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Signs Your Pet Is Choking & What to Do

If your pet is choking, it is important to know what to do so you can provide them with the care they need. In this post, our Lexington vets share some signs that your pet is choking, and offer some advice on how you can help them.

Indications That Your Pet Is Choking

Most dogs and cats will show some combination of these symptoms if they are choking:

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

If your dog or cat is displaying any of these symptoms, follow the steps below and come to our Lexington office as soon as possible for emergency veterinary care

What to Do If a Cat Is Choking vs a Dog

Whether you have a choking cat or if your dog is choking, the steps are identical. Choking dogs and cats both require immediate action to help dislodge whatever is obstructing their airway. Below, our veterinary team discusses how to help a choking dog or cat.

Remove the Object If Possible

Restrain your pet first since choking dogs and cats will be frightened. This will cause them to struggle and can potentially cause them harm. If they are choking because a string, cord, or other item is wrapped around the neck, use a pair of scissors to cut it off with extreme caution. 

If your dog or cat is choking due to something being lodged in their throat, open their mouth to see if you can locate the object. If you can see it, try 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 to find and retrieve it. This may push the object further down the throat or cause injury.

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats & Dogs

If you are unable to remove the object your pet is choking on, you'll need to do the Heimlich maneuver. To do so, you'll need to:

  • 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 in two or three times, toward your stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.
  • Check the mouth to determine if the object has been dislodged.


If this doesn’t work and your cat or dog loses their pulse or is really struggling to breathe, begin CPR at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute while someone drives you to a vet. Continue this until you reach an animal hospital that provides emergency veterinary services.

After the Choking Has Stopped

Even if you manage to remove the object that is choking your cat or dog, it is wise to bring your pet in for veterinary treatment anyway. A vet will be able to ensure that the choking didn't cause any harm to your pet's body, and make sure your pet is back to optimal health.

If your pet has stopped choking but no object came out, they likely will have swallowed it. In this situation, you should see a vet who may need to perform an X-ray to see what the object is and decide if it can pass on its own, or if surgery is required to remove it.

Preventing Your Pet From Choking

To minimize the chances of your pet choking in the future, keep an eye on anything that could be a potential choking hazard and get it out of their reach.

Dog and cat food are generally formulated with the animal's size in mind, but it's always a good idea to monitor them when they are eating just to be safe.

Monitor your dog or cat during play, and make sure any toys do not include pieces that could 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.

Is your cat or dog choking or has recently choked on an object? Contact our Lexington vets immediately to have your pet cared for. 

Emergency Care

Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for advanced diagnostic appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

Contact Us

Contact (859) 268-7604