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What to Do if My Dog has Something Stuck in his Throat?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 23, 2018
What to Do if My Dog has Something Stuck in his Throat?

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Who hasn't experienced a dog sitting next to them when they're eating, with eyes fixed on their food? At the exact moment something falls to the floor, the dog immediately hoovers it up. Usually this isn't a problem as a small piece of food or some crumbs won't cause harm. But what happens if you drop a bone? Or a children's toy? Swallowing such items can be very dangerous and will require urgent veterinary treatment. However, as pet owners, there are a number of first aid steps you can take before running to the nearest veterinary clinic.

We at AnimalWised want to help you know what to do if your dog has something stuck in their throat. We'll also help you prevent it happening again in the future, so we hope you find it useful!

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How to know if a dog has something trapped in its throat?

It's not always possible to keep your eyes on your furry friend at all times. Some dog breeds are more energetic than others, whilst some are simply greedier. Therefore, sometimes we see certain signs that make us suspicious or concerned about what is going on with our dog. One of the most obvious signs something is wrong are the sounds our dog makes. Normal dog sounds approach complete silence when not moving. If we hear choking, coughing or strangulated sounds, we will understandably grow worried.

Dogs might cough for many reasons, but one of the most common is having something stuck in their throat. These may include toys, pieces of food, bones, plant matter or anything they find difficult to digest. While we try our best to control the diet of our dogs, they are well known for their ability to ingest many things we would otherwise find repulsive. A busy house offers many different possible choking hazards, but a walk in the country can equally raise issues.

Something which is important if you are trying to determine if there is something stuck in your dog's throat is to consider the breed. There are naturally gluttonous breeds such as the Labrador, Golden Retriever or Beagle which may be more likely to eat something they shouldn't. However, there are some breeds which have a particularly concern about choking. These are known as brachycephalic dogs and include breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs and some breeds of mastiff dog.

Due to breeding for certain aesthetic traits, these animals have resulted in an elongated soft palate, narrowed nostrils and a reduced trachea size. This means they often have difficulty breathing and their physical morphology gets in the way. Dogs such as these have shorter throats, so what may sound like coughing is actually their normal respiratory sounds. While we may love individual dogs in this breed, but there have been many calls by veterinary experts recommending we stop encouraging these types of breeds due to threat to a dog's health they create[1].

These factors mean you should look at other signs if you see your dog coughing. Is the dog chewing a lot or not at all? We might not always be able to determine if there is something wrong, but having something stuck in their throat is not always the problem. Choking or retching might have other causes, but let's first look to see what to do if your dog has something stuck in their throat.

What to Do if My Dog has Something Stuck in his Throat? - How to know if a dog has something trapped in its throat?

What to do if I see my dog swallow something that gets stuck?

Before running to the vet, if your dog has something stuck in their throat you can try these tips:

  • Immediately open their mouth to take a look at the entire cavity. See if you can remove the item by hand. Much will depend on what type of object has been swallowed. Sometimes you can do the manoeuvre yourself, whilst other times it will require veterinary attention. It is not advisable to remove objects with sharp points or edges, such as splintered bones, needles, scissors, etc. If you feel any resistance, you need to stop as you may do more damage by trying to remove the object.
  • If your pet is a small dog, you can lay them upside down when trying to remove the object. In the case of large dogs, raising their hind legs can be a great help.
  • Heimlich manoeuvre: place yourself behind the dog, either standing or kneeling. Wrap your arms around them and and support their legs with your own legs. Apply pressure behind the ribs, inwards and upwards, so that they start to cough or retch. The more they salivate the better, as this will make it easier for the object to slide out.
  • Even after you've managed to remove the object through either of these techniques, you should go to your vet to assess injuries and possible treatments.

The Heimlich manoeuvre is one which can be used if your dog has something stuck in their throat, but it can be dangerous if the coughing has a different cause. Be careful not to exert too much pressure or cause any trauma. Those with dogs who may have a higher chance of choking should consider doing a canine first aid course to help their pet.

Swallowing any object can cause your animal serious digestive problems. Therefore, you should consider the possible damage you'll be dealing with according to the type of object that the animal has swallowed. It might be a food item or plant which makes them feel sick, in which they may show the following symptoms:

  • Drooling (salivation).
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Apathy and listlessness.
  • Lack of appetite and/or thirst.

Reasons why my dog has a cough

It is important to remember that a foreign object in a dog's throat isn't the only reason they may be choking. The sound of a dog asphyxiating may not be too dissimilar to a dog coughing for an underlying health reason. Some of them may include:

  • The cold or flu: while dogs cannot get our colds and vice versa, there are many canine cold and flu viruses which can lead to coughing. Look at other symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing or shivering to determine if they have food or something else stuck.
  • Distemper: another viral infection, canine distemper is unfortunately much more serious than a cold. Immediate treatment is needed and can be fatal if not addressed quickly enough.
  • Kennel cough: scientifically known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, this is often passed on by dogs in close proximity to each other. Its symptoms include a hacking cough which mimics the sound of something stuck in your throat.
  • Heart disease: when a dog has heart disease, it is unfortunately met with many other symptoms. Coughing is one of them, so you need to look at other symptoms of heart problems in dogs and take them to the vet for diagnosis.
  • Strangulation: strangulation of asphyxiation in dogs is usually due to neglect and sometimes even abuse from an owner. If a dog's collar gets caught, it can lead to strangulation. A technique known as ‘helicoptering’ may also be used on the dog whereby they are picked up by the neck and swung around[2]. Unfortunately, many children who do not know any better may engage in this practice thinking they are only playing.
  • Heartworm: this is a parsitical infection which affects the dog's heart and has other symptoms including coughing. This is very dangerous and requires immediate treatment.

