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How To Help A Choking Animal

As part of Pet Project, a series of reports on CBS 'This Morning,' Co-Anchor Jane Robelot tackles two pet-care issues that might confront animal lovers:

What do you do if your pet is choking?

And is it OK to give your pet medications that are intended for humans?

News About Animals
First, says veterinarian Kevin Kuhn, make sure the animal is, indeed, choking and not simply coughing or making another natural sound.

Dogs often snort because of a condition called an "internal sneeze," a disorder of the upper respiratory tract, and they are not choking; they're just trying to clear mucus or relieve an irritation.

And cats often make an alarming noise when they are simply trying to cough up a fur ball.

Also, a pet that is about to vomit exhibits behavior that may alarm the owner.

But, says Kuhn, it's important to differentiate these situations from those in which the animal is choking.

If you know for certain that your pet is choking, try the following maneuvers:

  • Pick up the animal's back legs. That might be enough to encourage it to cough the material out.
  • Administer a modified Heimlich maneuver. With the animal standing upright, make a fist with both hands, reaching underneath the ribcage and giving a series of thrusts toward the lungs.
  • Give the animal's back a series of sharp blows.
  • Do not stick your fingers in the animal's mouth. No matter how devoted your dog is, says Kuhnm, if they are fearful or apprehensive about having this much distress, they might bite."
  • If the animal becomes unconscious, then you can try to reach in its mouth and remove any blockage. Follow up with resuscitation efforts.
Is it ever safe to give your pet "people" medicine?

According to Kuhn, most medications for humans are "great for people, bad for pets." Here's a list of some common medications and their effect on animals:

  • Tylenol. One tablet is enough to kill a cat, and it's not good for dogs, either.
  • Pepto-Bismol is "well tolerated" in dogs, says Kuhn, but advises owners to check with their veterinarian before administering it. Don't give it to cats.
  • Imodium AD. Check with your vet to make sure there is no possibility of other interactions.
Kuhn also warns pet owners to keep their animals away from anti-freeze. "It takes about a teaspoon to be fatal to a 10-pound cat," says Kuhn. "It takes a tablespoon for an equivalent-size dog."

Animals are attracted to anti-freeze more than water, because it tastes sweet. But, says Kuhn, there are two brands of anti-freez on the market that are not toxic to pets: Sierra brand and Prestone LowTox.

Further information may be obtained in a booklet, Pet First Aid, published by the American Red Cross. Kuhn teaches a course on the subject for the Red Cross' greater Buffalo chapter.