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Signs Your Pet Is Choking & What to Do

Signs Your Pet Is Choking & What to Do

Your pet choking is a very scary experience, so owners should know how to help their companion. Here, our Fort Collins vets share some signs that your pet is choking and what you can do to help.

Signs Your Pet Is Choking

Most dogs and cats will show some combination of these symptoms if they are choking:

  • Coughing
  • Blue mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Pawing at the mouth 
  • Distress 
  • Salivation 
  • Retching or gagging 
  • Rubbing their face against the ground 

If your dog or cat is displaying any of these symptoms, follow the steps below and come to our Fort Collins office as soon as possible for emergency veterinary care

What to Do If Your Cat or Dog Is Choking 

Remove the Object If Possible

Restrain your pet first since choking dogs and cats will struggle and this can potentially cause them harm. If they are choking because a string, cord, or other item is wrapped around the neck, use a pair of scissors to carefully cut it off. 

If your dog or cat is choking on something lodged in their throat or mouth, open the mouth to see whether you can locate the object. If you can see it, try to use your finger to swipe it away. 

If you cannot see the object, don't try to poke your finger down your pet's throat to find and retrieve it, as this may cause injury. If you're unable to dislodge the object by swiping it away, do not attempt to push on it or poke it, as this could send it further down the throat. 

Heimlich Maneuver for Cats & Dogs

If you are unable to remove the object your pet is choking on, you'll need to do the Heimlich maneuver:

  • Lay your pet on their side.
  • Hold your pet's back against your stomach (head up, paws down).
  • With one hand, find the soft hollow under the ribs (your closed fist should fit into this spot).
  • Use the hand on your pet's stomach to pull up and in two or three times, toward your own stomach, using a sharp thrusting motion.
  • Check the mouth to determine if the object has been dislodged.


If this doesn’t work and your cat loses their pulse, begin CPR at approximately 120 chest compressions per minute and continue these until at our animal clinic, which provides emergency veterinary services to Fort Collins pets during our daytime hours.

After the Choking Has Stopped

Even if you manage to remove the object that is choking your cat or dog, it is wise to bring your pet in for emergency veterinary treatment anyway. Our vets will be able to ensure that the choking didn't cause any harm to your pet's body that you can't see.

Preventing Your Pet From Choking

To minimize the chances of your pet choking in the future, make sure to keep an eye on anything that could be a potential choking hazard.

Generally, dog and cat food are formulated with the animal's size in mind, but it's always a good idea to monitor them when they are eating anyway.

Monitor your dog or cat during play and make sure any toys do not include pieces that could break off and become potential choking hazards.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat or dog choking or has recently been choking? Contact our Fort Collins vets to have your pet cared for right away. 

New Patients Welcome

South Mesa Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients to our veterinary hospital! Our team is passionate about the health of Fort Collins pets. Reach out today to book your pet's first appointment.

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