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What to Do if Your Dog or Cat is Choking

What to Do if Your Dog or Cat is Choking

If an object is lodged in your cat’s or dog’s mouth or throat, they can start to choke. Our Raritan, Somerset County veterinarians have some advice on how to help a pet that’s choking. 

Signs Your Pet is Choking

If they are choking, most cats or dogs will show some combination of the following signs:

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

If your cat or dog is experiencing any of the symptoms above, follow the steps below and bring your pet to our office immediately for emergency intervention. Our qualified emergency veterinarians are here late nights, weekends and holidays, or any time you are unable to reach your primary veterinarian. They are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage.

What to Do if Your Pet is Choking

If Possible, Remove the Object

As choking cats and dogs often struggle, it’s important to restrain them first to keep both you and your pet safe. If a cord, string or other item is wrapped around his or her neck and causing them to choke, carefully use a pair of scissors to remove the item.

If an item is lodged in your cat’s or dog’s mouth or throat, open the mouth and try to locate the object. If you can see it, attempt to use your finger to swipe it away.

If the object is not visible, don’t try to poke your finger down your pet’s throat in an effort to discover it, as this may cause injury. If you’re unable to dislodge the object by swiping it away, do not try to push on it or poke it - this can force it further into the throat.

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats & Dogs

If you’re unable to remove the object your pet is choking on, you’ll need to do the Heimlich Maneuver:

  • Lay your pet on their side.
  • Hold your pet’s back against your stomach (paws down, head up).
  • Using one hand, look for the soft hollow under the ribs (your closed fist should fit this spot).
  • Use the hand on your pet’s stomach to pull up and in 2 to 3 times toward your own stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.
  • Check the mouth to find out whether the object has been dislodged.


If this doesn’t work and you notice your cat loses his or her pulse, start CPR at about 120 chest compressions per minute. Continue these until you arrive at the vet’s office.

What to Do After the Choking Has Stopped

Even if you successfully remove the object that’s choking your cat or dog, it’s a good idea to bring it to the vet anyway. The vet will be able to check that the choking didn’t do damage to your pet’s body that you’re unable to see.

Preventing Future Choking

To reduce the risk of your pet choking in the future, ensure you look for anything that could be a potential choking hazard.

Typically, dog and cat food is formulated with an animal’s size in mind, but it’s always wise to watch them when they are eating anyway.

When your dog or cat plays, monitor them and make sure any toys they play with do not include pieces that may 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 and you are unable to remove the object, contact our Somerset County emergency veterinary hospital right away.

Caring for Pets in Somerset County

At AnimERge, our emergency service and specialty services accepts all clients. 

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