Shih Tzu Has Something Stuck In Throat?
Dogs aren’t always the most careful species, and will sometimes get things stuck in their throat.
This article discusses what to do when you think your dog is choking on something. It also discusses the various other conditions your dog could have when they’re coughing or choking, including kennel cough or throat tumors. The article will also explain some of the specific problems Shih Tzus face.
Is My Dog Going To Be Ok?
Your dog will probably be okay, as long as you get the object out. However, make sure to pay close attention to the dog for some time afterward.
Trauma (caused by choking on an object) to the throat or the inside of the mouth can take several days to heal. It may also be painful for the dog to eat their regular food, so run their meals through the blender with warm water to make it easier for them.
Since you’ll probably be visiting your vet anyway after a choking incident, talk to them about pain relief medication for your dog. (1)
Should I Take My Dog To A Vet To Remove The Obstruction?
You can try to get it out yourself, either by using the Heimlich Maneuver or some other method. However, if this doesn’t work right away, don’t waste time! Take your dog to the vet.
If you do take them to the vet, the vet will confirm that your dog is choking. Then, they’ll probably sedate the dog to make it easier to examine your dog’s mouth and remove the obstruction.
For a smaller object, a vet will probably use an endoscope with tweezers to remove the blockage. (2)
If there is a complete obstruction of the airways, the vet may have to do an emergency tracheotomy, which involves inserting a breathing tube from the neck into the windpipe to bypass the obstruction and give the dog room to breathe while the obstruction is removed. (3) This will likely lead to the vet prescribing antibiotics to prevent infection. (4)
How Much Will It Cost For A Vet To Remove?
That will depend on a variety of factors, including what the vet has to do, the medications required (e.g., anesthesia), and your vet’s fees.
WagWalking estimates that an endoscopy would cost somewhere between $800 and $2,000 (5) and that a tracheotomy could cost anywhere from $2,000 to over $5,000 (6).
What Can I Do If My Dog Has Something Stuck In Its Throat (Is There A Home Remedy)?
You can try to get whatever’s stuck out yourself. If you know the object is small, here are the steps you should take to dislodge out:
- Restrain your dog, since choking dogs will struggle.
- Using a pair of scissors, carefully cut any object wrapped around the dog’s neck.
- Open the dog’s mouth and look inside.
- If you see something: use a large pair of tweezers to retrieve the object. If it’s lodged at the back of the dog’s throat, do not push at it with your fingers.
- If you don’t see something, do not stick your fingers down your dog’s throat. This could cause damage to the delicate tissues at the back of the throat.
If you know the object is larger, you can try to get it out by placing both thumbs underneath the dog’s jaw at the base of their throat and pushing forwards. (7)
If you’re not comfortable reaching into your pooch’s throat, there are still other things to try.
If you have a dog light enough to lift, you can take them by their hind legs, hold them upside down, and try to the shake the object out of their mouth. If the dog is too heavy, keep their front paws on the ground while lifting them up by their hind legs (kind of forming a wheelbarrow position) and tilt them forward before shaking them.
Another method is back blows. This means using the heel of your hand to deliver 4-5 sharp blows between the dog’s shoulder blades. Be careful not to strike too hard with smaller dogs, since you risk fracturing their ribs. (8)
How Effective Is The Heimlich Maneuver For Dogs?
The Heimlich Maneuver is different for dogs than for humans. It also varies based on the size of the dog.
This is how you perform the maneuver on a small dog:
- Hold their back against your stomach (head up, paws down).
- Press your closed fist into the soft hollow under the dog’s ribs.
- Pull up and in 2-3 times toward your stomach, using a thrusting motion
And this is how you perform the maneuver on a large dog (in this case, a dog that is too heavy for you to lift):
- Place the dog on their side.
- Kneel behind the dog’s back.
- Place your closed fist in the hollow under their rib cage.
- Push upward and inward sharply in the direction of the dog’s head and your knees.
