If you have a dog, you probably have noticed that sometimes it makes an awful sound that is almost followed by an appalling gagging sound. Although gagging in dogs can be a benevolent behavior, sometimes it could mean something serious and you need to see a veterinarian.
So, if you are wondering, why does my dog keep gagging, this article will give you all the answers you need.
6 Possible Causes of Your Dog’s Gagging
First of all, it is important to mention that gagging in dogs is a common reaction that occurs suddenly. It also goes away instantly without recurring. Older dogs tend to be more susceptible to gagging than their younger counterparts because they produce excess mucus that causes them to gag frequently.
However, if the gagging keeps recurring, it should be a serious cause for worry and will need to be checked by a qualified and experienced veterinarian. Here are some of the common causes of gagging in dogs.
1. Foreign Objects
If your dog has foreign objects stuck in its mouth, throat, or esophagus, it will experience recurring gagging. In most cases, continuous gagging happens if there are foreign objects in the esophagus. These objects are commonly referred to as esophageal foreign bodies.
Also referred to as the gullet, the esophagus is a thin sheet of muscle located in the thorax that connects the mouth with the stomach. This muscle also helps to push food and water down the stomach. If your dog swallows a large or sharp object that can’t go down past the esophagus, it becomes an esophageal foreign body.
Some of the dog treats and objects that can easily cause esophageal foreign bodies include rawhides, fishing hooks, bones and bone fragments, needles, and grass, especially when it gets stuck on the dog’s food. Unfortunately, some of these esophageal foreign objects are life-threatening and therefore require the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
Apart from recurrent gagging, other signs of esophageal foreign objects in dogs include exaggerated swallowing motions, pawing at the mouth and neck, coughing, drooling, acute frantic agitation, and anorexia. If these foreign bodies are not removed immediately, they can cause severe inflammation of the throat or esophagus.
2. Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is infectious bronchitis in dogs that is caused by various bacteria and viruses. It affects the respiratory system of your dog, causing it to cough. This cough is usually forceful and hacking. It often sounds like there is something stuck in your dog’s throat.
Kennel cough can either be dry and rough, or productive. If it’s productive, it will be accompanied by gagging, swallowing motions, or the production of excess mucus. This type of cough is different from the cough-like sound referred to as reverse sneezing, which is very common in certain dog breeds. Reverse sneezing is normally caused by irritation in the throat.
Apart from coughing and gagging, the other most common symptoms of kennel cough in dogs include a runny nose, eye discharge, and sneezing. Although it’s a nuisance, kennel cough is not life-threatening, but it can be serious in puppies, old dogs, and those with preexisting illnesses.
3. Sinusitis or Rhinitis
Sinusitis and rhinitis refer to the swelling of the nose and nasal passages. This problem is very common in certain dog breeds, especially those with elongated noses and skulls.
Apart from gagging, there are several other common symptoms of sinusitis and rhinitis in dogs, including excessive sneezing, bad breath, facial pain and swelling, lack of appetite, pawing at the face, restlessness, coughing, nose bleeding, and labored breathing.
This problem can be either acute or chronic. Acute sinusitis and rhinitis generally occur when there is a foreign object in the nasal cavity of your dog. It is normally characterized by sudden and violent sneezing. Chronic sinusitis and rhinitis when the dog suffers from an acute viral infection or when there is an allergenic object around the dog that cannot be removed.
4. Intestinal Parasite Infestation
Gagging and coughing in dogs can occur if your dog is infected with roundworms. If the larvae migrate to your dog’s lungs and penetrate the capillaries in the lungs, they will move into the air sacs, causing chronic gagging.
It is important to mention that all puppies have intestinal parasites at birth. That’s why it is important to deworm your dog regularly. Apart from gagging and coughing, the other major sign of intestinal parasite infestation is the presence of worms in your dog’s stool.
5. Heart Disease
Sometimes gagging in dogs is a sign of heart disease. This problem mainly affects elderly dogs. It is normally characterized by chronic or ceaseless gagging along with fast breathing, exercise intolerance, lethargy, and a bluish tint to the tongue. These are signs of cardiovascular disease and therefore you should see a veterinary immediately.
