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How Can I Help A Cat Or Dog That Is Choking?

How Can I Help A Cat Or Dog That Is Choking?

If your dog or cat starts to choke on something lodged in their mouth or throat, attempt the following steps from our Capitola veterinary emergency team. 

Signs That A Cat or Dog Is Choking

If your pet is choking, they may exhibit one or more of the following signs: 

  • Distress
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Rubbing their face against the ground
  • Gagging or retching
  • Salivation
  • Coughing
  • Blue mucous membranes (cyanosis)

If your dog or cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, follow the steps below and get to our office as soon as possible for emergency intervention.

How To Help a Choking Dog or Cat

Remove The Object if Possible

Do your best to restrain your pet without hurting them. Pets who are choking tend to panic and they will struggle, potentially causing them harm. If they are choking because a cord, string, or other item is wrapped around the neck, carefully use a pair of scissors to cut it off.

If your cat or dog is choking on something lodged in their mouth or throat, open the mouth to see if you can locate the object. If you can see it, try to remove or swipe it away with your finger.

If you cannot see the object, contact the emergency vet immediately! Don't poke your finger down your pet's throat in an effort 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 are not able to remove the object that your pet is choking on, you'll have to perform the Heimlich maneuver:

  • Lay your pet on their side.
  • Hold their back against your stomach with their heads up and their 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 push against the stomach in an inwards and upwards motion 2-3 times, toward your own stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.
  • Check the mouth to determine if the object has been dislodged.


If this doesn’t work and you cannot detect your pet's pulse, begin administering CPR at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute. Continue these until you arrive at the emergency veterinary hospital.

After Choking Has Stopped

Even if you manage to remove the object that is choking your cat or dog, it is wise to bring your pet to the vet anyway. The vet will be able to ensure that the choking didn't cause any harm to your pet's body that you can't see.

How to Prevent Future Choking

To minimize the chances of your pet choking in the future, make sure to keep an eye on anything that could be a potential choking hazard.

Generally, dog and cat food is formulated with the animal's size in mind, but it's always a good idea to monitor them when they are eating anyway.

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 contact us for emergency care right away! Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital is here to provide Capitola pets with urgent and critical care.

New Patients Welcome

Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Capitola companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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