You can try to use the Heimlich Maneuver, but if it doesn’t work in a couple of minutes, it’s time to go to the vet.
No matter which version of the Heimlich Maneuver you try, you could cause damage to the dog’s chest, so you’ll have to go to the vet anyway to get them looked at for chest trauma. (9)
Should I Take My Dog To A Vet Even After It Stopped Choking?
Even if you were able to get the object out without using the Heimlich, there could still be negative effects. The object could have left abrasions, or your dog might have bitten their tongue or the inside of their mouth. (10)
Either way, better to be safe than sorry.
Dangers For The Dog?
As stated earlier, you could end up damaging your dog’s chest while trying to get the object out, and the object could have damaged your dog’s throat. It’s always good to check in with your vet when something like this happens.
Is It Dangerous To Try And Remove A Bone Stuck In A Dog’s Throat?
It is not safe to try and remove a bone on your own. You could cause more issues, like pushing the bone further down or damaging the throat. If your dog is choking on a bone, you should take them to the vet. (11)
Shih Tzu Having Trouble Swallowing?
This could be a sign of a number of conditions, including dysphagia, lymphadenitis, and Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS).
Dysphagia has a number of causes, including an inflamed pharynx, enlarged lymph nodes, an object getting stuck in their mouth, mouth trauma, dental disease. When a shih tzu has oral dysphagia, they might exhibit one of the following symptoms:
- Tilting of head to one side
- Throwing their heads in a backward movement whenever they eat
- Food tends to get stuck in a dog’s cheek folds and it lacks any saliva
A vet would diagnose the issue through a variety of tests to figure out the best method of treatment. Since there are many types of dysphagia, there are a wide range of treatments. (12)
Lymphadenitis is the enlargement of lymph nodes in a dog’s body. Lymph nodes can be inflamed by a variety of causes ranging from the bacterial to the fungal to the viral. Symptoms include:
- Distended abdomen
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urinating
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If you think your dog has lymphadenitis, bring them to the vet. The vet will diagnose the issue through a complete count and serum biochemistry, a PCR, radiographs, a biopsy, and/or an ultrasound. Treatments will range from medicine to surgery to chemotherapy.
BAS is particularly present in Shih Tzus because they have short faces. It indicates abnormal traits like narrow nasal openings, an elongated soft palate, and a narrow trachea. Symptoms can manifest 2-4 years after birth. They include noisy breathing and gagging up phlegm.
BAS cannot be cured, but a vet may use surgery to improve the Shih Tzu’s breathing.
Shih Tzu Throat Spasms?
Because they are a small-breed dog, Shih Tzus are more prone to reverse sneezing and tracheal collapse.
Reverse sneezing will result in a throat spasm. It can be caused by about any common cause of coughing, including eating, pulling on a leash, and mites. Shih Tzus have elongated soft palates, which will get sucked into the throat. It rarely requires treatment.
Tracheal collapse is more common in smaller dogs because their tracheas are smaller and weaker. It most often occurs during physical duress, like exercise or excitement. The Shih Tzu will probably try to extend their neck to try to open their trachea. Once they calm down, the trachea opens back up. (15)
How Do I Know If My Dog Has A Blockage In His Throat?
There is a difference between having something in your throat and having a blockage in your throat. Assessing the situation can help you figure out how dire your dog’s struggle is.
If the dog is coughing, they may be able to cough it up on their own. If the dog is wheezing, gasping, or otherwise struggling for breath, the situation is much more serious.
Another thing you can do is try to get your dog to swallow, perhaps by offering a treat, rubbing their throat, or, in more desparate situations, pinching their nostrils to force them to swallow. After swallowing, if the sound has stopped, that means they aren’t choking.
There is a more hands-on way to tell if your dog has a blockage: check their mouth:
- Squeeze the dog’s upper lip inwards over their molars at the back of their mouth to gently open it.
