What Do You Do if Your Dog Inhaled Something?

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Dogs are wonderful creatures who live life by the nose. Unfortunately, this means they occasionally may inhale foreign objects or fumes that can cause mild to severe symptoms. A few moments of assessment can help determine whether home first aid is sufficient or whether veterinary care is required.

To determine whether or not it is advised to seek veterinary care, you need to know some simple first aid.

Step 1: Observe the Dog

Notice whether or not the dog is pawing at his face, shaking its head, sneezing, coughing or showing other obvious signs of distress. This may help determine whether your dog inhaled a foreign object.

Also note if your dog's nose is bleeding or releasing any colored discharge. Check for residue around the muzzle of any foreign substances. If any are present, gently remove and save them in case veterinary assistance is necessary.

Step 2: Scan the Environment

Take a quick scan of the immediate environment and any adjacent spaces your dog just occupied. Look for sources of fumes such as open paint or gas cans. Notice any small, light debris that may have been inhaled such as sawdust, seeds or fiberglass.

Step 3: Check Your Dog's Breathing

Gently put a hand on your dog's side nearest to you, slightly behind the front leg. Do not restrain your dog at this point. Notice if breathing is shallow, irregular or rapid.

Step 4: Check for Oxygen Circulation

Complete this step only if it is safe to do so without being bit. Gently lift your dog's lip to determine the color of the gums. They should be light to medium pink. If they are flushed red, your dog may be hyperventilating. If they are gray, yellow or white, your dog may not be getting sufficient oxygen, and you should seek veterinary assistance immediately.

Step 5: Check for foreign object in nose

Muzzle the dog with a mesh groomer's muzzle. If there is not one available, see this article on how to make a homemade muzzle. Do not muzzle a dog who is struggling to breathe.

If a foreign object is visible, seek immediate veterinary assistance. It is possible that airway is constricted or blocked from fumes or foreign objects. Many times, a dog must be sedated to safely remove foreign objects since the nose is an extremely sensitive area of the dog's head.

If the dog is not showing signs of distress or difficulty breathing and there are no signs of toxic substances nearby, observe the dog closely for 24 hours to be sure symptoms don't progress. If they do, visit your veterinary as soon as possible.

First Aid Tips

For additional first aid tips and ideas on how to prepare for future emergencies, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's First Aid Tips for Pet Owners or read Animal First Aid & CPR Online Certification for tips on how to get certified before an emergency occurs.

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