The woman whose French Bulldog ‘nearly choked to death’ has issued a warning to all owners of flat-faced dog breeds.
Adele O’Brien feared the worst when her dog Ernie choked on food at their home. He began ‘screaming, whooping and gargling’ as he experienced paroxysmal respiration, or ‘reverse sneezing’.
Reverse sneezing occurs when a dog quickly inhales air, rather than exhaling as they would with a normal sneeze. It can last seconds and is common among flat-faced dogs like Ernie, reports the Daily Record. It is usually not dangerous, but if it occurs while eating dogs can choke and it can prove fatal.
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It’s thought Ernie’s usual Monday night dinner, dried kibble and shredded beef, got stuck in his windpipe and throat. Terrified Adele described how his ‘ribs popped out’ and he started ‘drooling’.
Adele, from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, told the Daily Record : “French Bulldogs have an elongated palette so are more susceptible to choking. For this reason I always watch him when he’s eating. I heard him wheezing and realised it was a reverse sneeze which isn’t usually an issue. But then he started screaming and making whooping noises and gargling. His body froze and his ears shot back, he couldn’t move.”
In a bid to dislodge the food Adele, who works for a luxury fashion brand, massaged under Ernie’s neck but her efforts were to no avail. She added: “I pushed between his rib cage and abdomen to try to get things moving and I heard a whistling sound, as if there was trapped air. He was close to collapsing. I knew this wouldn’t fix itself.”
Adele rushed her ‘distressed’ pooch to ARMAC Vets Ltd where an ‘amazing’ out-of-hours vet who, after doing a quick sweep round Ernie’s mouth, ‘gently manipulated’ his body, allowing him to vomit which saved his life. After a quick anti-inflammatory injection, Ernie was safe to go home but Adele is now on high alert in case her treasured pup chokes again.
She continued: “Ernie could have died, we’re so lucky the vet was only five minutes away. When you’re careful, you don’t expect your dog to choke. Your dog is like your precious baby.
“In the moment I tried to stay calm but choking can be fatal, it was terrifying. It’s important owners know about reverse sneezing and what to do if your dog does choke. It could be a matter or life or death.”
Kirstyn Reive, of ARMAC Vets in Biggar, explained that most dogs are able to stop themselves from reverse sneezing but that some breeds are more susceptible. She said: “Instead of expelling air out of the nose like a normal sneeze, a reverse sneeze sees air drawn into the dog’s nose and it makes a loud noise.
“Most cases require no treatment and the dog will stop itself. But if it doesn’t, owners should keep their dog calm and stroke their neck. Ernie choked because he reverse sneezed while eating so he inhaled some food. He is a brachycephalic breed and has an elongated soft palate which makes him more prone.”
The vet issued choking warning signs to look out for, saying: “If your dog is making an unusually loud noise, drooling or struggling for breath, you should contact your vet as soon as possible. You can attempt to clear the blockage from their throat but be careful not to be bitten.
“In extreme circumstances, we would have to sedate or anaesthetise an animal to remove the object it is choking on. Owners should avoid feeding large items to their dogs and try not to let them gulp their food down too quickly.”