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What is Gagging?

Gagging is a normal reflex that dogs have and it generally comes on quickly and just as quickly is gone without recurring. Older dogs will be especially susceptible to gagging because they can produce more mucus, this will cause them to gag occasionally. Recurring gagging or non-stop gagging is a cause for concern and will require veterinary intervention. Possible causes of recurring gagging include:

  • Foreign object in the throat, esophagus or mouth
  • Kennel cough
  • Sinusitis or rhinitis
  • Intestinal parasite infestation
  • Heart disease
  • Tracheal collapse

The first thing you should do is check your dog’s mouth for any foreign objects. Gently feel along the roof of your dog’s mouth and then check and under the tongue. If you feel something and can easily remove it without the object falling down your dog’s throat, do so. If you are unsure, take your dog to your veterinarian immediately. Objects lodged in the throat or esophagus will require your veterinarian to try to retrieve to clear the blockage and stop the gagging.

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Why Gagging Occurs in Dogs

While occasional gagging is not necessarily something to worry about, recurring or non-stop gagging can be cause for concern. Have your dog thoroughly checked by your veterinarian to determine the cause of your dog’s gagging.

Foreign Object in the Throat, Esophagus or Mouth

Small objects such as toys and sticks can easily become lodged in the back of your dog’s throat. These types of objects can also enter the esophagus and throat. You must closely monitor your dog when they are playing with certain toys and do not encourage chewing on sticks or rocks. Your dog will gag, claw that their mouth, drool and possibly vomit.

Kennel Cough

This is an illness that is contagious to other dogs. Your dog will have a hacking cough that is dry and many times accompanied by gagging. As the illness runs its course the gagging and coughing will become worse. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications to alleviate your dog’s cough and gagging.  There are vaccinations to prevent this disease, as well.  

Sinusitis and Rhinitis

Sinusitis is a sinus infection and rhinitis is a nasal infection. The postnasal drip from these infections may cause your dog to gag and retch. Infected teeth or problems with the nasal passages are common causes of these infections. These infections will require medications from your veterinarian.

Intestinal Parasite Infestation

All puppies are born with intestinal parasites and therefore de-wormings will be necessary. It is easy for dogs to pick up intestinal parasites without you realizing it. Gagging and coughing can be a sign that your dog is suffering from a roundworm infestation. The larvae can migrate to the lungs and then penetrate the capillaries in the lungs and move into the air sacs. Your dog will suffer from chronic gagging if the roundworms are in the air sacs. You may see worms in your dog’s stool or in their vomit.

Heart Disease

Gagging can be a sign that your dog is suffering from heart disease, especially in senior dogs. Chronic or non-stop gagging accompanied by fast breathing, exercise intolerance, lethargy and a bluish tint to their tongue are signs that your dog may be suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is common in smaller breeds such as the Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier. Your dog might have recurring gagging and the collapse can worsen over time and may require medical or surgical intervention. Tracheal collapse can be congenital, or a birth defect, or it can be acquired at some time in your dog’s life.

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What to do if your Dog is Gagging

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when your dog is in need of medical attention. If your dog is gagging more and more often or the gagging is accompanied by a cough, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, lethargy, clawing at the mouth, fever or excessive panting/drooling, you need to see your veterinarian immediately as your dog could be in extreme distress.

Clearing the mouth, throat or esophagus will be the first thing your veterinarian will do to ensure that there are no foreign objects obstructing their airway or in their throat. Antibiotics will be prescribed if your dog is suffering from sinusitis or rhinitis. 

Your veterinarian will perform a fecal exam to verify the presence of intestinal parasites and will prescribe the appropriate wormer for your dog. Be sure to follow up with your veterinarian two weeks after giving the wormer to ensure that all parasites have been eradicated. Pick up your dog’s feces immediately to keep your dog from becoming re-infested. 

Heart disease and tracheal collapse will be treated by your veterinarian and treatments will vary depending on the severity of the disease. You will need to speak with your veterinarian regarding treatment options.

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Prevention of Gagging

To prevent your dog from chronic recurring gagging keep certain things from your dog such as sticks, small toys or bones. These things, if lodged, can cause gagging. Make sure you take your dog for regular check ups, especially if they have been diagnosed with an underlying condition such as heart disease or tracheal collapse. 