- Apply pressure downward on the point of the dog’s jaw to open their mouth more.
- Use a flashlight and aim to look as far down the dog’s throat as possible. Look out for any obstruction, like a bone or a stick. (16)
Why Does My Shih Tzu Sound Like He’s Choking?
Just because your Shih Tzu sounds like they’re choking doesn’t mean they are. It is common for Shih Tzus to have a condition called “Long Soft Palate,” which is when the tongue and soft palate are too big for the dog’s mouth. This is because of the Shih Tzu’s facial structure: they have shortened noses and babyish faces.
So what does it mean to have Long Soft Palate? Well, when the Shih Tzu breathes in sharply, the motion sucks the end of the soft palate into the entrance of the windpipe, temporarily narrowing the windpipe. The Shih Tzu will respond to this by snorting or gasping repeatedly, which makes it sound like they’re choking.
This is why it’s important to get a dog to swallow when trying to figure out if they’re choking or not. Once the Shih Tzu swallows again, the soft palate will flip away from the windpipe and the dog will breathe normally again.
Other dogs that may have this condition include:
- Lhasa Apso
- West Highland White Terriers
- Pomeranians (17)
Why Does My Dog Seem Like He Has Something In His Throat?
Just because your dog is acting like something is stuck in your dog’s throat doesn’t mean something is actually stuck in your dog’s throat. Here are some other conditions that could cause a dog to act like something is stuck in their throat:
- Long Soft Palate (see above)
- Kennel Cough
- Heart Disease (18)
Why Is My Dog Gagging But Not Throwing Up?
It is possible that your dog has a blockage and is trying to throw up whatever they swallowed. Your dog might switch between trying to fully swallow the object and trying to heave it up.
If the blockage is only partial, this may not be immediately obvious. In that case, the dog will probably be listless and refrain from eating.
If you think your dog has a blockage, you should take them to the vet. (19)
Dog Has Something Stuck In Throat But Not Choking?
It’s possible that your dog just has something stuck in its throat without choking on it. Be on the lookout for these symptoms to tell if your dog is choking:
- Extreme distress
- Excessive drooling
- Pawing at the mouth
- Choking sounds
- Rubbing their face along the ground
- Blue-colored skin and mucus membranes
- Collapsing (20)
Dog Acts Like Something Stuck In Throat?
There is some overlap between choking symptoms and symptoms of heart disease. Vets say that an enlarged heart pressing on a dog’s airways or a heart failure can resemble a choking reaction. A dog with heart disease could exhibit symptoms like distress, coughing, and blue-tinged gums.
There is a way to distinguish choking from heart disease, however. Choking is sudden, while there is a build-up to heart disease. Choking is far more likely to occur in active dogs, while a dog with heart disease has probably been less energetic and more lethargic in recent days. (21)
My Dog Sounds Like He Has Something Stuck In His Throat?
If your idea of a dog sounding like they have something stuck in their throat is just the dog coughing, you should know that there are other explanations. A persistent cough could be a sign of congestive heart failure, while a honking cough could mean tracheal collapse. Be on the sign for other symptoms to confirm your suspicions. (22)
Dog Has Something Stuck In Throat Eating Grass?
If your dog is showing signs of choking while eating grass, it may be that your dog may be trying to make themselves sick on purpose. Dogs will eat grass in order to vomit when they have an upset stomach. (23)
Bone Stuck In Dog Throat Symptoms?
The symptoms for a dog that has a bone stuck in their throat is very similar to any dog with something stuck in their throat:
- Trying to clear their throat
- Pawing at their mouth
- Excessive salivating
- Retching (24)
Why Is My Dog Coughing Like Something Is Stuck In His Throat?
As stated above, one condition that makes a dog cough like something is stuck in their throat is kennel cough.
Kennel cough infects the airways, causing them to be sore and irritated. As a result, breathing tickles the throat, causing dramatic coughing episodes. (25)
Why Does My Dog Sound Like He Is Coughing Up A Hairball?
