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Signs Your Pet is Choking & What to Do

It is a very scary experience if something gets lodged in your cat or dog's throat and they begin choking. Pet owners should know how they can assist their companions if need be. Today, our St. Louis vets share some signs that your pet is choking and how to help a choking dog or cat.

Signs Your Cat or Dog 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)

If your cat or dog is showing any of these symptoms, follow the steps outlined below and then bring them to the vet as soon as possible for emergency care

What to Do if Your Cat or Dog Is Choking

There are a few things you can do at home to help your choking pet. Even if you are able to remove some debris from their throat, they should still be seen by a vet to be safe.

Remove the Object if Possible

First and foremost, restrain your pet. When cats or dogs choke, they will struggle, which can be dangerous for both them and you. If they are choking on a string, cord, or other item wrapped around their neck, carefully cut it off with scissors.

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 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 inwards 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 per minute and continue until you arrive at a veterinary practice. 

After Your Pet Stops Choking

Even if you are able to remove the object that is causing your dog or cat to choke, you should still take your pet to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to confirm that the choking did not cause any harm or other health issues in your pet's body that you cannot see.

Preventing Choking

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 cannot remove the object, contact our St. Louis vets immediately.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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