Complete airway obstruction is rare in small animals but is a serious medical emergency when it does occur.

Potential airway obstructions include:

    • Objects such as toys or bones lodged in the back of the pharynx or the esophagus
    • Throat swelling due to stings or infection
    • In small dogs, throat swelling due to allergic reactions
Signs Include:

    • Difficulty breathing (Sudden onset)
    • Cyanosis (Blue lips and tongue)
    • Rubbing face on ground
    • Bulging eye
    • Choking or gagging sound

This is an emergency! Action must be taken immediately!

If airway obstruction is due to a foreign object, it must be cleared immediately. Do not wait for veterinary assistance.

If the airway obstruction is due to a sting or reaction to an irritant, the animal MUST be transported to the veterinarian immediately, because, if it stops breathing, artificial respiration will not work due to swollen air passages.

Restrain the animal by having another person hold the dog. Open the animal’s mouth, pull the tongue forward, and inspect the throat. If a foreign object is visible, grasp it with your fingers and remove it. If you are unable to do this, small dogs can be held upside down, holding their thighs just above the knees. Swing the pet back and forth gently several times.

Prevent airway obstruction by restricting access to toys that can be chewed up easily or are small enough to lodge in the airway when swallowed. Make sure food is cut into very small pieces. Brachycepalic dogs (those with pushed in faces) may appear to have difficulty breathing. The significance of the difficulty should be checked by your veterinarian.

About Pet First Aid

This First Aid Guide was developed by the veterinary staff at Dr. Sherry Weaver’s Animal Hospital of Towne Lake in Woodstock, GA. Always seek veterinary care following first-aid attempts. Your veterinarian is the best source of information for your pet’s specific needs. This information is provided for general reference and informational purposes only and should not be construed to be formal professional advice or the formation of a consultant-client relationship.

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