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Arden Moore demonstrates the canine Heimlich maneuver on her dog Kona. Photo provided

 

 

By Arden Moore

Take a look at dates on calendars and you will discover dozens of days and months designated as pet holidays or awareness dates.

But the one I regard as the most lifesaving date arrives every June 22. It is called National Pet Choking Prevention Day (https://nationalpet chokingpreventionday.com) and was launched last year by Dr. Judy Morgan, an integrative veterinarian.

“I saw many choking cases involving dogs and cats during my career and some of these cases did not have good outcomes, which is very sad as this is something that is preventable,” says Morgan, who practiced veterinary medicine for 36 years, including a decade in emergency medicine. She now operates Dr. Judy Morgan’s Naturally Healthy Pets site (https://drjudymorgan.com) to empower and educate pet parents on ways to keep their pets healthy and safe.

She says that each year there are more than 200,000 cases of cats and dogs choking and needing medical care, as reported by veterinarians across the country. Sadly, some of these pets do not survive.

Learning pet first aid and regularly doing room-by-room inspections to remove potential choking items are two ways to keep our pets safe.

I’ve been a master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor for 12 years. In my classes, I train pet parents and pet professionals how to perform abdominal thrusts safely to dislodge objects in cats and dogs.

Recently, one of my students, Linda Brown Hall, co-founder of Cat Behavior Alliance (https://catbehavioralliance.com) in Defiance, Ohio, reached out to share how she saved the life of her cat, Gallway.

“Gallway’s body was jerking, but he was not making any sound,” says Linda. “When I placed my hand against his nose and mouth, I did not feel any air. Opening his mouth, I discovered he had Saran wrap blocking his airway. I performed the Heimlich maneuver you taught us in class and saved his life.”

Step-by-step Heimlich maneuver guide
For cats and small dogs choking due to having their airways partially or completely blocked by an object, follow these veterinarian-approved steps to perform abdominal thrusts effectively:


• Stand and hold your dog with her back against your stomach.
• Hold her up with one arm around her upper abdomen.
• With your other hand, make a fist, tucking in your thumb.
• Position your closed fist at the end of her ribcage in the soft spot.
• Thrust your fist in and upward five times in a row on the pet’s exhale to try to dislodge the object.
• Every five thrusts, open and inspect the mouth to see if you can dislodge any object.
• Be ready to perform rescue breaths if the pet becomes unconscious.
• Use the speaker function on your cellphone to alert the nearest veterinary clinic of your arrival as you continue the abdominal thrusts.


For medium to large dogs whose airways are partially or completely blocked by an object, follow these steps:
• Stand behind your dog if she is standing.
• With one hand, make a fist and tuck in your thumb.
• Position this closed fist at the soft spot just past the ribcage.
• Use your open-palm hand to hold this fist in place.
• Thrust your hands up and forward (toward the dog’s mouth) five times in a row on the dog’s exhale to try to dislodge the object.
• Every five thrusts, open and inspect the mouth to see if you can dislodge any object.
• Be ready to perform rescue breaths if your dog becomes unconscious.
• Use the speaker function on your cellphone to alert the nearest veterinary clinic of your arrival as you continue the abdominal thrusts.


Many dogs, including Kona, my terrier mix, love fetching balls. Many cats, including mine, hone their hunting skills by stalking feather wand toys and other wiggling linear objects.

To reduce the risk of your pet choking, heed these safety tips:


Opt for using balls that are made of pet-safe materials. Select balls that are too big to fit inside your dog’s mouth to reduce chances of blocking the airway. Get in the habit of playing with your cat with wand toys and other linear toys and then storing them in a cat-safe container to prevent accidental choking.

Parting message from Morgan, “Every pet parent should watch a video on performing the Heimlich maneuver or take a course in pet first aid. Having knowledge prior to an incident will save valuable time and potentially save the life of a dog or a cat.”

Household hazards
Common items in homes that can cause choking or even unconsciousness if swallowed by cats or dogs:
avocado pits, baby bottle nipples, baby carrots, bully sticks, buttons, chew toys, corn cobs, dental floss, diapers, food wrappers, game pieces, hair ties, hot dogs, jewelry, kibble pieces, plastic bags, rawhide chews, refrigerator magnets, rubber bands, shoelaces, socks, squeakers from plush toys, sticks, string, tennis balls, tinsel, underwear, window blind cords, yarn.

Arden Moore is an author, speaker and master certified pet first aid instructor. Learn more by visiting www.ardenmoore.com.

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