Friday, March 14, 2008

Choking or Inhaling Food

It can be a common problem for sight hounds, in their greediness, to eat their food so fast that they can inhale kibble pieces up their nose or in their windpipe. When we had only been living with Lily for a few weeks, Steve was feeding in her in the kitchen and called me in a frantic voice as Lily was choking and she could not clear the obstruction. The noise was horrendous, and blood came out of her nose. Steve picked her up and smacked her rib cage and she eventually coughed up more blood and the offending piece of kibble and wet fish. I reckon there was every possibility Lily had it stuck in her windpipe, but also her nose, thank goodness it has only happened once in 10 months now.

I can confirm, that after talking to some vet nurses and read other sources, that the SPCA advice for doing the Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs , really is the right way. You have to aid the dog to cough up as well as let gravity give it a bit of an advantage. I don’t have the strength to lift Lily pads totally upside down and swing her, but I do support her shoulder, put my hand round middle, and lift back legs up so her head points downwards. Then I pat the ribs, whilst saying "Cough it up" and after having done this 3 times now since we have had her, she does breathe in and give out a really big snorty cough on demand.



Thankfully, she is quite a quick learner when it is anything to her advantage. She does not seem to be in a state of panic though as once she has coughed up, even when there was blood she just went back to her food greedily.



These are the things that made the situation worse: for Lily, I can't say it is the same for every dog

Increasing size of kibble
Wetting kibble or adding water
Mixing any other food with the kibble
Feeding her side by side with another dog
Allowing anyone to stand near her, or lead her to think the food is going to be taken up
Being given her food first, where she thinks she has a fair chance of scoffing in time to go over to another dogs bowl

What helps Lily:

Choosing a medium sized round kibble rather than the pointy triangular kind or very small pieces
Choosing a kibble that has a fair amount of oil
Avoiding kibble that is dry and dusty or cracks easily
Giving the food dry i.e. no water
Giving the food plain, without mixing in any other food. Fish, eggs, supplements or meat put in a different bowl
Feeding her away from the other dog, and well after the other dog so it is not direct competition
Letting her eat in peace without people crowding round (especially strangers)
Putting bowl onto a chair, where she has to reach the head upwards a bit to get food
Over time, Lily learning that we are not going to take food away, or she will not lose food to siblings (she was kept in a field like cattle at some time in her life and had to fight for her food)
Teaching Lily to take food politely at all other times, and training her not to snap at it convulsively*

What made absolutely no difference to Lily but might be worth a try for some dogs

Putting things into her food like chains/balls, or dividing food into sections
Feeding by hand one at a time (she can still inhale single biccies in her greediness)
Putting bowl onto a dog feeding stand (still too low, see above)
Putting bowl onto floor (as some people had suggested stands are worse for choking, not so with Lils)

A bit off topic, but this was our training for snapping as Lily used to snap at fingers in her eagerness to get a biscuit when hand fed during training. We have taught her to do this less in the following ways:

Close hand over kibble tightly, let her sniff around hand

Open hand slowly, and if she does snap and make contact say “OW!” in a really loud yapping voice so she knows she has caused pain

When she has stopped snapping/mouthing and is just gently licking, open fingers slightly and allow her to tease the biscuit out gently.

Always use the “OW!” reflex when teeth contact with flesh, even during play when it might be an accident. Dogs communicate this to each other, and it teaches good manners. Greyhounds are very very precise, there should be no such thing as accidental teeth on fingers, they are being unnecessarily clumsy or disrespectful when they do this and they can if they want, avoid your fingers even in play.

I can report, we rarely have any teeth contact from Lils now, and to think she was totally feral and unhandleable and bitey about 6mths ago!


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