I know the title seems click-baity, but I absolutely promise that this post is really important. The reason it’s so important is because if I didn’t already know how to do this, Rigby probably would have died last week.
** If your dog is currently choking, please skip this story and watch this video immediately. **
I’ll set the scene a little bit, because if it happened to me, it could happen to you. My mom comes over on Fridays to take Rigby out, and I was there this particular Friday because as I mentioned last week, I had a cold. My mom has a habit of feeding Rigby all sorts of semi-naughty goodies, and one of his favorites is apples and peanut butter. My mom cuts up the apples into bite size pieces, and he gets a little dollop of peanut butter. (Okay, sometimes it’s more than a dollop, but whatever. Grandma-spoils-my-dog problems.)
I was reheating some leftover soup while he was in the kitchen eating, and all of a sudden he ran away from his food dish. What’s weird was that there was still food in the dish. If you don’t remember, Rigby is a food monster and eats everything (and then he’ll go back wondering where more is!)
Not this time. Instead, he left food in his bowl. MAJOR WARNING SIGN, right? I hadn’t noticed this had happened, but luckily my mom alerted me, and I went after him to figure out what was wrong. I found him on the floor of our bedroom, laying down and looking almost guilty? The dude has never been in trouble so fear may have been the most accurate term. Of course, I was alarmed, so I started trying to get his attention to see if something was wrong with him. He looked lethargic, his tail was down, and he just was acting super strange. His abdomen was also moving, almost as if he were hiccupping, but without much force to it.
He ran back to our living room and stood by our sliding glass doors, almost looking like he was wanting to throw up. I tried to look in his mouth, but saw nothing. I did notice a wheezing sound, like what you might expect to hear from someone who’s having an asthma attack. And that’s when I realized it: He’s trying to get oxygen because HE’S CHOKING.
Immediately I yell, “He’s choking!” wheelbarrow him, attempting to use the force of gravity to dislodge the food in his windpipe. Nothing happens. So I do it again. Nothing.
Now this is the important part: How to Help a Choking Dog
What I did next is the thing you need to know to save your dog’s life: The Canine Heimlich Maneuver. The Heimlich is a pretty serious thing because if you’re not careful, you can cause internal injuries, especially if your dog is a medium size like mine. I was very cautious, as Rigby was still getting oxygen, just at a very small rate because of the apple that was lodged in his throat. What I did (and this may not have been 100% perfect, because hi, panicking human over here) was I held him in the wheelbarrow position and used my fist to thrust gently upwards, in the soft spot right below the ribcage. The keyword here is gentle. I did this about three times, increasing the force with each “blow,” before he finally coughed up the apple (and a bunch of other mucus that had collected, yuck!). I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have such a mess all over the floor. ;)
The scary thing is, this happened around 5 pm on a Friday, during rush hour traffic, when the vet’s office is at least 10-minute drive, and an e-vet is even farther. Would he have survived that long? I’m not sure. But I’m so thankful I had learned these techniques when he was a puppy after someone from the Shiba Inu Forum had a similar scary experience and shared a very helpful video:
Note: I’ve set the video to start right where she begins her demonstration for a pet who is currently choking.
So that’s my story. Please please please learn the techniques to save a choking pet’s life. I’m going to share additional links below that helped me understand how to help a choking pet:
- WikiHow: How to Save a Choking Dog (Step by Step Instructions & Illustrations)
- PetEducation: The Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs (Step by Step Instructions)
- For Dummies: What To Do if Your Dog is Choking
I hope this never happens to you or your pet because it’s damn scary. It’s happened to us, and it could happen to you. Have you ever had a scary incident with your pet? Any other life-saving techniques I should know?