I Saved My Dog’s Life Tonight

Tonight I almost lost my heart dog, the dog that changed everything for me. Kai. I want to share it with you because it’s all I can think about right now and because nothing has shaken me more in my years of having pets. I want to share it because maybe it will help one of you, one day in the future. I think I am in shock right now. At the very least I am discombobulated and everything seems surreal and bizarre to me. When I think of holding Kai’s lifeless, limp body in my arms… of begging him to come back… softly cupping his jaw and trying to see if his pupils responded to light…well, I already feel like it’s a dream. Things that horrible shouldn’t happen to dogs or people.

This is what happened. I had a pot roast that hadn’t turned out well. It was cut up in chunks and I planned on giving it to the dogs as a delicious snack. As usual, they were in a semi-circle around me with drooling lips and and beseeching eyes. You know, even as I handed out the chunks I thought in my head, “you’d better chew”. I’d like to say I decided to cut them up smaller or handed them out slower but I didn’t. My dogs and I have done this a hundred thousand times. But this time, Kai started choking. At first it was some coughing and hacking and I watched to see it come fly out of his mouth. He started running around and I became concerned. Dogs don’t do that type of thing unless something’s wrong. They can’t say, “hey, I’ve got a problem here” so they switch locations as if hacking outside on the porch might have a better effect then inside by the fridge. I followed him out into the backyard. The other dogs were in his face waiting for some morsel of regurgitated meat. I put them inside, turned on all the lights for the outside and ran over to Kai. He was laying down as if quietly resting. Head up, eyes open, mouth slightly ajar. He looked totally normal. I gently turned his head towards me, wanting to make sure he was doing ok. The second I touched him I realized that he was NOT ok. His eyes were fixed and his jaw was completely passive as I moved it. He flopped on the ground, tongue and gums gray. I don’t know if I made any noise or not but I picked him up and tried to do the Heimlich Maneuver on him. But picking up his 40 pound body was like picking up a sack of flour. I couldn’t feel any difference with pushing my fists up into his ribcage. I put him on his side and reached into his throat. I could feel the beef. I jammed my hand in and tried to pull it out but I kept coming out with shreds under my nails, nothing more. I was talking to him, saying silly things like stay with me, c’mon kai you can do this come on come on come on. I even thought that was probably ludicrous. If dogs can’t understand English on a good day, certainly my unresponsive and dying dog wasn’t going to hear my requests now. But you know, I was only speaking so that if he could hear he would hear LOVE and he would the voice of someone who has always been devoted to keeping him safe.

My hands were covered in spit and blood pooled in the beds of my nails where I was gouging at the meat and catching the spongy soft issue of his mouth and throat. At this point, I was wild with panic. The thoughts going through my head were like this. Where is the closest sharp thing I can cut him with to open his airway? Oh my god, he’s dead. He is dead in my arms from choking. He can’t die. This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen, I have lost Kai. I don’t know what to do. I can’t get it out. I’m going to break his jaw from shoving my hand so hard down his throat. Is he going to accidentally bite me (no, that’s seizures). WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO TO SAVE HIS LIFE? Help me. I can’t save him.

I can’t tell you the despairing sensation of believing my beloved dog was dying or dead coupled with my almost angry determination to get the meat out of his throat. I was not gentle, I did not care if I broke his jaw or ripped his tongue. I had to get it out. And finally I did.