Knowing whether your dog is choking due to something stuck in their throat or for another reason means looking at the other symptoms. It also means looking at the circumstance when you first see the dog choking. Is there a child nearby who could have done something? Have they got signs of trauma? Is there pieces of a possible foreign object lying around?

What to Do if My Dog has Something Stuck in his Throat? - Reasons why my dog has a cough

Treatment for removing objects stuck in the throat

Even if the dog doesn't look otherwise ill, getting something stuck in the throat can be a veterinary emergency. If you have tried all of the above without success you need to go to the vet. The more time that passes, the worse the treatment will be. The vet may even have to resort to surgery to remove the object that the dog has stuck in their throat.

First of all, they will try to locate the foreign body. This is done by performing an X-ray as soon as possible. Treatments will be discussed at the discretion of the veterinarian professional that deals with the emergency. Here are some of the most common treatments:

  • If less than 48 hours have passed since you worked out what has happened, depending on the location, you might be able to remove it with sedation and endoscopy. This is when a tube with a camera is inserted and a pincer can remove the object. The vet may also try orally applying liquid vaseline if they think it is more easily reachable.
  • If 48 hours have already passed, the vet will assess getting surgery to remove the foreign body. Part of the problem is there will certainly already be adhesions to the digestive tract.

It is very important to consult the vet and not to medicate your pet with antidiarrheals, antiemetics or painkillers, because all that will do is hide the symptoms and worsen the solution. So, if you're wondering what to do if your dog has something stuck in their throat after trying the aforementioned first aid tips, make sure you go to a vet.

Finally, it is important to emphasize prevention. Don't leave objects lying around which your dog might have access to, especially in places where they are left unsupervised. Also be careful what you feed your dog. Cooked bones can be very dangerous as they shatter easily and can get stuck in the throat.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What to Do if My Dog has Something Stuck in his Throat?, we recommend you visit our First aid category.

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9 comments
Meredyth brazel
My dog ate some stringy felt that she chewed out from under my couch a couple of days ago. She has coughed up a couple of small balls of it but continues to cough and spit up on and off.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Meredyth,

Choking hazards for dogs tend to be worse if they are harder. Something soft like felt may be annoying, but can often be passed through. However, they can still cause digestive issues and it will depend on the size and health of the dog. If an intestinal blockage occurs, it can be dangerous (although we are not saying this is the case). Keep an eye on her and if she is showing other symptoms or hasn't stopped after 48 hours, you should seriously consider taking her to the vet.
Donna
My dog has a piece of a bone (not real bone but those hard bones) stuck in his throat. He is 13 years old, been lethargic all day and won't drink. I stuck my finger down his throat and I can feel it but can't get hold of it. They will not sedate him to get it out. What other options do I have? Please help!
Mina
I think my 5 month year old morkie has something stuck in his throat I'm afraid to put my finger in to see or feel what could be causing his discomfort I dont what to do something wrong... a d cause more harm than good what can I do!!!




Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Mina,

It is wise to not be too invasive if you see something trapped in your dog's throat. You could end up causing damage to their tissue or even push the obstruction in further.

You will need to take them to the vet who might use an endoscope or use a scan to work out if indeed there is a blockage. It may be some other issue such as inflammation or infection.
harpreet singh
my dog has stuck raakhi in his throat so plse suggest me im worried
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Harpreet

If the suggestions in our article have not helped you, we suggest consulting a veterinarian immediately to remove the object from your dog’s throat.
Stacie
My puppy sneezes all the time & wheezes like she’s got something caught in her throat. It started after she was chewing on a bone a few nights ago. She still eats fine, plays & drinks. Not lethargic . Only the above symptoms. I can’t see anything there. ??? Thank you!
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ana
Going to the vet is useless these days, at least where i live they are only concern with how much money they can get our of you and very little they do for our pets, they refer each other to get commission on the referral even if not needed. Sad.
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Sherlock
Thank you! Thank you! Sherlock had something stuck in her throat that I couldn't see. Did the Heimlich a few times as you instructed and for good measure put her upside down. It easily dislodged whatever it was so she could swallow it. She immediately gave me a big kiss, ate a treat, and drank some water. Yay!
Administrador AnimalWised
Glad we could help Sherlock!

AnimalWised
Crg
What happend or how did you cure your puppy ? Mine is the same way
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Crg

Thank you for your comment, Unfortunately we do not quite understand your question and therefore cannot answer it.

Regards!
Tshering
My 2 month puppy has eaten a fish head now she is crying and don't let me touch her. She is in pain and I don't know what to do. I can visit vet tomorrow but we don't have doctor in our place. I am in a remote place. She did vomit alot but still no sign of improvement. She cough very little. I am not not whats wrong now. Please help
Sherab
My 2 month puppy have fish bones stuck and we can't see. She is vomiting whatever she eats. And still she cries and do not want us to to
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sherab,

If your dog is vomiting when she eats, it could be due to a number of reasons. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to illness, especially for viral and bacterial infections (https://www.animalwised.com/feline-parvovirus-322.html), so you should seek advice from a vet if you see these symptoms. They alone will be able to determine the cause and treatment. If it is indeed due to food being stuck, then they will also have the knowledge and experience to remove it.

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