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Fatal Fetch: What to do if your dog is choking.

Fatal Fetch: What to Do If Your Dog Is Choking on A Ball

By Sarah Hilario, DVM

With pet obesity at a record high, play time and exercise are more important than ever for your pet’s health.  However, some activities such as playing ball can pose a choking risk to dogs.  This threat increases depending on the size of the ball and the intensity at which the dog plays.  A ball or other type of toy lodged in the back of the throat can become a life-threatening emergency.  Unless you live across the street from a veterinary clinic, knowing a technique similar to the Heimlich can potentially save your dog’s life. 

The external extraction technique is considered the safest and most effective procedure to perform in your home or backyard.  If your dog starts to choke and collapses or becomes unconscious, first lay your dog on its back with its head in a straight line on the ground.  Next, straddle your dog and use your hands to feel for the ball in the throat area.  Then make an open diamond shape with your hands and use your thumbs behind the ball to push it down towards the ground and then forward towards the mouth in what is called a J stroke.  Once the ball pops out, if your dog is not breathing, hold your dog’s mouth closed and give them 2 breaths through the nose.  Most dogs at this point regain consciousness and can be driven safely to your veterinary clinic for further evaluation.

Hopefully, you will never need to perform this maneuver but it is always better to be prepared in case of an emergency.  Search “External Extraction Technique in Dogs” on YouTube to find several great videos that demonstrate how to perform this technique.  Take a few minutes this week to make sure that your pet’s toys are an appropriate size for them and discard anything too small or that has been damaged or worn out.