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What to Do if a Cat or Dog is Choking

If something gets lodged in your dog or cat's mouth or throat and they start to choke, try the following steps from our South Salem veterinary team. 

Signs of a Choking Cat or Dog

If your much-loved animal companion is choking, you may notice one or more of the following signs:

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

If you notice any of these signs in your dog or cat, please follow the steps outlined below and bring them to our office as soon as you can so that we can provide you with emergency assistance.

How To Help a Choking Dog or Cat

Remove The Object if Possible

Make every effort to keep your pet under control. Choking cats and dogs will struggle, which may cause them harm. If they are choking because a cord, string, or other item is wrapped around their neck, carefully cut it off with a pair of scissors.

If the cat or dog is choking because something is stuck in their mouth or throat, you should open their mouth to see if the object can be found there. If you can see it, you should use your finger to try to remove it if you can.

If you cannot see it contact the emergency vet immediately! Don't try to 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

You will need to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your pet in the event that you are unable to remove the object that is causing it to choke:

  • Lay your pet on their side.
  • Hold your pet's back against your stomach (head up, 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 pull up and two or three times, toward your own stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.
  • Check the mouth to determine if the object has been dislodged.


In the event that this does not work and your cat stops having a pulse, start performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at a rate of approximately 120 chest compressions per minute and continue doing so until you get to an emergency veterinary hospital.

What to do After the Choking has Stopped

Even if you are successful in removing the object that is choking your cat or dog, you should still take your pet to the veterinarian. The vet will be able to ensure that the choking did not cause any hidden damage to your pet's body.

Preventing Future Choking

Make sure to keep a close eye on anything that has the potential to be a choking hazard for your pet so that you can reduce the likelihood of your pet choking in the future.

Even though dog and cat food are typically made with the animal's size in mind when it is being formulated, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on them while they are consuming their food.

Always keep an eye on your dog or cat while they are playing, and check any toys to ensure that they do not contain any small parts that could become detached and become a choking hazard.

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 our animal hospital right away! South Salem Animal Hospital is here to provide pets with urgent and critical care.

New Patients Welcome

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

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