It’s a crowded day at the dog park when you hear a commotion and an owner’s panic: A dog has choked while playing with a ball, and now he has stopped breathing. If you know what to do, you can calmly step in and take action.
First, you must make sure an airway's established even if the dog’s heart has stopped. Without an airway, no other steps will be effective. Check to see if his tongue has rolled back into his throat or if the dog has an obstruction; remove it with your hand. If the obstruction is out of reach, perform the Heimlich by holding him upside down in a hugging fashion just below the ribcage with his back against you. Allow his torso and head to bend toward the ground, as upside down as possible. With your fist, push several sharp thrusts inwards and upward -- actually downward, toward his head as he's upside down -- into his diaphragm.
After you've ensured his airway is not obstructed, place the dog with his right side down. This puts him heart-side-up and makes chest compressions more effective. To breathe for him, hold his mouth shut then exhale a breath into his nose. Once you see his chest rise, you know the airway is clear and it’s time to start compressions.
A dog’s heart is located near the middle of his ribcage. To pinpoint it more accurately, bend his left arm back and where his elbow touches his ribs is where his heart is located. For large dogs, the strength of both hands, one atop the other, will be needed to press against the side of his chest. For small breeds, one hand can be used by gripping his chest with four fingers on one side and thumb on the other. You'll compress the chest five times approximately three seconds, followed by one full breath to the nose for a big dog or less than a full breath for a small dog.
A Happy Ending
When you receiving a hug from some dog's owner because you saved the pooch's life, advise her to take him to an emergency vet immediately for a checkup and observation. Whether you are a seasoned dog owner or have just brought home your first puppy, an afternoon of pet CPR training is worth your time. These classes are offered by a variety of animal organizations and can be found in most cities.