They might have kennel cough. This could be caused by a number of factors, such as exposure to dust or smoke, cold temperatures, or exposure to poorly ventilated conditions (as is the case in many kennels, hence the name).
Here are some of the other symptoms to look out for:
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
Loss of appetite and lethargy are not symptoms of kennel cough.
If your dog actually does have kennel cough, keep them away from other animals and keep them in well humidified areas. The condition can go away by itself, but if you want to speed up recovery, you can talk to your vet about medication. (26)
How Can Bones Get Stuck In A Dog’s Throat?
There are several different ways a bone can get stuck in a dog’s throat. Pieces of bone could get lodged in the esophagus. They could also pierce the esophagus by penetrating the soft tissue at the back of the throat. A piece of bone could even get into the trachea, which is how your dog starts choking. (27)
Throat Tutors In Dogs
On very rare occasions, your dog could have a throat tumor. Simply put, a throat tumor is a growth in a dog’s throat area. It can be benign or malignant. There are many types of throat tumors for dogs, such as:
- Laryngeal tumors, which are found on a dog’s larynx adn can cause a respiratory obstruction
- Tracheal tumors, which are found on the trachea and often spread to nearby lymph nodes
- Tonsillar tumors, which are known to metastasize early
- Esophageal tumors, which are most often found in German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, collies, Keeshonds, and Schnauzers
- Thyroid tumors, which are most common in golder retrievers, labrador retrievers, boxers, and beagles
- Mast cell tumors (of the larynx), which are most commonly found in boxers, Boston terriers, beagles, bulldogs, and Schnauzers
For reference, the closer a tumor is the lymph nodes of the throat, the more serious the case is.
Symptoms vary by the location and size of the tumor, so there are a lot:
- Barfing up undigested food or blood
- Bluish-colored mucus membranes
- Change in bark tone
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty exercising
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive salivation and drooling
- Irritation at the back of the throat
- Lack of interest in usual activities
- Pain when swallowing
- Possible changes in drinking/peeing habits
- Respiratory distress or noisy breathing
- Swelling in throat/neck area
- Unusually smelly breath
- Vomiting after eating
- Weight loss
There are many possible causes for throat tumors, including:
- Cell malformation
- Chronic inflammation
- Damaged cells being replaced by cancerous cells
- Environmental pollutants
- Invasion of cancerous cells from elsewhere in the body
A vet has a variety of diagnostic tests at their disposal to determine whether a dog has a tumor in their throat. They’ll probably start with a complete blood count, chemical profile, and urine analysis. Then they’ll move on to radiographs of the trachea, esophagus, chest, and neck, depending on where they suspect a tumor to be located.
Then, they might employ the following tests:
- Fine needle aspirate cytology, to check the lymph nodes for cancer cells
- An endoscopy or bronchoscopy, depending on where the tumor is and the risk of the procedure
- Biopsy, to determine if cells are dead or inflamed
- A thyroid function test (blood test T4), to measure the level of thyroid hormones in the blood
- Nuclear scintigraphy, which is when radioactive material is injected to locate cancer
- CT scan or MRI, to evaluate the invasion of cancer into other areas of the body
It should be noted that most of these tests will require the vet to put your dog under.
Treatment will depend on your dog’s health besides the tumor, the dog’s age, and the dog’s quality of life.
If the tumor is benign or can be easily removed, the vet will likely opt for surgery. Possible surgies include laryngectomy and removing part of the trachea. Vets will likely follow up surgeries with chemotherapy and radiation.
For thyroid tumors specifically, the vet might use external beam radiation.
Costs will vary depending on the type of treatment your dog needs.
Life Expectancy After Treatment?
It is possible for your dog to fully recover from a throat tumor, in which case their life expectancy is normal. However, the cancer could come back. That’s why it’s important to listen to your vet and to schedule follow-up radiographs every 2-4 months. (28)