Witnessing your dog gagging can be quite worrying, especially when it has happened out of the blue and you don’t know the cause. Your dog gagging can also become a regular occurrence due to certain health issues. Today we will be defining and identifying gagging from coughing or vomiting, and looking at causes. Once you have identified the proper cause, you can then pursue the correct treatment to help your dog feel better.
If you notice that your dog keeps gagging, don’t worry, there are things you can do to help them. However, do not just rush in as you can make them feel more anxious and even hurt them if you try to intervene improperly. From mild issues to severe, each cause has its own problems behind them and require specific aid. Providing the wrong aid can sometimes be dire. So let us go into detail about all the causes and treatments to make sure your dog is feeling healthy and happy.
It is not uncommon for owners to confuse gagging, vomiting, and coughing. This is especially common in the heat of a stressful moment. You act on instinct to try to help your dog, which can actually make things worse. We are going to go through the man signs of gagging and differences between these three similar behaviors so you can identify when your dog is gagging and have the knowledge to feel confident in that assessment. It means you can then pursue treatment appropriately to help your dog effectively. So let’s take a look at these behaviors and how we can differentiate them from one another below.
Gagging is a reflex in many different species, humans included. It is important to note that it is a normal reflex. Like we may gag when brushing our teeth sometimes, something could irritate your dog’s uvula and lead to them gagging. Of course, there can be worries with this behavior that we explore soon. To define gagging we can describe it as tensing of the stomach muscles and stretching of the tongue in an attempt to dislodge something or expel something from the stomach, throat, or back of the mouth. Gagging in itself is not vomiting, although it can lead to vomiting. The noise produced by dogs will sound similar to coughing as well. But you can notice that the movement and behavior are more drawn out and less sharp than a cough.
Vomiting can follow coughing or be a stand-alone behavior. It is when a dog expels the contents of the from their mouth. The difference between gagging and vomiting is whether the stomach contents are expelled or not. Gagging can prelude vomiting or continue afterward, but gagging does not always mean vomiting. Similarly, vomiting can happen immediately with no gagging accompanying it. Vomiting often indicates an upset stomach from illness or digestion of something inappropriate. Once the illness passes or the unwanted contents are expelled, the dog will often feel better.
Dog coughing can range in pitch depending on the normal sound of your dog’s voice and bark. Those with deeper voices will have deeper coughs. Regardless of the pitch though, coughing is usually a straight sharp noise that a dog uses to expel something from the lungs or throat. If your dog is ill then the cough will continue until they are well again. Their cough may become more raspy and chesty depending on how severely ill they are or what is affecting them. Coughs are usually heard in succession or repeatedly in a small period of time. The noises are sharper than gagging and focus more on fast, hard noises and movements as opposed to more drawn-out tensing as seen with gagging.
Gagging is a normal reflex that every dog will display at some point. However, there are times when it becomes a concern. If it becomes frequent generally, or is repeating in a short period of time, this is a worry. More often than not this will require a vet visit. If you can record a video of the gagging to show your vet it may help them to diagnose what is causing the gagging. We will now go through the possible causes for why your dog keeps gagging.
Kennel cough, also known as Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIDR), is a bacteria that can affect your dog. This disease’s main symptom is a heavy and repetitive cough that usually takes place before your dog gags repeatedly. This respiratory infection is very contagious to other dogs so your pup will require proper isolation until they are fully treated. Make sure to call your vet to tell them your concerns as it is not wise to bring your dog in with such a contagious disease. If your dog is coughing alongside gagging then this may be the cause, a vet can confirm this for you. Mild cases of kennel cough are usually just coughing, gagging, and possibly conjunctivitis. Whereas more severe cases can branch to vomiting, abdominal pain, and a fever.
Sinusitis and Rhinitis
Sinusitis and rhinitis often go hand in hand are can commonly be found to be affecting an individual at the same time. Rhinitis is the inflammation of the inner nose and sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. This can lead to irritation, pain, itchiness, and a build-up of mucus which causes headaches. The itchiness, inflammation, and mucus are what can lead to gagging. The itchiness of the inflammation and swelling can be quite uncomfortable and lead to your body trying to remove what is bothering it. Coughing, sneezing, and gagging may be the result. Furthermore, with them producing excess mucus, this can block the sinuses and run down the back of them into the throat. Another reason why your dog may gag.
