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The Signs of a Choking Pet and What To Do

The Signs of a Choking Pet and What To Do

If something becomes lodged in your dog or cat's throat and they begin choking, our Oakland veterinarians recommend following these steps to help your pet recover. 

Signs Your Pet is Choking

Most pets, including cats and dogs, will display some combination of the following symptoms if they are choking on something:

  • Distress
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Salivation
  • Coughing
  • Gagging or retching
  • Blue mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Rubbing their face against the ground

If your cat or dog is showing any of these symptoms, follow the steps outlined below and then bring them into our veterinary clinic as soon as possible for emergency intervention during our regular business hours. 

What To Do If you Cat or Dog is Choking

Remove The Object if Possible

Firstly, restrain your pet. When cats or dogs choke, they will struggle and this may cause them and your harm. If they are choking because of a string, cord or other item being wrapped around their neck, use a pair of scissors to very carefully cut them off. 

If your dog or cat is choking on something that is lodged into their throat, open their mouth to see if you can locate the stuck object. If you can see it, use your finger to try and swipe it away and out of their mouth.

If you cannot see it, don't try to poke your finger down your pet's throat in an effort to find it, as this can cause injury. If you can't dislodge the object by swiping it away, do not try to poke it or push on it, as this could force it further down the throat.

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats & Dogs

If you aren't able to remove the object your pet is choking on, you will have to use the Heimlich maneuver:

  • Lay your pet on their side.
  • Check the mouth to determine if the object has been dislodged.
  • Hold your pet's back against your stomach (head up, paws down).
  • With one hand, find the soft hollow under the ribs (your closed fist should fit into this spot).
  • Use the hand on your pet's stomach to pull up and in two or three times, toward your own stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.


If this doesn't work and your cat or dog loses their pulse, start CPR at about 120 chest compressions pet minute and continue until you arrive at a veterinary practice. 

What to do After the Choking has Stopped

Even if you manage to remove the object which is causing your dog or cat to choke, it is wise to bring your pet in to your veterinarian anyway. Your vet will be able to ensure that the choking didn't cause any harm or further health issues in your pet's body that you arne't able to see.

Preventing Future Choking

In order to minimize the chances that your pet chokes in the future, make sure you keep an eye on objects that could potentially be choking hazards. 

Generally speaking, food made for cats and dogs is formulated with the animal's size in mind, but it's a good idea to monitor your pet as they eat just in case. 

Monitor your dog or cat during play and make sure any toys do not include pieces that could break off and become potential choking hazards.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pet is choking and you aren't able to remove the object, contact our East Bay Veterinary Clinic veterinary team as soon as possible.

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