Do Dogs Gag?
Estimated Read Time: 5 ½ minutes
Summary: In this blog, we’ll learn all about dog gagging; what it means when dogs gag, how to spot when a dog is gagging and how to know when you need to intervene…
Do dogs gag? Yes, they do, pet parents. And usually, just before they’re about to be sick or bring something up. The unfortunate fact of the matter is, our pets can experience bouts of sickness just like we do that may stop seemingly as soon as it started…
However, if your dog keeps gagging and nothing’s coming up or they’re gagging more frequently than usual or it seems out of the ordinary for your dog, you’re probably concerned why!
Below you’ll find the most common reasons for dog gagging that aren’t imminent vomiting…
Why Is My Dog Gagging?
Some doggos (particularly short-snouted breeds) might find it difficult to catch their breath when they become over-excited which causes them to gag. Do your best to soothe them and calm them down by lowering your voice, slowly petting them, or popping them in a relaxing area away from the excitement if that seems to be their trigger for gagging.
If your dog is dry heaving and gagging, they may be feeling nauseous. This may or may not be accompanied by vomit. If your dog does vomit, you should withhold food for a few hours, and then when your dog seems to perk up, start reintroducing bland food (like cooked chicken and rice) to them. If they vomit for longer than 24 hours, or bring up anything that’s any other color than yellow or green, contact your veterinarian as a matter of urgency.
They’ve Swallowed Too Quickly
If your dog gulps down food and/or water like it’s going out of fashion, then they may be swallowing too quickly and causing themselves to gag. Scoffing can be eased when it comes to eating food too quickly by using contraptions like a lick mat which help slow down food consumption, as well as playing host to a load of other benefits for your pup! Instead of providing a bowl of water, a bowl of ice cubes may be a good alternative in helping slow your pup down (but do not withhold water from your dog full stop - they need access to clean, fresh water at all times).
If you have other pets in the house, they may be scoffing because they perceive the other animals as a threat to their food. Try feeding them separately if you suspect this may be the reason behind their scoffing behavior.
They’ve Got Pneumonia
If your dog’s gag or cough sounds mucusy or wet, it may be pneumonia as this can cause a build-up of fluid on the lungs. They may also have a fever, appear lethargic, and/or generally seem to be struggling with their breathing. If you have any suspicions of pneumonia or their cough sounds wet, they must see a vet immediately.
There’s Something Blocking Their Airway
Although a rare occurrence, it is possible that your dog may have something lodged in their airway. If they’ve been chewing a bone or playing with a toy, they may have something stuck. If they seem to be in distress or are struggling to breathe, contact your veterinarian as a matter of emergency. Check their mouth and see if you can easily dislodge the blockage without forcing it further down the throat, but if not, this will need to be removed as soon as possible by a vet.
If this happens frequently when they chew or play, make an appointment with your vet to have them thoroughly checked over. If there’s also a disturbance in their eating, drinking, toileting habits this can also be a sign of blockage which may require veterinary intervention. Always try to monitor your dog when they’re chewing on things they could swallow.
They Have A Parasitic Infection
When a dog has a parasitic infection like Roundworms (thought to be the most common worm found in unprotected dogs), this infestation can start in the gut and then migrate through the body to the lungs and the air sacs. Once in these sacs, Roundworms can cause chronic gagging. Another sign to look for is worms (small, white rice-like pieces) in their stool or vomit.
You can avoid parasitic infection by making sure your dog is regularly administered flea and worm preventative treatment which you can obtain from your vet or most pet health stores.
Their Trachea Has Collapsed
This is more common in smaller dog breeds like Chihuahuas. When the cartilage “rings” of a dog’s trachea (their windpipe) weaken – which can be due to being overweight, too much force/tightness from their collar, because of their genetics, and a predisposition or general inflammation – it can result in it collapsing. There is no cure for a collapsed trachea, but your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or a steroid to help. Avoid this happening by keeping your dog a healthy weight via diet and exercise and have them wear a harness instead of a collar.
They Have Kennel Cough
Your dog may be experiencing Kennel Cough or another canine respiratory illness - yes that’s right! Dogs can get coughs and respiratory viruses too (like Rhinitis or Sinusitis). If your dog has been at doggy daycare, was recently rescued from a shelter, or a dog park, or is unvaccinated against Kennel Cough, this may be the cause of their gagging and coughing, particularly if the cough is harsh and goose-like. Read our blog on all things Kennel Cough here and contact your vet. You will need to keep your dog away from other pups whilst they are treated and recover, as Kennel Cough is incredibly contagious.
They Have Heart Disease
Hacking, coughing, and gagging can be considered a sign of heart disease in dogs, but more so in senior pups. Non-stop gagging that is also accompanied by a reluctance to exercise, labored and/or fast-breathing, pale gums, and/or a bluish tongue can all indicate a problem with their cardiovascular system and they need to see a veterinarian quickly.
While gagging and coughing can be quite a normal thing for a human to experience, if your dog is gagging a lot, seems lethargic or not themselves alongside the gagging, hacking, or coughing, or is experiencing any other symptoms or signs they don’t usually display, do contact your vet to be on the safe side of things.
Author Taffer, Marissa “Why Dogs Gag & When To See A Vet” Dog Eared, by Ollie, Dec 23. 2021 https://blog.myollie.com/reasons-why-dogs-gag-and-how-you-can-help/
Author Park, Grace “Gagging In Dogs” Wag Walking, Apr 05. 2021 https://wagwalking.com/symptom/why-is-my-dog-gagging
“My Dog Eats Too Fast And Vomits Often” American Kennel Club, Apr 26. 2015 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-eats-fast-vomits/
“Causes Of Coughing And Gagging In Dogs” Port Kennedy Veterinary Hospital https://portkennedyvet.com.au/causes-of-coughing-and-gagging-in-dogs/