But he still did not breathe or blink. There was no spasm-sounding cough like in the movies when the food comes out of the person’s mouth. No relief. I don’t know if his heart was beating. I started CPR. I felt clumsy and, again, questions were going through my head in slow motion about how many compressions and what if there was something else in his throat and how in the world would this possibly work – it’s not doing CPR on a dummy in a class. His gums were gray, his tongue was hanging out and he had froth stuck all over his face. But I tried. It was the strangest sensation to breathe into him and feel his chest expand. I did it and then I did chest compressions. I thought I saw a twinge of movement. I wasn’t sure. I did it again. And then I realized I could feel his heart beat. It was faint and erratic but I could feel it. He took a slow breath and then another. He didn’t move. He just lay there, softly breathing. I didn’t know if he could move or if he was brain-damaged. How long can a dog go without oxygen? Without a beating heart? I picked up his head to place it in my lap and he was still utterly passive. I sat there like that for I don’t know how long. I just kept watching him breathe, listening to breathe, and keeping my palm over his heart. He started to close his eyes and I panicked again wondering if dogs can go in shock and die. I asked him to get up and then as if he’d forgotten why he was there he simply stood up and looked around, kind of in a daze.

That’s what happened. From there, I took him inside. We went into a room and laid on the floor together. He definitely was out of it but seemed normal enough. I called an emergency hospital and they said I should bring him in since his gums were still gray. At this point, let me tell you some of the preposterous things I thought. 1. How much would it cost (didn’t want to waste money to have them tell me was was fine), 2) I had to find something to wear (I had just showered before dinner for the dogs and was in PJ’s), 3) crap, I didn’t have any make-up on. Now, those are some stupid things to think. In my life, I’d say I’ve noticed that people are a little absurd in crisis. I used to find it offensive but tonight I understood. It was the only thing I had to try and restore some normalcy.

There will never be anything is devastating as what it felt like to helplessly hold Kai in my arms, limp and dying. Having him totally unresponsive while I wrenched the meat out of his airway, hauled him up for the Heimlich and more. But he’s ok.

There is a no way we can account for all of the possible things that might happen to our beloved pets in this world. I believe in giving dogs balls and other toys and chewies. I know that some dog, somewhere has probably choked or injured themselves because of those things but it’s a risk to take. Bot do you know what risk I don’t think any of us should not be willing to take? The risk of unpreparedness. I made many mistakes tonight but there are also things I did correctly and most of them were because I was prepared. I took a CPR course. I didn’t know if I was doing everything correctly tonight but I knew enough to stumble through the steps… and NO DOUBT it saved his life. I knew where the emergency hospital was. I had my vet and the emergency vet numbers easily accessible.

I often write about the many ways Kai has saved me. He has taught me so much patience and acceptance. But tonight it was my turn and although I would never wish a situation that called for saving, I am so glad I able to save Kai. It feels wrong even saying something like “I’m glad”. It’s not possible to express my thankfulness.

Be prepared. Use common sense. Love your pets a little extra tonight.

9 thoughts on “I Saved My Dog’s Life Tonight

  1. Just had a very scary experience where Bella “The White Doberman” was laying on the ground, somewhat splayed legs, open eyes with ZERO response. I had turned about :30 early to let her outside and she didn’t follow. I came back in to see her on the ground and unresponsive.

    Bella’s back knees have bad arthritis and has aspects of Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), but something was shockingly different. Her eyes were open, but there was no eye recognition or eye movement and they were slightly bulged. No leg movement. No noticeable breathing. No sounds. No nothing. Think frozen or what I thought…. dead.

    I thought Bella had died. She is, after all, 12 years 3 months old.

    Five minutes prior to this I had given her one Pork Chicken Knotz something that normally takes a bit of work for her to eat, but this time I microwaved it for :30. It was warm. Not soft. She came back downstairs after I thought she finished it.

    So as she lay there, I immediately stuck my hand, to my wrist, down her throat. No threat and no reaction from Bella. None. She was slightly on her right side now and I started pumping her chest. No reaction. No response (no movement, no sounds, no nothing). Eyes wide open. That’s when I thought she had died. I gave it one more try and stuck my hand half way to my elbow down her throat. Bella’s bladder emptied on the floor in a full stream. I then yelled at her not to “die on me yet” and slapped her.

    Bella came back. She did not cry. She did not cough. She did not freak out. She just came back like there was nothing wrong.

    Within 20 minutes she “walked into the animal hospital” on her own. She appears completely normal – demanding treats after the exam – and even defecated in the appropriate place outside after her visit.

