The other day my dog started coughing and almost gagging to a point, and I didn’t know how to help him. I panicked and kept patting his back. But the situation worsened, and I had to eventually call my veterinarian, who advised me to make some lifestyle changes to ensure that these incidents do not happen again.
Earlier, there have been a few instances where my dog started dry heaving, and I didn’t know how to help him. After taking the vet’s advice, the frequency of dry heaving also decreased.
After the following incident, I learned so much about my dog’s dry heaving, gagging, and even coughing that I decided to share some information here. I hope it comes in handy to you if you find yourself caught up in a similar situation.
What is Dry Heaving?
Dry heaving is the process of repeatedly and forcefully expelling the contents that may be remaining in the stomach. It primarily expels air and mucus, although it could carry bile or waste of the stomach towards the mouth. It seems to be coming out through the mouth, and the reflexes are similar to that of vomiting.
What Causes Dry Heaving in Dogs?
Dry heaving is not uncommon among dogs. As dog parents, you must have experienced that your pet dog is traumatized by these sporadic bouts of dry heaving.
Let’s take a look at most of the possible reasons that cause your furry friend to witness these irritating periods of suffering, which may range from mild to severe complications.
When dogs end up swallowing a foreign object without knowledge, it could lead to heaving. It is their way of getting rid of what they ingested unknowingly. Sometimes it may begin as a deliberate attempt at their end and becomes uncontrollable. At other times, it could simply be a reflex of their body.
#2. Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), or Bloating
This medical condition may result in serious health issues when not treated immediately. It leads their stomach to swell and churn, causing the small intestine to block.
Additionally, you must have witnessed that your pets are voracious eaters. So, if you do not supervise their daily food intake, they tend to suffer from bloating and gastritis problems. Also, they may try to swallow too big and indigestible food, often leading to intestinal blockage.
#3. Stomach Infection
In most cases, when the problem is not severe, your dog may experience dry heaving due to a stomach infection. It is not such a serious situation but keep in mind that if it happens pretty often for a very long period- you need to check with your dog’s vet.
Mostly this happens when there is an issue with their digestive system. You need to ensure that even after dry heaving subsides, your dog is adequately hydrated.
#4. Allergies or Sensitivity
If you have noticed that your pet’s heaving is triggered by a particular object, place, or food item, then possibly it is caused by allergies. Your dog could be suffering from dry heaving because it may have consumed something poisonous or toxic.
This may cause your dog to suffer from dry heaving.
Moreover, stomach bugs and resultant infections can be another cause for your dog to suffer from dry heaving.
#5. Stress and Anxiety
In addition to these factors, even stress and anxiety or exercising soon after eating may lead your pet to heave. Any uncomfortable experience can make them heave as this is their body’s mechanism to deal with such a situation.
How Can Dry Heaving Be Stopped In Dogs?
As dog parents, we all agree that dry heaving is an unpleasant experience for both your beloved pet as well as for you. It is crucial to identify the reason behind your dog’s dry heaving and work on resolving the issue accordingly.
Here are some ways you can use to stop dry heaving if your dog is experiencing that.
1. Smaller and Frequent Meals
As noted earlier, dry heaving could very well be a result of overeating, which can lead to bloating or eating too fast, leading to choking followed by gagging. Providing your furry friend with relatively smaller yet frequent meals can resolve both the issues in a jiffy!
2. Staying Hydrated
Ensuring that your dog stays well hydrated can keep the digestive troubles at bay. This won’t allow any gastric issues to arise in the first place, working as a precautionary habit to avoid dry heaving later on.
Don’t forget that water intake can also help remove any materials that the dog might have consumed that could cause gastrointestinal upset.
3. Examination By A Veterinarian
In case you find things going out of control, immediately check on a trusted veterinarian. At times, the trouble is beyond casual and professional help would be required.
Why Do Dogs Gag?
It is their way of getting rid of anything foreign and unwanted that got stuck in their throat. By gagging, they try to clear off their mouths of anything that could irritate or potentially be dangerous to them. It is their way of protecting their airway. As dry heaving that’s also uncontrolled gagging is a reflex present in almost all dogs.
Again, it may not cause concern, but it can have significant consequences in some circumstances, requiring immediate professional help. So, keep an eye on your dog’s breathing pattern, which at times could also get blocked owing to gagging.
Eating or Drinking Too Quickly
There is a high possibility that they might have eaten or drunk too quickly, which got stuck in their throats. Although this is not a significant problem, ensuring that your dog consumes food or drinks water at a slow pace is a good choice in any case. As previously stated, it is their way of getting rid of something that may be blocking their airway.
The habit of consuming food at a slower pace needs to be inculcated in dogs from a young age. This can be done by allowing your dog to indulge in an activity that slows down its eating pace. Food puzzles are one such activity that dog parents can rely on.
Similarly, a free-flowing stream of water can help a great deal with letting your dog drink water comfortably without gagging or choking on it. These feeding habits can make a big difference in your pet’s overall well-being. It can also prevent frequent gagging to a great extent.
You may often find gagging accompanied by many other quite normal symptoms. These symptoms include drooling, difficulty in breathing, vomiting, and even coughing.
Swallowing Too Much Air
Dogs tend to gag when they end up swallowing too much air.
Motion sickness has also been seen as something that can lead to gagging in dogs. When traveling, you have got to be extra careful of your dog. Whenever dogs experience something unfamiliar or strange, they tend to become anxious.
Consider getting your dog a crate whenever you travel next. It serves a dual purpose for your dog. First, by ensuring that your dog doesn’t experience any physical discomfort while traveling. Second, by providing a comfortable and homely space to relax in.
