Every experienced dog owner knows that one sound that can make them spring out of bed in the middle of the night. The sound of their dog heaving or gagging right before they throw up. This is especially true for pet parents who share a bed with their best friend - no one wants to scrub vomit out of the sheets in the middle of the night.
There are many reasons your dog might gag, or cough other than the occasional middle-of-the-night digestive issue. We looked at some of the most common - and how you can help them if they need it.
Six common reasons your dog might be gagging
1. They have kennel cough on another respiratory illness
If your dog is coughing and gagging it might be a sign of kennel cough or another respiratory illness. Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads quickly through places where a lot of dogs hang out - like doggie daycares, shelters, and dog parks. Dogs who visit the groomer can even pick it up if they come in contact with a pup who is infected.
This is why it is important for dogs who spend time in congregate settings to be vaccinated at least annually. If you suspect your dog is gagging (and coughing) due to kennel cough, you should call your vet to discuss treatment options, and ensure your dog is kept away from other pups until they’re no longer contagious - Usually, about one week after all symptoms have subsided.
Since there are many other resperatory illnesses dog's can contract, if your dog has symptoms it's important to get them checked out so you can make sure they're on the path to feeling better, fast!
2. Something is trapped in their airway
If your dog is coughing or gagging and it started while they were eating, chewing on a bone, or playing with toys, they could have gotten something stuck in their airway.
You'll want to monitor your dog to ensure they're eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom normally - as issues here can be a sign of a blockage.
If this is a rare occurrence, and it resolves quickly there is probably nothing to worry about. If your dog is frequently coughing or gagging after eating, drinking, or playing with toys it may be cause for concern. See your vet for an exam to rule out a blockage or a tumor that could be causing things to get stuck. If your dog is choking, you may need to administer the Heimlich maneuver, which isn’t performed the same as in humans.
3. They drank too quickly
While healthy hydration is very important to your pup’s overall health, it is possible for them to drink too quickly. If this is the case, it might cause your dog to gag or cough. This is not serious if it only happens occasionally and only lasts a few minutes. If your dog is consistently drinking too fast you may need to control their water intake so they don’t drink too quickly.
4. They are experiencing nausea
If your dog is nauseous, they may show signs of dry heaving. This can happen both before and after your dog throws up. Occasional vomiting may not be a cause for concern, but if your dog is going more than 24 hours without being able to even keep water down or has any other symptoms like lethargy or a fever, you should call your vet.
If your dog does vomit, you should withhold food and water for a few hours (ask your vet how many) and then start by reintroducing water slowly. You can offer a bland diet including things like lean ground beef, rice and sweet potatoes.
5. They are excited
If your dog gets too excited they might gag. You can help them work through their excitement and calm down. If they don’t calm down and continue to gag, you might want to end the activity (or whatever is causing the excitement) or give them a quite place to relax.
6. They have a collapsed trachea
A collapsed trachea happens when the cartilage “rings” of a dog’s trachea weaken causing their windpipes to collapse in when they inhale. While it is not “curable” it can be treated with weight loss (if the dog is overweight), using a harness in place of a collar, and anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, your vet might also prescribe a steroid.
When to seek medical attention for your dog if they are gagging
If your dog is gagging and throws up some white or yellow foam and it’s an isolated incident (they seem absolutely fine and don’t throw up again) you might not need to have them see a vet. But, if the gagging is becoming more frequent or your dog is experiencing other symptoms, seems lethargic or something just seems “off” it’s a good idea to call the doctor.
Based on your dog’s symptoms, severity, and medical history your vet may want to run some tests to rule out illness, or something in their airway.
While gagging and coughing can be a very normal part of life like it is for humans, if you're concerned about the frequecy or your dog is showing other signs of illness or discomfort, it's a good idea to seek medical attention.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.