    Her eyes responded to light perfectly. Her heart is still as strong as a 4 year old Dobie’s. She is aware and focused. Weighed in at 86 pounds. She is still clearly my friend Bella.

    It is possible she had a minor stroke or a Pork Chomp treat got stuck in her lower esophagus and though I could not find it, I pushed it or knocked it free. Heart attack did not come up from the vet.

    Regardless it was a shocking moment and a painful feeling of loss and grief. She doesn’t seem to notice there was an issue at all though.

    I dread the day it does, but am aware that if and when she goes it would be better for her to go on her own volition.

  2. Thank you for the post. It made be cry and laugh. So happy that you saved your dog Kai. This morning very much the same thing happened to me and my sweet dog. She is 12 but still looks like a puppy. A runt King Charles Cav called Ada. She had beef this morning as she normally does, but she woofed it down and one was stuck in her throat. I didn’t know what to do. She ran around I thought she would vomit it out, but she went to a corner and when I tried to open her mouth she wouldn’t let me. She then passed out. I thought she was dead. Her nose foamed up, she was all limp. Her tongue came out and was grey. I thought I’ll see if I can feel anything, and I could feel the meat stuck in her throat. I couldn’t get it out. I had to put my fingers right in and rub her throat with my other hand, and after many attempts I got it out. I opened her mouth and blew deeply inside and pushed her small chest and did this again and she started breathing deeply herself. She came back. I thought the same thing. Did she have brain damage? It seemed to take about 5mins.. But seemed longer that she was passed out? But after a few minutes of deep breathing and then once she started breathing “normally” again she was alert. I let her rest for about 15 mins. I checked if she could move her legs and she could. Then after a few more minutes she was able to sit up. Her tail wagged slightly. And 40 mins later I could try and ask her to come to me and I could see she understood and even though she was still out of it she tried to make a movement. I let her rest some more and took her bed to the bathroom and carried her over so that I could shower and watch her before I made my way to the vet.

    Vet said that she probably passed out from the shock of not being able to breathe and she may have been able to slightly breathe through her nose. 4 hours later she is back to jumping on the couch and drinking a bit of water. Yes I am amazed. In shock. But better. Thank you for your post. It made be feel better. Yes learning CPR was vital. I wish that I was faster in getting the meat out. But something drives you to keep going, even though initially I thought she was dead. But I had to have her have dignity. And that drove me to get it out. So glad I did!!! She is back with me. The same sweet dog I have had for 12 years.

  3. Thank you for posting and I’m glad your dog was ok. I went thru something similar but luckily was able to stop it before it got quite as bad. I have 3 puppies, a 4 month old Aussie, Sora and 6 month old Beagle, Bagel who I love more than anything. Just a few months ago on Christmas Eve we had a scary experience where we let them both outside for just a few minutes alone, something we hadn’t ever done. Sora ended up in our above ground pool which was closed for winter but the cover had got ripped during a hurricane. Bagel was freaking out and had it not been for him we might not have realized something was wrong in time. Even by then Sora was frozen cold like an ice cube and had wedged his head into the skimmer box, the only thing that kept him above water. We raced him inside totally unresponsive but breathing still and as my husband called the emergency vet I warmed him up with towels, body heat, and a hair dryer. Within 30 mins he was coming around and we were on the way to the ER vet. He ended up walking in on his own and was back to normal by the time we left. We got lucky we found him in time. Never expected just less than 2 months later Bagel would have his own scary experience. I was giving them a treat before bed, these soft baked doggy cakes they have had tons of times before. I handed them out and turned around to get my own snack before bed. I glanced at Bagel and saw him up on his hind legs with a look of terror, pawing frantically at his mouth. I realized he was choking and in shock I grabbed him and shook him, could feel he wasn’t breathing. He let me shove my hand in his mouth all the way to the back of his throat but I didn’t feel anything there and he barely gagged. I picked him up and tried to do the heimlich, no clue if it was the same for dogs as it is for people but hoping it would work because I didn’t know what else to do and all I could think is he’s going to die in front of my eyes and I have no clue how to save him. Did 2 thrusts and nothing happened. I lowered him back down and hit him hard on the back then did one more heimlich thrust as hard as I could. He yelped loudly and I realized if he made such a loud noise it must have cleared his airway. Sitting on the floor was the doggy cake totally unchewed and covered in slobber. I realized he had involuntarily peed on me and the floor a bit. He let me hold him there for probably 15 mins while I bawled my eyes out so relieved he was ok. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to knock it loose. I’m a nurse so I’ve done CPR a million times and always clear-headed during an emergency but seeing my little puppy choking I just panicked and was lucky instinct took over and I knew enough to save him. Hopefully now that they have both had near death experiences we will be good from here on out! They are my best friends and I’d be devastated to lose either one of them.

