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Dogs will chew on just about anything they can sink their teeth into, and it often gets them into trouble. Yes, they occasionally destroy a favorite shoe, but that’s nothing compared to the risk of them choking. They can break bones into barely swallowable pieces and try to quickly gobble down the smelly sock they know you won’t like them having, and all of those things are potential choking hazards. Many dogs also accidentally swallow balls and other toys that are too small for their size.

When it happens, the first thing dog owners feel is overwhelming panic. They see their dog choking on a foreign object, and if they don’t act fast, the incident could turn fatal. It’s widely known that the Heimlich maneuver can save the life of a person who’s choking, but did you know there’s a doggy version that could end up saving your furry best friend? A dog owner recently took to Twitter to share how knowing the canine version of the Heimlich maneuver saved her dog’s life, and now pet owners are spreading the word to help even more animals. Here’s what you need to know.

Know The Signs

The first step in saving a choking dog’s life is knowing when they’re in trouble. A dog that is choking might paw at their mouth and try opening their jaw wide and extending their neck in an attempt to dislodge whatever’s in their throat. They might also start gasping and heaving their chest while trying to take in air.

Act Quickly

When a dog starts choking, you have only minutes to clear their airway and get them breathing again. Panic is natural, but it’s important to process the situation quickly and keep a clear head while you save your dog’s life. Follow these steps to perform the canine Heimlich maneuver.

1. Carefully open the dog’s mouth and look inside toward their throat to check for a possible obstruction. If you can see something, reach your hand into their mouth and remove the object with your fingers. Pet MD suggests that if you can’t get it with your fingers, use a flat spoon handle to pry the object away from the roof of the mouth.

2. If you can’t see an obstruction, try giving a sharp “blow” between the dog’s shoulder blades. This might do the trick and dislodge the object from their throat so they can cough it the rest of the way up.3. For small dogs, grab their back legs and carefully invert their body so their head is facing down and their tail is toward the ceiling. Next, apply firm pressure right below the rib cage in short thrusts. Continue to check the dog’s mouth to see if something becomes visible.

4. For larger dogs, inverting their body will likely be too hard. Instead, if they’re standing, wrap your arms around their belly and bring your hands together right below their rib cage. Make a fist and firmly push up and forward. Repeat the action until the dog coughs up something and starts breathing.

5. For large dogs that are already unconscious or lying down, put one hand on their back and use the other to squeeze their stomach up and forward in the direction of their throat.

6. If none of the above works, call your vet immediately or rush your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.

Having this knowledge in the back of your mind ensures that if your dog starts choking, you’re prepared to save their life. Remember to always observe your dog while they’re playing with toys and chewing on bones. And most importantly, share this information with other dog owners in your life. The more people who know, the more lives can be saved.

h/t: Pet MD

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