My Puppy and the Heimlich Maneuver
by Kellie Strausser
As I was getting ready for work a couple of weeks ago, our ten-month-old puppy came into the house from our back yard looking frantic and scared. She was making strange sounds and looked as if she couldn't breath correctly and was possibly choking. She kept trying to crawl under things like tables and chairs, anything to make her feel safe. I could tell something was very wrong.
Her airways were most definitely being constricted in some way. As I held onto her with one hand, at this point crying because I wasn't sure what to do, my instincts took over. I carefully put a couple of fingers down her throat, and gently moved them a little to see if something was stuck. This seemed to help slightly, but she still seemed in trouble. So, I called the vet and asked them what to do, phone in one hand, puppy in the other. They said to bring her right away, but my feeling was, it would take ten minutes to get there and if she couldn't breathe, in that time it could be too late.
The other option they gave me was to carefully, and I stress the word carefully, try to Heimlich her. I followed their directions, and grasped her from behind, around the waist like a bear hug. I placed a fist just behind the ribs, and compressed her abdomen with several quick pushes (about 3 or 4 times). I didn't see anything come out of her mouth during the Heimlich. I checked her mouth again, and gently put a finger in the back of her throat, and this time she seemed much better. She appeared to be breathing ok, but only swallowing a little hard now. We took her to the vet right after this, and she was given special food to coat her stomach and to help her get rid of anything that may have been lodged, more easily in her bowel movements. The next day, a large twig came out in one of her movements, and I was sure this was the culprit.
This was a couple of months ago, and she has been fine ever since. I can't express how freaked I was during this weird little trauma, but it really has helped me to see that you can do something to help in even the strangest of situations. I don't recommend doing exactly what I did, and I must use a disclaimer and say that I am not a doctor and anything that you may attempt to do with your pet should be talked about with your veterinarian first. But, this is what I was told to do by my vet, and it may have saved our puppy's life. Remaining calm is key. Animals sense everything. I did not remain very calm at first and the tears were streaming, but I knew I had to take control and be the one to act, because your pet can't dial 911. They rely on you to take care of them. Responsible pet owners need to be aware of what to do in emergency situations, and there is much valuable information on the internet, but first and foremost, check with a vet you trust for first aid information and brush up on it! Our pets give us so much love and happiness, it's the least we can do.