- If the animal is not conscious, assess the ABCs and perform CPR as required.
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET BITTEN. DO NOT PLACE YOUR FINGERS IN THE MOUTH OF AN ANIMAL THAT IS BEING OVERTLY AGGRESSIVE OR GROWLING.
- Open the mouth, extend the tongue and sweep the mouth with your fingers/hand to remove anything blocking the airway such as food, vomitus or foreign objects. Be careful not to push any objects further into the airway.
- A common site for objects to become lodged is between the upper dental arcades, across the roof of the mouth. You may be able to remove with your fingers.
- Keep the animal calm and quiet as excitement worsens signs.
- Seek immediate veterinary attention.
WHAT IS IT?
Choking occurs when there is an obstruction in the upper airway blocking the passage of air into the lungs.
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
- Loud breathing sounds, especially on breathing in (inspiration)
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Blue tinged mucous membranes (cyanosis)
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory arrest
Choking may be caused by a foreign body (a toy, stick or food item); swelling (such as may occur with an allergic reaction, swallowing of a wasp or bee sting or in cases of heat stress, particularly in flat-nosed or brachycephalic breeds) or disorders that affect the larynx (such as laryngeal paralysis or tick paralysis).
Veterinary care depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may need to sedate or anaesthetise your pet to enable control of the airway. An emergency tracheostomy (an incision into the trachea in the neck) may be required.
Anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines may be administered in the case of airway swelling.
Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and assess your pet. Additional diagnostic tests may include blood and urine tests, airway examination (potentially under sedation or anaesthesia) and x-rays.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In the case of upper airway obstruction, removal of a foreign body may be the only treatment required. Some animals will require artificial ventilation.
Macintire DK, Drobatz KJ, Haskins SC and Saxon WD (2006) Manual of small animal emergency and critical care medicine. Oxford: Blackwell.