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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Foreign object in the throat View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Pets cough, gag, have noisy breathing, or hold their mouths open in a strange way when they have objects stuck in their throats or windpipes. Cats often have problems with string-type objects, as well as needles that are attached to thread, and need immediate medical attention.


Dogs love to chew and often get sticks, bones, or toys and any chewed off pieces of them, stuck in their throats or windpipes.


Foreign objects in the throat should be distinguished from objects in the larynx. Objects in the larynx cause coughing, choking, and respiratory distress.


You'll need as many as 2 people to help you to prevent the dog from biting you or hurting itself.

1. One person should restrain the pet by wrapping it in a towel or pillow case or hugging him to his chest. If your pet won't hold his mouth open on his own, another person must hold it open while you recover the object. Have the helper place the palm of one hand over the bridge of your pet's muzzle, with the thumb and middle fingers gently pressing against the teeth just behind the canines. The other hand should grip his lower jaw, with the thumb and middle fingers pressing gently against the teeth. The pressure will prompt him to open wide.

2. If you are sure there is nothing sharp attached to the embedded end of the object, sweep back into his mouth with your fingers to dislodge the object. It should come free quickly with a finger sweep if it is going to, so don't waste time repeating the maneuver more than twice.

3. You can try to remove the object yourself if you pet allows you to open his mouth and look into it. Id you have a large dog, back him into a corner and hold him between your knees.

For a cat or small dog, place him on your lap or on a table, then tuck him under your arm. Use one hand to hold the top jaw open and look for the object.

4. If the object stops the dogs breathing, pets often lose consciousness very quickly. Use a modified Heimlich maneuver to try to dislodge the object so that your pet can breathe again. The technique varies depending on the size of your pet.

For a small dog or cat, hold his back against your stomach with his head up and his feet hanging down. Put your fist just underneath the rib cage - you can feel a soft, hollow place easily - and pull inward toward your belly and upward toward your chin at the same time. Use a strong thrusting action to help dislodge the object.

For a large dog, lay him on his side and kneel behind him so that his backbone is against your knees, with his head pointing to your left. Lean over him in a crouched position and put your right fist just below his rib cage. use you fist to push sharply upward and inward toward you knees and his head. The diaphragm will be directly below your fist, and it will help push air from the lungs up through the throat to dislodge the object. Repeat the maneuver 2 - 3 times, checking after each try to see if the object has come loose from the mouth.

5. If the Heimlich maneuver doesn't work after a few attempts, try a thrust with an open cupped hand to your pets back - clap him on the back 3 - 4 times in a row. Be sure that his neck stays in a straight line with his back so that there are no kinks in his throat to get in the way. If this technique still doesn't dislodge the object, continue trying this and the Heimlich maneuver in the car while someone drives you to the animal hospital as soon as possible.

6. Once the throat is clear, make sure that your pet starts breathing. If he doesn't, you may need to give artificial respiration.

a. Wrap one hand around your pet's muzzle to close his mouth

b. Place your other hand on his chest to monitor its rise and fall

c. Cover his nose with your mouth, and blow 2 quick puffs into his nose. his chest should move with the air.

d. Continue giving 15 - 20 breaths per minute until he starts breathing on his own or until you reach medical help.

*NOTE: if you don't feel the chest move with the breaths, there is still a blockage.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Your pet's throat needs several days to heal, and the soreness may make it hard for him to eat regular food. Feed him a direct diet of soft food for at least 1 week after the injury. You can make a watery gruel by mixing his food in the blender with water or low-fat, no salt, chicken broth until the mixture is the consistency of cream of wheat.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

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

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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