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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Strangulation View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Strangulation happens most often to dogs because they are leashed or ties more often than cats. It takes only a few minutes for strangulation to kill your pet, so you must discover the situation very quickly.


A loss of consciousness due to strangulation.


Tethered dogs wrap themselves around and around a pole or tree and when they become entangled, they struggle to get loose and strangle themselves in the process. Dogs may also be tied incorrectly inside a vehicle and may hang themselves when they leap out of a car window or the back of a pickup truck. Pets can catch their collars on something and end up strangling themselves. Cats are especially prone to getting tangled in draperies or the cords of venetian blinds. Strangulation tends to affect younger pets more often, perhaps because older animals have learned to avoid dangerous situations.


Diagnosis can be made by observing the symptoms.

Neurogenic Pulmonary Edema - Cats and dogs who have been without oxygen for a time can develop breathing or heart problems even after they have been resuscitated. Fluid can accumulate in the lungs (pulmonary edema), causing shortness of breath, tiring easily, or coughing. These symptoms mean that your pet needs medical attention immediately.

Signs of problems can develop minutes to hours following a strangulation injury, so watch your pet closely for at least 12 hours before you consider him fully recovered. Treatment can be complicated if symptoms develop. You pet may require medication to get rid of the water in his lungs, antibiotics to fight pneumonia, or even oxygen therapy to help him breathe.


First aid is the only thing that can help, and you must act quickly to save your pet. Take him to the vet immediately if he has lost consciousness or is still having difficulty breathing. Perform artificial respiration or CPR on the way to the vet.

  1. Free the neck - Lack of oxygen for only 3 - 4 minutes can cause brain damage and death, but pets will lose consciousness before that. The most important step is to remove the constriction around the neck as soon as possible. Don't waste time trying to unwrap the leash or unbuckle the collar - cut it off. Use sharp household scissors, or for thick collars, pruning shears. Take care not to cut your pet's skin, if possible.

    Slip one blade of the scissors between the skin and collar, over the back of the neck where the muscle is thick and protects the deeper lying veins. The collar may be so tight that even the dull side of the scissors scrapes or cuts the skin, but don't let this stop you. A cut will heal in time, and protecting the skin isn't as important as removing the noose.
  2. Open his airway - Removing the constriction may be enough to allow your pet to start breathing again on his own. You can open his airway to make it easier by gently extending his neck. If he is unconscious and still doesn't breathe, grasp his tongue near the tip and pull it forward - otherwise, it may fall to the back of the throat and block the airway. The wet tongue can be slippery, so it helps to use a piece of gauze or clean cloth to get a good grip.
  3. Give artificial respiration if needed - Watch for his chest to rise and fall, and if it doesn't, you will need to breathe for him. Close his mouth with your hand, put your lips over his nose, and give 2 quick breaths, watching to see if his chest rises. breathe gently, particularly with cats and small dogs, because blowing too hard can rupture their lungs. Stop as soon as you see the chest expand, and allow the air to escape back out. Repeat the process, giving 15 - 20 breaths per minute until your pet starts breathing again or until you reach the animal hospital.
  4. Be ready to give CPR - If your cat or dog stopped breathing for several minutes, chances are that his heart stopped also. Fell or listen for a heartbeat by placing your palm or ear against the left side of his chest, right behind the elbow. If you can't find a pulse or heartbeat, you must give CPR, alternating 5 chest compressions for every 1 breath. You should give 80 - 100 compressions and 15 - 20 breaths per minute.

    To give heart compressions to cats or small dogs, cup your hand over the point of the chest just behind the elbows. Squeeze firmly in a "cough-like" manner, pressing in about 1/2 inch, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other.

    Lay a larger pet on his side on a firm, flat surface. Place one hand on his chest behind the elbow, then put your other hand on top of the first. Use both hands to thrust downward, compressing the chest by 25 - 50%.


Removing collars before crating pets is a good way to reduce this common form of strangulation. Safety collars are available for cats from local pet stores. These collars are capable of stretching just far enough to allow a cat in distress to remove the collar on their own.


Dogs and cats who have been strangled will have sore throats from the constriction on their necks. It can hurt to swallow until the bruising and swelling have healed. Soften your pet's regular diet for 3 - 5 days to make it easier for him to swallow. You can add some warm, low-fat, no-salt chicken broth to the food to soften it, or just run it through a blender with some warm water.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

2 Comments For "Strangulation"



my boxer pup (8months) was playing with my daughters pit mix (1 1/2yrs) and she got caught in his collar with her mouth, I think she twisted it and it was caught on her teeth, anyway she then went in to defensive attack mode and fought with him.He strangled and now his eyes are bloodshot, this seems to be the only lasting effect from the ordeal. He isnt coughing or anything, so I am guessing he isnt having any lung issues. they are back to playing normally with each other but I am now letting him play collarless. Should I worry about his eyes? they tend to be watering more than before...

March 29, 2013 at 12:01AM  Sign In or Join to Comment



The exact same thing happened to my dog yesterday - and same red eye symptom.

July 27, 2013 at 11:26PM  Sign In or Join to Comment