It’s important for everyone with a dog in their home to be ready to care for that dog should life-threatening situations arise. Bloat and choking are two frequent food-related issues that can claim a dog’s life quickly. They are not specifically related to interactive feeding and can happen just as easily—sometimes more easily—if a dog is eating from a bowl. Following are a brief review of what to do in those situations, but don’t just take it from me. Do your own research and ask your vet. Be informed and be prepared!


A dog can choke on kibble, a piece of a toy, on chewed-up bedding, or something they pick up on a walk. Dogs can even get a ball wedged so far back in their mouth that it blocks their windpipe. It’s important for owners to be ready to step in and help if a dog is in distress.

The first step is to remove the obstruction, if at all possible. If the obstruction is obvious, pull it out with your fingers or with needle-nosed pliers. You might have to sweep your fingers far back into your dog’s mouth to find the object. But be very, very careful not to push the object further down your dog’s throat.

With your hand far down your dog’s throat, there is a good chance you will take some damage from your dog’s teeth. Injured dogs may also bite from fear or panic. Be aware that you might get hurt.

If you can’t clear the obstruction, you will need to try the Heimlich maneuver. I am not a medical or emergency professional, so I will quote the SPCA of Texas:

Place your dog on his side on a hard surface, tilted with his head down and hindquarters up. If you can grab a pillow or rolled towel, put it under his hindquarters. Just make sure the front part of his body is lower than his back. With a small dog, place one hand on his back to steady him and the other under the center of the rib cage. Press in and up four to five times in a thrusting motion.  With a large dog, you’ll need both hands for the trust, so place both hands beneath the rib cage, Press in and up four or five times. If you don’t have time to place your dog on his side, you can stand or kneel behind your dog. Grasp his body at the bottom of his rib cage. Apply firm, quick pressure.

If this does not work the first time, try again.

Whether your dog seems to recover or not, take them to the vet immediately.


Bloat, gastric torsion, or GDV (gastric dilation with volvulsion) is a potentially fatal condition where a dog’s stomach bloats with gas and rotates along its axis so the gas can’t escape. It’s most common in large breeds, but it can happen to any dog.

A dog you suspect might be suffering from bloat should be taken immediately to a vet, as this condition can progress from terrible to irreparable within moments. Take your dog to the vet if they show some or all of the signs of bloat:

  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Unproductive vomiting
  • A tight, swollen stomach