Know what to do if your dog stops breathing.
By Betsy Brevitz, D.V.M.
If you know your dog has a small ball, toy, piece of food, or other object stuck in his trachea (windpipe) and he can't breathe, do the Heimlich maneuver immediately.
How to give the Heimlich maneuver to your dog
1. Stand (if he's a tall dog) or kneel (if he's a small or medium dog) behind the dog, with the dog facing away from you.
2. Put your arms around the dog's waist. Make a fist with one hand and place your fist, thumb side up, on the dog's abdomen just below his ribs. Wrap your other hand around that fist.
3. Give a hard, fast jerk or squeeze upward, toward the dog's backbone. Apply enough force to move the dog's whole body. (If he's a very small dog, place two knuckles of one hand on the abdomen just below the ribs and the other hand flat on the dog's back to help steady him, then give a quick, hard poke upward with your knuckles.)
4. If the object does not come out of the dog's mouth on the first try, give another hard jerk. If after three or four jerks the object still has not come out or the dog still can't breathe, rush him to the nearest veterinary clinic, where a vet can do a tracheotomy (cut a hole in the dog's windpipe below the obstruction) to get air into the lungs and then remove the object surgically.
Click here to see an image of the Heimlich maneuver.
How to give CPR to your dog
Dog owners who know how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on people often wonder whether similar techniques can be used on dogs. The short answer is yes, they can, but their usefulness in canine emergencies is extremely limited.
First, a common situation in which you definitely should not attempt
mouth-to-nose respiration: when a dog is conscious and gasping for breath. You will not be able to blow more air into his lungs than he can inhale on his own, and he will be terrified at your efforts. When a dog is struggling to breathe, do the following instead:
1. Perform the Heimlich maneuver if you know he has an object stuck in his trachea (see page 1 of this article).
2. If he is hot, cool him down by spraying or wiping him with water or moving him to an air-conditioned location.
3. Calm him as best you can.
4. Get him as quickly as you can to a vet clinic or other source of oxygen. (A kindhearted ambulance crew may let you use their oxygen tank.) Hold an oxygen mask close to the dog's nose but not so tightly against his muzzle that he struggles against it, or hold just the oxygen tube in front of his nostrils.
If a dog is unconscious, not breathing, and has no heartbeat, forget about mouth-to-nose breathing and concentrate your efforts on chest compressions -- which help push blood to the brain and internal organs -- while rushing the dog to the nearest veterinary hospital.
Click here to see an image of chest compressions.
1. Lay the dog on his side.
2. Place the heel of one hand in the middle of the dog's ribs with the other hand over it.
3. Push down hard enough to compress the dog's ribs by 1 or 2 inches, once per second.
Always seek veterinary care following first-aid attempts.