Can a Dog Choke to Death?

Dogs of any breed love to put anything inside their mouth, and almost all fur parents are always doing their best to remove anything to prevent any accidents. One that might occur instantly is choking, and you’ll be surprised how easily dogs can choke, even those that are already trained. That said, it is essential to gain enough understanding about choking and your dog’s safety in general.

Can a dog choke to death? Yes, they can, and most objects that lead to fatal choking can quickly go unnoticed by many dog owners. There are also some cases where a dog will choke even when there are no foreign objects involved.

Causes of Choking in Dogs

According to The Bark, there are three common causes for fatal dog choking:

Foreign Objects

It is perhaps the most common reason for choking, as dogs are very susceptible to picking up any objects they find interesting. For a foreign object to choke a dog, it must block the airway, either directly or indirectly. A direct blocking may occur if the foreign item is actually on the airway and is causing the dog difficulty breathing. An indirect blocking will arise if the airway is still affected, even if the foreign object is in a different location, for example, in a trachea. In some cases, dogs can swallow items that are too small to block the airway, but they still suffer choking because they got stuck on their way to the stomach.

Choking hazards should be identified, and every owner needs to know what they are to help their dogs become safe. Here are some common objects that are deemed as common choking hazards:

  • Balls
  • Rawhide Bones
  • Cooked Bones
  • Raw Bones
  • Bully Sticks
  • Sticks
  • Stones
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Kids’ Toys
  • Gristle

There is no foolproof way to ensure that your dog will not pick up any objects, but precautions are nice to conduct, and you should always know what your dog is chewing on. When it comes to non-dog food products, you should always make sure that the serving should be broken down into many pieces so that your pet would have an easier time chewing and digesting.


Allergies are quite common occurrences for dogs; in some cases, allergic reactions can cause swelling in a dog’s different muscle regions. Specifically, if the reaction happens in the throat area, things might get complicated, as the swelling can get out of hand and can cause choking for the dog.

In some cases, dog allergies can’t be prevented, and you have to deal with them. However, some medicines are still available through prescriptions that can keep these allergies in check, therefore preventing any chances of fatal choking.

Neck Constrictions

Leashes and collars are common accessories for dogs, but they can lead to accidents and complications, such as choking and injuries to the neck when they’re not used correctly. There are also some instances where pets would accidentally hang themselves by accidents, making them choke and unable to breathe. These instances are terrifying and are often leading to deaths.

To prevent fatal choking due to neck constrictions, it is highly advised that you remove anything on the dog’s neck when it is not needed. Leashes, in particular, are a nuisance inside a house, so be sure to remove them once you came home after going outside. Check out some leashes here, in case you’re looking for the best to use for your dog.

Signs of Choking

A fatal choking can still be prevented if you picked up signs that your dog is struggling. Here are some common symptoms that are crucial to know:

Squeaking and Whistling: In most cases, a dog will still be able to make noises even if their airway is blocked, and two of the most common sounds that you can pick up are squeaking and whistling.

Gagging and Coughing: Dogs that are choking are sometimes fighting and doing their best to dislodge or spit out the object, and in their attempt, they will undoubtedly gag or even cough heavily. These two produce a lot of noise, so they are more than enough to catch many people’s attention.

Tongue and Gum Discoloration: In some cases, dogs that are choking won’t even be able to produce any sound, and so, if you suspect that your dog is choking, look for some signs in their mouth, and in this case, it is essential to check both tongue and gums if there is some discoloration happening.

Anxiousness: Dogs choking on smaller and non-threatening objects are still able to move around, but in this case, they’ll be more anxious than usual, and it will display their mannerisms and common movements.

Panic: Since the dog knows that something is happening to them, and often, they have no control of everything, they will proceed to panic and only stop if they are given enough attention or care. Panicking is also the default response of dogs suffering from airway blocks since oxygen is being cut to their brain and even the circulatory system.

How to Save a Choking Dog’s Life

save a choking dog

Although choking cases can be fatal to dogs, they can only cause death if the choking has been prolonged or the dog has run out of oxygen. Here are some ways to save a dog’s life.

In most cases, you should always go for this method since it is the fastest and safest as long as the instructions are correctly followed. To do this, gently open the dog’s mouth, and make sure to roll some parts of the muzzle to the teeth to ensure that the dog won’t close its mouth.

Before putting your mouth in and retrieving the object, it is essential to have an excellent, bright light source to guide you and let you see the item that you are recovering. Have someone bring over a bright flashlight and have that person provide light directly to the inside of the mouth. If the object is visible, then all you have to do is grab it gently to avoid any more injuries to the dog. Some people might find this method gross, but a dog’s saliva can be easily washed, so there’s nothing to worry about. In case the object isn’t visible; however, you shouldn’t force your hand inside, as it would only make matters worse and push down the thing further, making it even harder to remove.

To ensure that the object is visible enough to be retrieved, you should try putting your hands under the belly, lift the dog, and make sure that the front feet are still on the ground. If this method doesn’t work, you may also try using your hands to strike the back of the dog. This way, the object will be pushed by force and make it a lot easier for retrieval.

Note: It is essential not to try and use other equipment and apparatus to get the object out, such as pliers or even tweezers. They are very dangerous and would only make things even worse.

Even if you think that these scenarios won’t happen, it is still crucial to be prepared; hence, we recommend that you train your dog to allow mouth inspections to retrieve these objects a lot easier.

Dog Choking Prevention

Prevent dog from choking

We can compare dogs to babies and even toddlers, mainly because of how they are needed to be taken care of and the attention they require to avoid accidents and unwanted injuries. That’s why it is crucial to treat them as babies if you want to prevent fatal choking. Here are some dog choking prevention techniques you can apply to never worry about these things ever again.

Size Appropriation: Toys, chews, and treats should always be checked if they are appropriate to the size of your dog. A bigger size of any of these mentioned things would undoubtedly lead to choking and ingestion of unwanted materials.

Don’t Leave Them Alone: Leaving small dogs and even medium ones with toys and their treats would spell disaster. Most dog toys are easy to break, and if ever they ingested even the smallest parts, it would only cause problems and maybe even injuries.

Use Healthy and Safe Treats: If you’re eager to provide treats for your dogs, even if you have to leave them alone, then you should opt for healthier and safer treats that won’t harm them in any way, even if there’s no guidance.

Use only wet food: Hard dog foods, especially those formed like balls, could impose a treat, especially for small dogs that are still requiring guidance. To ensure that choking will never happen again, why not try going for wet foods? They’re just the same when it comes to nutrients, and they are relatively much more comfortable to swallow and digest, providing a much better eating experience.


As the saying goes, “The dog is the man’s best friend,” we need to do our best to return the favor and become good friends as well. Fatal choking can happen to any dogs, and there’s no telling when and how they could happen; the only best thing you can do is save them or make sure never to let it happen. That way, you’ll never have to look for answers about “can a dog choke to death?” ever again.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!