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What is Choking?

If your dog is choking, he will try to paw at his mouth and gag, cough, maybe even vomit. He may also pace and look scared, he may drool, and you may notice his chest heave as he tries to catch his breath. This may happen while your dog is eating or drinking, playing with toys, or chewing on his bone or something he is not supposed to have. 

Choking and coughing sound similar, but if your dog is really choking, he will not be breathing and it takes air to breathe in order to cough. If your dog is choking and cannot breathe, you need to take action immediately. Look in his mouth to see if there is anything blocking the airway. If you see something you can safely remove, you should try to do that right away. If not, take your pet to an emergency pet hospital. Some of the most common reasons for choking in dogs include:

  • Bones
  • Balls such as golf or squash balls
  • Children’s plastic toys
  • Sticks
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Tumor in the throat area

Choking is a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate attention. In fact, you should try to remove the object if your dog is unable to breathe at all. If your dog is unconscious, you need to perform the Heimlich Maneuver and rescue breathing.

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Why Choking Occurs in Dogs


Bones of any kind should not be given to dogs. A piece of bone can get lodged in the throat, sharp parts of the bone can do damage to the throat and other soft tissues in the digestive system, and they can get stuck in the windpipe. 

Small Balls

Your dog should not be allowed to play with balls that are small enough to fit in his throat. In addition, a ball with an air hole in it can cause a suctioning hazard that will choke your pet. The only type of balls your dog should play with are ones that are made for them. There are balls made especially for dogs of all sizes at major pet stores or even at your veterinarian’s office. 

Childrens’ Toys

Although toys are supposed to be safe for children, most of them are not safe for your dog. Especially if your dog likes to chew, which all dogs usually do. No matter how well the toy seems to be made, your dog can probably chew on it enough for it to be dangerous. There are toys made for dogs that you can give your dog that are much safer. 


Sticks can be a problem as well, especially if your dog is unattended outside for any amount of time. These things may seem innocent enough, but wood swells when it gets wet and can get lodged in the throat or intestines. 

Swelling of the Throat

There are many things that can cause swelling of the throat such as injury, swallowing corrosive material, or allergies. If your dog has an allergic reaction and his breathing becomes labored, take him to the emergency animal hospital right away. This is a sign of anaphylactic shock and may cause your dog’s throat to swell shut, causing suffocation and death.

Collapsed Trachea

A tracheal collapse is not common in most dogs, but common in small brachycephalic dogs with short muzzles such as the Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Pug, and Chihuahua. This is a serious condition that can be fatal if not treated right away.

If your dog has a collapsed trachea he will likely be wheezing, have breathing trouble, and may faint. You may also notice a slight blue tint to your dog’s skin. You should see a veterinary professional right away.


Neoplasia, the abnormal growth of cells and tissue, can mean that a tumor may form in an area such as the throat, on the tonsils, or on the esophagus. A mass in these areas can cause your dog to choke, gag, and have difficulty swallowing food.

What to do if your Dog is Choking

If your dog is choking, it is a medical emergency and you should take immediate action. Check to see if there is something blocking his throat and try to remove it. If your dog loses consciousness, you should try to push the object out of his throat by performing the Heimlich Maneuver and performing CPR. If you cannot get the object out or if you do not see anything, take your dog to the Emergency Hospital right away. If your dog has a collapsed trachea or swollen airway, only a veterinary professional can provide the care needed.

Prevention of Choking

To prevent your dog from choking, you should always check for any small toys, balls, or other choking hazards in the house where your dog is allowed to play. Outside, check for sticks, rocks, and other hazards that your dog may eat and get rid of them. Do not give your dog bones. However, there are certain types of rawhide chewing treats for dogs that are safe for your pet.

If you have a brachycephalic dog, be alert for signs of a collapsed trachea such as a cough that sounds like a goose honking, drooling, exercise intolerance, and gagging when eating or drinking. Take your dog to the veterinarian if your dog has any of these symptoms.

Cost of Choking

As with any condition, the cost will depend on the cause. However, for a choking dog, you can expect to pay for plenty of tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and an ultrasound. The cost for these tests can run from $300 to $5000, with the average being about $1200. If a tumor is found, the expense for surgery and related treatments can be approximately $8500.