If your dog is gagging, but nothing is coming out — also known as dry heaving — there could be several reasons why it’s happening. While dry heaving can be a benign behavior in some dogs, sometimes that is not the case. In this article, we are looking at several concerning reasons that your dog may be gagging but not throwing up.
From drinking their water too quickly to just getting too excited, in most cases, there is a harmless reason behind our dogs’ gagging, dry heaving, retching, whatever you want to call it.
For example, our dogs have the tendency to eat things that aren’t always best for their stomach, and if they are feeling nauseous, they may try to force themselves to throw up. You may notice them eating grass when this is happening.
While, in most cases, gagging isn’t something we need to be super concerned about, there are several reasons, from illnesses to injuries, that can be behind it, and they can have devastating effects if left untreated.
Gagging Vs. Coughing Vs. Vomiting
The first step to helping out your dog’s gagging is to learn the difference between dry heaving, coughing, vomiting, etc.
It’s pretty easy to tell if your dog is vomiting as they will expel the contents of their stomach and upper intestine. Regurgitation is similar to vomiting but differs in a few ways. Regurgitation is the ejection of contents from the esophagus that typically occurs without abdominal contractions — it most often happens soon after eating or drinking.
Coughing and gagging are more closely related than one may think at first. This is because they often occur together.
In fact, it’s important to note which is happening before the other, as this can help your vet more quickly diagnose the issue. Coughing that’s followed by gagging indicates the issue may be a lower respiratory disease such as bronchitis. Gagging and then coughing indicates the issue may be a dysfunction of the larynx.
Kennel Cough and Other Upper Respiratory Infections
Characterized by a dry honking cough and nasal discharge, kennel cough is a highly contagious airway infection commonly seen in dogs. Sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and a mild fever are other common symptoms of kennel cough, which can be caused by a number of viruses and bacteria.
Due to its prevalence, many veterinarians recommend annual vaccination for the disease, especially if the dog spends time around other dogs that aren’t from the same household.
With help from both the pet parent and the dog’s vet, in most cases, a dog will recover within a week or two from kennel cough. In mild cases, rest, proper nutrition, and hydration are usually all that’s needed — giving your dog a little honey in warm water can help soothe their throat. To prevent the cough from taking a turn for the worst, your vet may prescribe antibiotics.
In severe cases, a dog with kennel cough can develop pneumonia, which can require hospitalization, IV, antibiotics, and oxygen therapy.
Something Stuck In Their Throat
Dry heaving, retching, and gagging are common ways for a dog to remove a foreign object that is causing a partial obstruction. Immediately call your vet if you suspect there is something stuck in your dog’s throat.
Taking the time to learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver is a smart idea that can save your dog’s life. While the method is different for dogs than for humans, It’s fairly easy to learn and perform as well.
Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with air, which causes pressure to build up that prevents blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. In severe cases, the stomach can actually flip over, cutting off more blood flow while triggering the pancreas to produce toxic hormones that will cause the heart to start.
To say that bloat is a highly dangerous condition is putting it lightly, as it can kill a completely healthy dog in just 1-2 hours if treatment is not sought.
Along with dry heaving, symptoms of bloat include an enlarged abdomen, increased salivation, restlessness, and pain when the stomach is touched.
Any type of growth that occurs in the back of the throat can cause a dog to repeatedly dry heave without throwing up. Benign or not, if the tumor is large enough to cause your dog distress, in most cases, the veterinarian will have it surgically removed.
Just like us, our dogs can get a sore throat and even tonsillitis. Now, unlike us, it’s very rare for a dog’s tonsils to be removed. However, both a severe infection or if cancer is suspected can result in their removal (known as a tonsillectomy).
Tonsillectomy is more common in small dog breeds with short snouts due to breathing issues swollen tonsils can cause.
Often seen in older Golden Retrievers, laryngeal paralysis occurs when the larynx can no longer close properly. This can allow food and fluid to get into the airway, causing a loud and harsh panting sound that can sometimes sound like gagging.
More commonly seen in overweight and obese dogs, along with smaller toy breeds, especially the Yorkshire terrier, a collapsed trachea occurs when the cartilaginous rings of a dog’s trachea weaken and flatten. Weight loss, anti-inflammatory medications, specialty harnesses, and in some cases, steroids can all help this “incurable” condition.
Is My Dog Gagging A Concern?
From drinking water too quickly to inflammation of the throat, there are many things that can cause a dog to gag that won’t warrant immediate attention.
Gagging that lasts longer than 24 hours, sounds harsh/is quickly progressing, comes along with additional symptoms, or causes your dog great distress will require immediate attention, however.
In cases such as these, your dog’s veterinarian should be your first call. In cases when vomiting needs to be induced, 3% hydrogen peroxide and a syringe can be safely given.