    1. Shayna, I am so glad your dogs are ok! There are First Aid and CPR classes for dogs available to the public – skills you never hope you’ll need but, man, are you glad to have them in an emergency! I’m so happy you have your best friends with you today and hope they stay with you for a long, long time.

  4. Thanks for your posts. My experience was so similar. Chippie is only a year and a half. Yesterday while playing outdoors he suddenly dropped to his side and attempted to get up but couldn’t. Then he started screaming and went limp. He wasnt breathing, pupils unresponsive and he was completely blue. He had a faint pulse so I massaged his chest and gave rescue breaths. After maybe 90 seconds he came back. He was steady and recognized me and his name. After all day at the emergency vet the workup showed nothing. . Heart and lungs fine. Alert. No pain. Vet concluded probably an airway issue that cleared on its own. She didnt think seizure as there was no jerking, frothing or elimination. If it was a seizure he will have another she said. Your posts were reassuring. Thanks again

  5. So glad Kai is doing well. Just four days ago my husband and I were sitting and having dinner and my 5 year old chihuahua was sitting a couple feet down from me on the couch, she jumped down and back up quickly then stood at the edge of the couch, I thought maybe she saw a fly or something she was going to chase! I looked at her and said what are you getting baby? But when she looked at me I saw panic in her eyes so I went to pick her up but she jumped away from me (very unusual) I went on the floor next to her and I could tell she was in distress, like she was having a hard time breathing so I went to open her mouth to look inside but it was locked shut! I could not get it open and started crying which of course did freak her out more and she cowarded into the kitchen so I went by her and tried again but she pulled away from me and went towards the back door so I opened it into the yard and went out with her and picked her up and finally was able to get her mouth open with my husband holding her too and when I did her tongue was a blueish gray and swollen and I could not see past it! My husband jumped up yelled to get her in the car and went to grab the car keys. We tried bringing her to closest vet only to get there and find they were closed! It was now at least ten minutes I look at her laying in my lap and I can see she her breathing is getting more and more shallow and I know she is going to die before we make it to our emergency vet. I couldn’t stop begging her to not die on me! She also has gotten me through some devastating times in my life lately. I finally snapped and thought if I don’t figure something out she is going to die in my lap and she was suffering! So I pulled her mouth open and I stuck my finger in her throat because I could not see, I did it again and nothing! I finally took her nose and mouth and put it in mine and I blew, nothing, did it two more times and on the third time I heard like this puff or clearing and she looked at me like what just happened and started licking my face and jumped in the back seat of the car and sat there until we got to the vet! They seem to think she had a seizure and kept her over night. I think she might of found something and swallowed it and it got stuck but they said it would not show on an x-ray unless it was metal or something like that. However she did have a high fever of 105 and high liver enzymes. So she will need blood work tested again to make sure that is normal. But not after four days she is starting to get back to herself. It really was extremely scary and something I never want to go through again. Thank you for sharing your story so I was able to share my recent one that has haunting me.
    Debbie

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