Common Causes-

It is not uncommon for many dogs to avoid chewing while eating or scarfing down their food as fast as they can. This could very well cause many long term problems in the future for your canine, relating to digestive problems. Despite the fact that your dog has developed a habit of swallowing chunks of food whole, it does not mean they are immune to choking and it could very well happen sooner or later.

Dogs can be naturally prone to eating much faster than they should. One reason for this behavior could be because there is competition in the household. If there is more than one dog living together, the simple answer would be that the behavior developed due to the anxiety of having another canine or animal threatening their meal. This can cause an aggressive eating behavior where they believe they need to finish their food before anything else can get to it. If anything it is more of a defense reaction.

If you own only a single pooch and they have a habit of swallowing all of their food before you even leave the room, a possible reason for your dogs eating habit could be due to constant teasing.

Pulling away or threatening to steal away food while your dog is in the process of eating can trigger a defensive response where they could either nip at you, bark or devour it in seconds within receiving it. Your dog does not know you are teasing or simply trying to play with them when it comes to their food; to prevent from going hungry or even on instinct they will eat as fast as they can.

If either of the above may be the case or cause of the behavior, put your dogs in separate rooms when it is feeding time. If they feel they are in a safe secluded area where they can relax upon eating it can cause them to slow down. This way they don’t feel anxious or threatened to the point where they engulf their entire meal.

It would be well advised to leave your pet alone while it eats. Break the habit of attempting to pull a piece of meat from their jaws because you think it’s fun or playful; if it doesn’t cause them to choke, it may cause them to have health problems later on.
There are also many types of chew toys that can easily break or get lodged in your dogs throat without warning. It would be well advised to purchase a toy matching your dogs size and something solid where parts would not be prone to breaking or tearing off, causing a hazard for your pet. Like infants it would be recommended you keep an eye on your pet or supervise them while they play with toys.

While choking is for the most part a very uncommon emergency for a veterinary clinic it can result in an injury or even death if not treated quickly and properly.

Here are some signs your dog may be choking:

  • Extreme amount of drooling
  • Collapsed on the floor, Attempting to run
  • Shaking or trembling uncontrollably
  • Gaping mouth followed by gagging sounds
  • Obvious anxiety and panic
  • Pawing at the mouth

If you notice your dog doing any of these behaviors listed, your first reaction needs to be to rush them to the veterinarian or to call the clinic immediately.

However if your pet is truly choking there is a high chance you may not have time to rush to your local veterinary clinic or to look up the phone number. Attempting to dislodge the item obstructing your pets airway can cause more harm to them or even you. If your pet has fallen unconscious you may need to take further action.

The American Red Cross offers online courses what to do in this instance more specifically and in more detail. If you wish to further educate yourself on the matter, another option you can look into is if your local shelter or veterinary hospital offers hands on training to properly deal with this particular situation. The better prepared you are, the more smoothly the process will go.

In the event of your dog choking you will want to treat is as you do a toddler:

  • Take a look inside your dogs mouth if possible and attempt to remove the object if clearly visible.
  • Do not attempt sticking your fingers further down your dogs throat if you don’t see anything as this can result in the object becoming lodged down further or causing more pain or damage to your pet.
    • If your pet has fallen unconscious you will more than likely need to conduct the Heimlich maneuver.
    • For small dogs, lay them on their back but keep their head upright.
      Place your fist on their abdomen where their sternum ends and give 4-5 rapid thrusts, inward and upward. (As you would normally do for a person.)
    • For larger breeds, if they are still standing you will want to use the same strategy, placing your fist under their rib cage thrusting up and forward.
    • If the larger breed has collapsed onto its side, you will want to put one hand on their back for support and use the other to squeeze the abdomen in and upwards in a fist.
  • After thrusting 4-5 times check their airway and clear out anything they may have coughed up.
  • Your dog may become conscious again and/or start panting or giving out short raspy breaths.

It is imperative after having conducted such a procedure on your canine that you rush them to the vet immediately afterwards. This is so that they may do a checkup to see if there was any damage done to your pets airway or any broken bones or trauma to any internal organs. If so they can go ahead and treat any problems that may arise out of the incident immediately.

While it is not very common for dogs to end up choking or ending up with something lodged in their airway, it doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Taking further steps to prevent this kind of incident can go a long way as well as knowing how to conduct the proper actions to prevent further injury to yourself or your beloved family friend.

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Melani Erb