The thought of the family cat or dog choking or falling unconscious is frightening to many pet owners. The first step to take in any pet-related emergency is contact a veterinarian, said Dr. Abbie Krause of the Family Pet Hospital.

However, if a veterinarian isn’t available, it may be necessary for the pet owner to perform basic Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or the Heimlich maneuver to better the pet’s chances of survival.


“CPR at home isn’t usually very effective,” said Krause. “It’s more effective in the hospital because we have medical tools that we can administer to make it more successful. It’s definitely worth a try though if there aren’t any other options.”

Fortunately for owners of stinky-breathed pets, mouth to mouth is no longer a necessary part of CPR.

“We’ve always heard that mouth to mouth is part of CPR, but now we’ve found that just chest compressions is enough because it effectively moves the air in and out of the lungs in addition to pumping the blood,” Krause explained.

“First you want to open their mouth and pull their tongue out just beyond their mouth so you can see a clear airway,” said Krause. “Make sure their tongue doesn’t flop back into the throat as it could suffocate them.”

Krause went on to demonstrate the steps on Fancy, an office cat at the Family Pet Hospital.

With the animal laying on its side, press on the ribcage behind the front leg, a third of the way up from the belly. For medium to large dogs, pet owners should do 90 compressions per minute or, as Krause noted, to the beat of the Bee Gee’s tune “Stayin’ Alive.” For smaller dogs and cats, pet owners should move a little faster at 110-150 compressions per minute.


For choking pets, Krause warns that the animal is probably afraid and more likely to bite. 

“They don’t understand what’s going on and that you’re trying to help,” said Krause. “Pet owners need to be careful and try to soothe their pet.”

Bearing that in mind, pet owners should carefully try to look and feel in their pet’s mouth and throat for the foreign object.

If the object is too far down to see or pull out, pet owners should try to dislodge it using the Heimlich maneuver, which Krause once again demonstrated with Fancy.

For larger dogs, pet owners should stand behind the dog and wrap their arms around its belly near the hips. Thrust arms forward and up.

For small dogs and cats, pick up the animal and face it away from your body. Gently tilt it downward. Push forward and up on their belly using quick thrusts. 

Check the pet’s mouth and remove any objects that may have been dislodged.

Krause noted that pet owners should be on the lookout for small bouncy balls, bones, rawhides, pacifiers or anything that smells or tastes like food.

“Chances are pets aren’t going to just try to eat something random. It’s got to smell or taste good to them,” said Krause.

Krause added that any time emergency action is taken on a pet, the pet should be brought in to their veterinarian as soon as possible for additional examination.

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