6. Collapsed Tracheal
This problem usually affects the smaller dog breeds, such as Chihuahua, Yorkshire terrier, etc. It can be hereditary or a birth deficiency. Some dogs acquire this condition as they grow older. This problem is characterized by recurring gagging, which gets worse over time.
Why Does My Dog Keep Coughing and Gagging Like He’s Choking?
Sometimes your dog will cough and gag incessantly like it’s choking, or it is about to throw up. This action is commonly referred to as retching. In most cases, the dog will end up vomiting or produce a small amount of phlegm or bile. Extreme coughing also progresses into retching.
While this behavior is normal, sometimes it could be a sign of other serious problems. Some of the most common causes of coughing, gagging, and choking in dogs include respiratory diseases, collapsing trachea, foreign bodies in the throat, nausea, bloating, gastrointestinal problems, and bilious vomiting syndrome. That’s why it is important to take your dog to the vet if the coughing and gagging don’t stop.
Why Does My Dog Keeps Dry Heaving?
As a dog owner, you have probably seen your dog throw up at some point. Although it is normal for dogs to vomit due to a bad stomach, dry heaving can be a sign of something more serious. Dry heaving is the act of trying to vomit without producing anything. There are several reasons why your dog could be dry heaving.
• Nausea: Your dog could be dry heaving due to nausea. In this case, dry heaving can happen just before vomiting or after vomiting. This problem is also characterized by drooling and lethargy just before the dry heaving spell. It can also be accompanied by signs of gastrointestinal upset.
• Foreign objects: Your dog can dry heave if there is a foreign body stuck in its throat. When your dog eats things it should not eat, foreign objects will become lodged in its throat. It could be a piece of grass, plastic, or any other material.
• Respiratory illness: Several respiratory infections can cause your dog to cough violently that it ends up dry heaving. Any inflammation in the throat will cause the dog to dry heave. If the respiratory illness is severe, it may cause the dog to feel extremely sick, leading to nausea.
• Throat tumor: Regular dry heaving could be a sign of a serious obstruction in or around your dog’s throat. Many dogs with the problem of constant dry heaving have been diagnosed with tumors or polyps in the throat. This tumor should be removed immediately to help your dog find relief. Growths in the lungs can also cause dry heaving
• Bloating: Also referred to as Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, bloating is a serious cause of dry heaving in dogs. Bloating in dogs causes the stomach to turn on itself, leaving the contents of the stomach trapped and inhibiting blood circulation to the intestines. This problem can also be characterized by panting, lethargy, pale gums, frail pulse, and collapse. Unfortunately, this problem can be fatal if left untreated.
What Should You Do When Your Dog Starts Gagging?
Even though it is not easy to tell when your dog’s gagging needs urgent medical attention, you should see a veterinarian immediately if the gagging is accompanied by difficulty breathing, a cough, excessive panting or drooling, lethargy, pawing at the mouth, nasal discharge, or fever. These are signs of a dog that is in extreme distress.
Before you take your dog to the vet, start by cleaning its mouth, throat, and esophagus to ensure that there are no foreign bodies stuck in there. The vet will also do a physical examination of these areas to rule out the possibility of an obstructed airway. They might also prescribe some antibiotics if your dog is suffering from sinusitis or rhinitis.
The vet will also do a fecal examination to check if the dog has intestinal parasites. If these bugs are the cause of gagging, the veterinarian will prescribe a suitable wormer. The vet will also examine your dog for any signs of heart disease or a collapsed tracheal. These complications will be treated depending on their severity.
You can prevent chronic gagging in dogs by keeping away certain triggers such as sticks, grass, bones, and small toys. If small pieces of these objects get stuck in your dog’s throat, mouth, or esophagus, they will cause constant gagging and coughing. You should also take your dog to the veterinarian for regular medical checkups.
That way, the vet can detect serious medical conditions and treat them before they advance. You should do a regular examination of your dog’s feces to see if it has intestinal parasites. Also, make sure that your dog is vaccinated, especially when traveling to protect it against kennel cough.