Intestinal Parasite Infestation
When your dog is severely affected by an internal parasite, this can lead to gagging as well. It is why it is important to monitor how often your dog is gagging as it is something you may overlook or not be able to tell. One parasite this is particularly common to induce gagging is the roundworm. Your dog will ingest the worms and then they hatch in the stomach. They will then make their way to the lungs and into the air sacs. This action is what leads to coughing and gagging in your dog. As they will make their home there and multiply, the gagging will continue until they are treated.
It is a relatively unknown symptom of heart disease but your dog can begin to gag if they are affected by this disease. It is also especially common in elderly dogs. The heart will overcompensate for failures of its own system and therefore work a lot harder to try to be effective. With both an ineffective heart and higher pressure with the circulatory system this can lead to fluid leaking from the capillaries. This means that the many capillaries within the lungs will begin to leak fluid. This is what causes gagging and sometimes coughing and vomiting. Be aware that heart disease could be a possibility, especially if your dog’s energy levels are low.
The trachea is supported by rings of cartilage, if these become less rigid then the trachea begins to collapse in on itself. This can happen slightly or majorly. With a struggle to get air inside them when breathing, they will cough and gag to try to aid themself. This can be more prominent in smaller dog breeds as well as certain breeds. Although it can occur to any dog, it is most common in adult dogs to elderly dogs so ages four and up. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, a honk-like cough, wheezing, and excess sleeping.
There are some treatments that you can give at home for mild cases of some of these problems. However, we would always recommend a vet visit if you are not sure and especially for more severe cases. Specific treatment will be needed for each cause so let’s go through them now.
Kennel cough should clear up by itself after some time. However, in weaker patients or those that have a severe case a vet can prescribe anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and antibiotics to help. This will reduce the swelling, help healing, and reduce the pain your dog is feeling. Therefore, the gagging should go away by itself as the kennel cough clears up.
Sinusitis and Rhinitis
In milder cases your dog will just need a round of antibiotics. However, in more severe cases your dog may be admitted to be given IV fluids and to be monitored by the vet. This is more common with dogs that are displaying high fevers. So with these two conditions a vet visit is always the right call.
Intestinal Parasite Infestation
Regular worming each month is required to treat and prevent your dog from being affected by worms. Each de-wormer is different so be sure to read the instructions about the amount for your dog and how often to give it. If you are worried about the quality you should ask your vet for recommendations.
Heart disease is a broad term for a number of problems with your dog’s heart. Depending on which problem it is, the treatment will differ. Some require regular medications whereas others require surgery. Some milder cases can be managed with less exercise. It all depends so ask your vet.
A collapsed trachea can be treated both medically and surgically, it all depends on the severity. The drugs used to treat this condition include:
- Cough suppressants
Severe cases will require surgery from a specialist surgeon due to the delicate nature of this.
Dog Keeps Gagging – FAQs
We have further answers concerning dogs gagging and their health below.
If your dog keeps gagging then this is time for a vet visit. They could be distressed, struggling to breed, or suffering from pain. Even if the problem can be easily fixed, a vet is the person that can do so and prescribe you what they need.
This depends on how your dog is behaving so you will need to observe them first. If they have gagged and then stopped, and they are looking well and reacting to their surroundings, you shouldn’t worry. Not unless it starts to happen regularly. If they continue to gag and appear to be having trouble breathing you should contact an emergency vet. They will be able to book an appointment as well as guide you through the Heimlich maneuver in case your dog has anything lodged in their throat. If you’re ever unsure, a vet call is always the safest bet.
The first step is to comfort your dogs, they are most likely distressed and maybe in some pain from tensing so hard. Help them to feel calm and supported. Then you can work on figuring out the cause. Did they swallow something too large, or are they displaying any other symptoms? Any concerns and it is best to call your vet for an examination.
If you are certain your dog is gagging because they have something lodged in their throat then yes. To safely perform the Heimlich maneuver for dogs you should:
– For larger dogs you should place your arms around their stomach with your hand in a fist. Then push your hand upwards just behind the ribcage repeatedly until the item becomes dislodged
– For smaller dogs you can put one of your hands on their back for support and firmly push the other one in an upwards motion on their abdomen
Gagging is a normal behavior so you should not make attempts to stop it. If you have concerns about your dog gagging then you should visit a vet instead of trying to interrupt their gagging.
Remember that gagging is a normal behavior and you should not try to intervene when your dog is doing so. Not unless they are choking and struggling to get air into their lungs. If the choking is a repeated behavior then it is always worth consulting a professional for their opinion.