their mouths, and sometimes, this curiosity leads to dangerous situations.

Choking can happen for various reasons, and knowing what to do can save your pet’s life.

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of dog choking, how to recognize the signs, what to do in an emergency, and how to prevent it.

Common Causes of Dog Choking

Choking in dogs can be caused by several factors. Here are the most common ones:

Foreign objects

Dogs are curious creatures and often chew on things they find interesting, like bones, toys, or even household items.

Sometimes, these objects can accidentally get stuck in their throat, blocking their airway and causing choking.

Esophageal obstruction

This happens when food or an object gets stuck in the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, called the esophagus.

Dry kibble or large pieces of food can sometimes get lodged there, making it hard for your dog to swallow properly.


Collars, leashes, or ropes can pose a risk if they get tangled or caught on something.

This can lead to choking or even strangulation if not addressed quickly.

It’s like when we accidentally get our clothes caught on a door handle.

Smoke inhalation

Exposure to smoke, whether from a fire or heavy pollution, can be harmful to dogs.

It can cause breathing difficulties and lead to symptoms that resemble choking.

This is why it’s important to keep your pets away from smoke-filled areas.

Allergies and intolerance

Just like people, dogs can have allergies to certain foods or things in their environment.

Allergic reactions can cause swelling in the throat, making it hard for your dog to breathe and swallow comfortably.


Signs Your Dog is Choking

Recognizing the signs of choking is crucial for taking quick action.

Here are some indicators that your dog might be choking:

Difficulty breathing

If your dog is having trouble breathing or is making wheezing sounds, it could indicate something is blocking their airway.

You might notice their chest heaving as they struggle to get air.


Persistent coughing that sounds like gagging or choking is a clear sign of distress.

It’s like when we cough hard to clear our throat, but for dogs, it can mean something is stuck and needs attention.

Pawing at the mouth

Dogs often use their paws to try to dislodge whatever is causing them discomfort in their throat.

They may paw at their mouth or face in a frantic attempt to clear the obstruction.

Frantic behavior

A choking dog might act panicked or frantic.

They may run around aimlessly, paw at their face more vigorously, or try to hide.

This behavior shows they’re in distress and need help.

Blue/pale gums

When a dog’s gums lack oxygen, they can turn bluish or pale.

This is a serious sign that their breathing is severely compromised and requires immediate attention from a veterinarian.

Loss of consciousness

In severe cases, a choking dog may lose consciousness due to a lack of oxygen.

This is an emergency situation, and prompt action is crucial to save their life.


What to Do if Your Dog is Choking

If you suspect your dog is choking, stay calm and act quickly. Here’s what you should do:

Check the mouth (carefully)

Open your dog’s mouth gently and look inside.

If you can see a foreign object blocking the airway and it’s easily reachable, carefully try to remove it.

Be cautious because a scared dog might snap or bite unintentionally.

Canine Heimlich maneuver (For large dogs only)

For large dogs, you can perform a modified Heimlich maneuver.

  • Stand behind your dog and wrap your arms around its waist.
  • Make a fist with one hand and place it just below the rib cage.
  • Grasp your fist with your other hand and give a quick, forceful thrust inward and upward. This can help dislodge the object blocking the airway.

Back Slaps

For smaller dogs or if the Heimlich maneuver isn’t feasible, try back slaps:

  • Hold your dog firmly.
  • Using the palm of your hand, give sharp blows between the shoulder blades.

Chest compressions

If back slaps don’t work, try chest compressions:

  • Place your hands on both sides of your dog’s rib cage.
  • Apply firm, quick compressions.

Get to the vet immediately

Whether you succeed in clearing the obstruction or not, it’s essential to take your dog to the vet right away.

Even if your dog seems fine afterward, there could be internal injuries or residual problems that need professional attention.


Prevention Tips

Preventing choking is always better than dealing with it. Here are some tips to help keep your dog safe:

Supervise playtime

Always keep an eye on your dog when they’re playing, especially with toys.

Dogs can sometimes chew on toys vigorously, and if a toy breaks or a piece comes off, it could be swallowed and cause choking.

Supervision helps you intervene quickly if something goes wrong.

Choose appropriate toys

Pick toys that are suitable for your dog’s size and chewing habits.

Avoid toys with small parts that could easily break off or be swallowed.

Look for sturdy toys made from durable materials that won’t easily come apart.

Beware of small objects

Keep small items like buttons, coins, rubber bands, and similar objects out of your dog’s reach.

Dogs can be curious and might mistake these items for toys or treats, leading to accidental swallowing and potential choking.

Remove hazards

Check your home and yard for items that could pose a choking risk, such as bones, sticks, and strings.

Dogs love to chew on things they find, but these items can splinter or get caught in their throat.

Regularly clean up and secure any potential hazards to prevent accidents.

Regular vet checkups

Routine visits to the vet are important for your dog’s overall health, including their throat and esophagus.

A veterinarian can check for any signs of problems that could lead to choking, such as abnormalities or blockages.

They can also provide advice on diet and safe chew toys.



Choking is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation for your dog.

By understanding the common causes, recognizing the signs, knowing what to do in an emergency, and taking preventive measures, you can help keep your furry friend safe.

Always act quickly if you suspect your dog is choking and get them to a vet as soon as possible.

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