Choking and Reverse Sneezing in Dogs
The sudden onset of forceful coughing, pawing at the mouth, and respiratory distress in a healthy dog suggest a foreign body caught in the larynx. This is an emergency! If the dog is conscious and able to breathe, proceed at once to the nearest veterinary clinic.
If your dog is gagging and retching but is not experiencing difficulty in breathing, assume a foreign object such as a bone splinter or rubber ball is caught in her mouth or in the back of her throat.
Fortunately, a foreign body in the larynx is not common. Most objects are expelled by the forceful coughing that results from laryngeal stimulation.
Treatment: If the dog collapses and is unable to breathe, place her on her side with her head down. Open her mouth, pull out her tongue as far as you can, sweep your fingers from side to side, grasp the object, and remove it. Then administer artificial respiration or CPR as necessary.
If the object cannot be easily removed, do not try to get around it with your fingers. This will force it further down the throat. Instead, proceed to the Heimlich Maneuver.
The Heimlich Maneuver
Abdominal compressions. It may be easiest to hold the dog upside down in your lap, with her back against your chest and her head highest, but facing down. Place your arms around the dog's waist from behind. Make a fist and grasp it with the other hand. For a small dog, you may have to just use two fingers. Place your fist or fingers in the dog's upper mid-abdomen close to the breast bone at the apex of the V formed by the rib cage.
- Compress the abdomen by forcefully thrusting up and in with the fist or fingers four times in quick succession.This maneuver pushes the diaphragm upward and forces a burst of air through the larynx. This usually dislodges the object. Proceed to step 2.
- Finger sweeps. Pull out the tongue and sweep the mouth. Remove the foreign body and proceed to step 5. If you are unable to dislodge the object, proceed to step 3.
- Artificial respiration. Give five mouth-to-nose respirations.Even a small volume of air getting past the obstruction is beneficial. Proceed to step 4.
- Chest thumps. Deliver a sharp blow with the heel of your hand to the dog's back between the shoulder blades. Repeat the finger sweeps. If the object is still not dislodged, repeat steps 1 through 4 until the object is dislodged.
- Ventilation. Once the object is dislodged, check for breathing and heart rate; administer artificial respiration and CPR if necessary. When the dog revives, proceed to the veterinary hospital for further treatment.
Laryngospasm (Reverse Sneezing)
This uncommon condition can be alarming because it sounds as if the dog can't catch her breath. During an attack, the dog produces a loud snorting noise caused by violent attempts to draw in air. This may occur several times in succession. After the attack, the dog appears completely normal.
Reverse sneezing is believed to be caused by a temporary spasm of the muscles of the larynx, possibly the result of a drop of mucus that falls on the vocal cords from the soft palate. The attack can be ended by making the dog swallow. This is accomplished by massaging the front of the neck in the region of the pharynx just beneath the jaw. Alternatively, place your hand over the dog's nostrils for an instant.
If the attack does not stop and the dog collapses, suspect a foreign body in the larynx. Reverse sneezing is commonly seen in Corgis and Beagles.
This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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