What To Do For A Choking Pig

Pig Choking

CZolicani, Feb 9, 2015 and VIN.  With especial thanks to Dr. Roger Gfeller

Choking is interference with breathing caused by foreign material in, orcompression on, the trachea (windpipe).   In pigs, this most often happens because apiece of food, like an apple, is stuck in the esophagus and causes compressionof the windpipe, which is located right next to the esophagus.


Signs of choking:



–standing with head extended with a worried expression

–inability or unwillingness to eat and drink

–difficulty in inhaling

–blue ears, nose, gums, tongue

–loss of consciousness

Frequently, coughing is confused with choking.Both cause the pet to forcefully exhale. With choking, the pet has difficultyinhaling. When coughing, the pet can inhale almost normally. Be careful todistinguish the two: attempting to give first aid to a pet who is merelycoughing can cause injury.

If you are in any doubt, have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian. To evaluatethe throat, most pets will require sedation and some will require evaluationwith a fiber-optic endoscope or X-rays to look for foreign material.

If the Pet is Unconscious

Perform a Finger Sweep
Open your pet’s mouth and do a finger sweep by placing your fingeralong the inside of the mouth, sliding it down toward the center of the throatover the base of the tongue, and gently “sweeping” toward the centerto remove any foreign material. Warning: there is a structure deep in thethroat (the Adam’s apple) that feels like a smooth bone. Do not attempt to pullit out!

If you can feel the object, but cannot clear it from the throatarea               

Use thehandle end of a wooden spoon to push the object down into the esophagus so thatthe airway can be opened.  Once theobject is in the lower esophagus, breathing can resume and you can transportthe pig to a veterinarian to have the object removed or pushed all the way intothe stomach (where it can digest, or be removed more easily)

Begin Rescue Breathing
If air is not entering the lungs, slap the chest wall firmly or perform theHeimlich maneuver by putting the pet on his back, placing your hands over theabdomen near the bottom of his rib cage, and gently but firmly thrusting towardthe spine.

If this does not work, place the pig on itsside, and place your hands over the chest, just behind the shoulders, andgently but firmly thrust your hands downward.

Perform a finger sweep and begin rescuebreathing. Repeat until the foreign body is clear and the lungs can beinflated.

Transport to the veterinarian.

Rescue Breathing:

Make Certain the Animal isactually Unconscious 

Talk to the pet first. Gently touch and attempt to awaken the pet.You could be seriously injured should you attempt to perform rescue breathingon a pig who was only sleeping heavily and was startled awake.

1.  Ensure an Open Airway


Extend the head and neck and pull the tongueforward.

Look in the mouth and remove any saliva or vomitus. If it is too dark to seeinto the mouth, sweep your finger deep into the mouth and into the throat toremove any vomit or foreign body. Be aware of a hard, smooth, bone-likestructure deep in the throat, which is likely to be the hyoid apparatus (Adam’sapple). Serious injury could result if you pull on the hyoid apparatus.

2.  Observe for Effective Breathing
Sometimes an animal will begin to breathe spontaneously when the head is put inthe position discussed above (head and neck extended, tongue pulled forward).Watch for the rise and fall of the chest while listening closely for sounds ofbreathing. If no breathing is evident in 10 seconds, begin rescue breathing.

3.  Begin Rescue Breathing
Rescue breathing is performed by covering the pig’s nose with your mouth andforcefully blowing your breath into the lungs. In small pigs and piglets, youmust hold the corners of the mouth tightly closed while you force the airin.
In larger pigs, the tongue should be pulledforward and the mouth and lips held shut using both hands cupped around themuzzle. Force air into the lungs until you see the chest expand. Take yourmouth away when the chest has fully expanded. The lungs will deflate withouthelp. Air should be forced into the lungs until you see the chest expand.

Give 3 to 5 Full Breaths
After several breaths are given, stop for a few seconds to recheck forbreathing and heart function. If the pig is still not breathing, continuerescue breathing 20 to 25 times per minute in piglets or small pigs, or 12 to20 times per minute in medium or large pigs. Push down on the stomach areaevery few seconds to help expel the air that may have blown into the stomach.If the stomach is allowed to distend with air, the pressure will make therescue breathing efforts less effective.

4.  IfBreathing is Shallow or Non-existent
If you find that breathing is either shallow or non-existent and the pet isstill unconscious, continue rescue breathing 10 to 15 times per minute andtransport the pet to the nearest veterinary facility.

If the Pet is Conscious

Stay calm and try to keep the pet calm. If the pet is overheated, cool themwith cool (not cold) water applied to their extremities (ears and feet) andbelly, and transport them to the nearest veterinarian. Perform a finger sweeponly if it will not excite the pet. Do not perform a finger sweep if you believeyour pet will bite you.  It may be betterto use a wooden or plastic spoon to sweep the mouth to prevent injury to yourhand.
Basic CPCR: Chest Compressions

After Ensuring an OpenAirway, Check for a Pulse
If no pulse is detectable, begin chest compressions.

In Small pigs and piglets
Squeeze the chest using one or both hands around the chest. Depress the ribcage circumferentially (see illustration).


Do this 100 to 150 times per minute.

In Large Pigs
Compress the chest wall with one or both hands, depending on the size of thedog and the size of the rescuer (whatever works best for you). If the pig is onher side, place your hand(s) on the side of the chest wall where it is widest.If she is on her back, place your hand(s) on the breastbone. Depress the ribcage 1.5 to 4 inches, depending on the pig’s size. Do this 80 to 120 times perminute.

Coordinate Rescue Breathing and Chest Compressions
If possible, give breaths during the compressions. If it is not possible, givetwo breaths after every 12 compressions.

Continue CPR until
• You become exhausted and can’t continue.
• You get the animal transported to a veterinary facility andprofessionals can take over.
• The pulse is palpable or heartbeats are felt and they are strong andregular.

In the vast majority of cases, artificial ventilations will continue to berequired for a period of time, even though heart function has returned. This isdue to the nervous system depression that occurs as a result of the arrest.

All resuscitated animalsshould be transported to a veterinary facility for further examination andcare!