What Can Be Done To Stop Dogs From Gagging?
If your dog is gagging, please remember that there are ways to deal with this situation. But dogs are unique, and there are no universally accepted methods to stop gagging among dogs.
To begin with, you can try to distract your dog. Give them a toy to play with, or give a quick treat. You should also try to put food on a raised platform and try using it in a slow feeder bowl. Don’t forget to break your dog’s food into small pieces. The idea is to make your dog stretch upwards and chew the food thoroughly. Besides, add variations to your dog’s diet, like adding peanut butter, to save them from drab meals.
What Causes Dogs To Cough?
If you find that your dog is suffering from frequent bouts of cough, there might be some serious reasons behind it. Here are some of the significant causes that may cause your dog to cough.
#1. Respiratory Infection
To begin with, dogs often suffer from kennel cough, which is a contagious respiratory infection and is spread when dogs come in contact with other dogs suffering from the same disease. The symptoms may continue for weeks, and your dog may require medical attention.
Your dog is equally vulnerable to bronchitis, which causes inflammation in the bronchial tubes, making the dog cough a lot. Besides, major heart disease or lung cancer can also make your favorite pet cough.
Also, lung infections like pneumonia can lead to your dog coughing up mucus and experiencing breathing difficulty. Moreover, contagious viral infections like parainfluenza can also affect your dog, leading to severe coughing.
Additionally, lesser serious diseases can also make your dog cough. For instance, pollen, dust, or smoke can also lead to allergies, which can make your dog sneeze and cough.
How To Prevent Coughing in Dogs?
Coughing is a rather natural and normal phenomenon. Like heaving and gagging, if coughing persists for too long, it needs to be followed up by your dog’s veterinarian. However, here are some ways in which you can deal with your dog’s coughing from time to time.
1. Regular Exercise
Any sort of physical activity can not only help with boosting immunity but also enhance strength and overall wellness. This is one way to fix and avoid problems like dry heaving, gagging, and coughing.
2. Cleanliness and Hygiene Levels
Maintain a clean and irritant-free environment for your dog. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise to remain physically fit. A dose of fresh air for mental fitness is equally important. Have your dog’s teeth checked regularly and cleaned as needed. Keep your dog’s bedding and sleeping area clean. Regularly groom your dog, especially if they have a long coat. Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners in your home.
The possible reasons why your dog is dry heaving but is not throwing up are
• Kennel cough, which is a common respiratory infection in dogs.
• Tonsillitis, which is a gland-based issue that affects dogs.
• Gastric dilation is commonly known as bloating.
• Some foreign objects like grasses and twigs may have been lodged in its throat.
• It is probably suffering from throat inflammation, also known as laryngitis.
You should be worried about dry heaves in your dog if it is recurrent. This is because it can be an issue of volvulus and gastric dilation. In this case, it is better to take your dog to the vet immediately and let the vet decide on the future course of action.
If your dog is dry heaving, we recommend that you don’t waste any time at home, as it requires immediate medical assistance. To diagnose the reason behind dry heaving, your dog must undergo urinalysis, abdominal ultrasound, bloodwork, and x-rays.
It may need IV fluids, and the vet may also decompress its stomach to stabilize it. Additionally, anti-vomiting medicines and tablets for pain control may also be administered. Depending on the situation, fluid supplementation can also work.
At times, if some major blockage is found, surgical treatment may be recommended as well.
If your dog is acting like it is going to throw up soon, the possible reasons are
• It has ingested something that has resulted in an upset stomach.
• It has eaten its meal too quickly and has probably overeaten.
• It is already suffering from some ailment which is making it nauseous.
• It is on some medicine (probably due to issues like ear infections), which is making it uncomfortable, and it wants to throw up.
• There is some foreign material lodged in its throat, and it is trying to throw that out.
The probable reasons why your dog is dry-heaving white foam are tracheal collapse, rabies, bloating, Kennel cough, pneumonia, fungal infection, heart disease, upset stomach, and lungworm infection.
Your dog sounds like it has a hairball in its throat because it is probably trying to cough and get rid of the same. This is probably making your dog gag as well. The sound is dreadful and reminds one of goose-honking.
So, gagging is one of the most common responses to removing anything lodged inside their throat.
The reasons that your dog keeps gagging are probably because it is suffering from laryngeal paralysis and infections. Infections like Kennel cough are quite common among dogs. This is a respiratory infection and can make your dog gag.
Otherwise, there is also a chance that your dog is trying to clear its throat, which probably has some grass, dirt, or some foreign material lodged inside it. Its attempt to bring out these substances is probably making it gag as well.
Some of the initial signs of parvo in dogs include an acute loss of appetite, bloody and severe diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, bloating and pain in the abdomen, and hypothermia (low temperature in the body).
Further, continuous diarrhea and vomits can also dehydrate your dog and damage its immunity system and intestines. This, in turn, can cause septic shocks.
The most common kennel cough symptom is a retching and loud hacking cough. Besides, there are certain other symptoms of kennel cough as well, but they are not so prevalent.
They are sneezing, discharge from their eyes, and have runny noses. In some extreme cases, kennel cough can also result in lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, and even anxiety and depression. These symptoms are more visible if the disease is left untreated for a long time.
Your dog might be experiencing dry heaving, gagging, or coughing for whatever reason. Consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s health. It will keep you stress-free, and you will learn to take care of your dog’s needs after a few times of consulting a vet. Most of the issues can easily be resolved at the comfort of your home, but expert advice is always beneficial in the long run.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.