CPR and Heimlich Maneuver on Pets


Some dogs—especially puppies—will chew on nearly anything in sight. Dog and cat owners may find their curious pet chewing on shoes, furniture, and even clothing. Although it can be hard to stop young pups and playful cats from chewing on objects other than toys, it is still possible for pets to choke on their toys, other objects, and even food. In addition to learning how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking pet, it is equally important to learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a dog in case of an emergency.

“Pet owners should perform the Heimlich maneuver on their pet if they believe the pet is choking on something,” said James Barr, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Usually this means that the owner has seen the pet swallow something and that the pet has been having trouble breathing since. This can be an object that was swallowed unintended, but it can also be something like a toy or a rawhide.

If a dog or cat is suffocating, it may start to panic. In this case, pet owners should approach their pet and carefully restrain it. Do not muzzle the dogs. First, check to see if the object can be removed with your fingers. Open the animal’s mouth using two hands and use your fingers to remove the object. It may also be helpful to use the flat side of a spoon to push the object closer if it is out of reach.

If the object cannot be removed with fingers, objects may be removed from small dogs’ and cats’ throats by the owner gently picking up the dog by their thighs and swinging them from side to side. Apply forward pressure to the abdomen just behind the ribcage, if the condition does not improve. Larger dogs require the Heimlich maneuver if the object cannot be removed with fingers.

How to perform the Heimlich maneuver:

  • If your large dog is standing, place your arms around its belly and make a fist with your hands. Push up and forward just behind the rib cage.
  • If the dog is lying down, place one hand on its back and use the other hand to squeeze the abdomen upward.
  • Be sure to check and remove any loose objects in or around the dog’s mouth that have become dislodged.

To ensure the object did not damage the animal’s throat or cause any other injury, take your pet to the veterinarian after the incident.

Sometimes serious choking and lack of oxygen requires your pet to receive CPR, which is a combination of chest compressions and artificial respiration. CPR should be used when you cannot feel or hear the animal’s heartbeat and when the animal is unconscious.

For step-by-step pictures on how to perform CPR on your pet, Barr recommends trainings published by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical care. To visit their website, click here.

In addition, Barr recommends keeping a first aid kit in case of any pet emergency. “A human first aid kit is quite helpful when taking care of pet injuries,” Barr said. “The only addition I would add would be a small leash and a muzzle. These can be helpful in helping the owner to manage the animal during the post injury phase.”

Although we try our best to prevent pets from chewing on foreign objects, accidents still happen. It is important to be prepared for any choking episode to prevent your pet from serious injury or death.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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