Regularly have fecal exams done on your dog and when intestinal parasites are found, use an appropriate medication that will kill those parasites. If your dog is going to be boarded, be sure to give the Bordetella vaccine which will protect your dog against contracting kennel cough.

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Cost of Gagging

The cost of treatment for your dog will depend on the underlying cause of their gagging. The average cost for treatment of an intestinal parasite infestation is $300. Treating kennel cough will average $250. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, treatments can range from  $500-2500 whereas treatment for tracheal collapse can cost between $400-1800.

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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 05/01/2017, edited: 04/05/2021

Gagging Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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malshi

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One Year

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8 found helpful

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Gagging

Anytime he is playing he makes a gagging noise or reverse sneezing. Right now while he is trying to sleep, anytime he moves he gags or starts panting hard. He also has runny nose

Dec. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 Recommendations

Thank ou for your question. It is possible that he may be having some allergies or there may be something irritating his throat. If it is something that does not seem to be getting better, and it is causing him problems, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, see what might be causing this, and get treatment for him.

Dec. 26, 2020

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Mal-shi

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Gagging

Anytime he is playing or gets too excited, he makes a gagging sound or reverse sneezes. Right now why he's trying to sleep, anytime he moves, he makes a gagging noise or starts panting.

Dec. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank ou for your question. It is possible that he may be having some allergies or there may be something irritating his throat. If it is something that does not seem to be getting better, and it is causing him problems, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, see what might be causing this, and get treatment for him.

Dec. 26, 2020

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Lab Mix

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Five Years

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1 found helpful

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Hacking

About a month ago, my dog coughed up 2 socks. I had him x-rayed but they didn’t see anything else in his system. Today he has gagged/hacked about 19 separate times, but nothing is coming up. He has normal energy, he’s eating fine. I haven’t noticed any mucus either. He has been itching for a few weeks (he usually gets allergies during the winter). I did notice that his expired flea collar had tightened itself (I’m assuming from where he has been scratching and causing it to tighten). Underneath the collar has gotten irritated, I removed it. Now he’s steadily gagging every couple minutes.

Dec. 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. The first consideration would be irritation/bruising/swelling from the collar. I would have him examined as he may need some anti inflammatories for this.

Dec. 19, 2020

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French Bulldog

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1 Year

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Noisy Breathing

Hello, my French bulldog has developed a gag she will do constantly, especially when excited, as well as little bumps that started forming (mainly) on her head. We were told to try giving her aa acid reducer once a day and it seemed to help immediately but now (whether related or not?), she is having an increase in eye discharge and a cluster of bumps on her head seem to become an open sore now? Maybe she scratched them off? But all this is worrisome and now she is acting swallowing hard or gulping and seems lethargic. Please help!

Dec. 8, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello so sorry to hear about your dog. You can try Benadryl. The dosage is 1mg/pound. There is also hot spot spray that you can use. You can get this from the local pet store.

Dec. 22, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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Four Years

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4 found helpful

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Gagging

Everytime my dog gets excited she starts gagging and then she'll throw up it started yesterday

Oct. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is possible that she has kennel cough, or something irritating her throat or esophagus. If this continues, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to examine her and see what might be going on, and see what can be done to help her. I hope that all goes well for her!

Oct. 9, 2020

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Cheyanne

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Great Pyreneese

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Gaging After Eat

5 year old female Great Pyraneese has been gagging 2-3 times a day for last 7 weeks, usually after eating Usually gagging roaring sound 2-3 times several times a day, often after eating

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Cooper

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Beagle/Basset

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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Gagging While Asleep

My 2 year old beagle/basset mix appears to have gagged a couple of times while asleep. Today was the first time it happened. It woke him up and it took a moment or two for him to recover. Needless to say it scared us both. His eating and drinking are normal and there has been nothing new in his diet. No new shampoos or lotions or powders either. He is about 3-5 pounds overweight. Apnea perhaps?

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Honey

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terrier

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9 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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Gagging
Coughing

My dog has been coughing and it’s dry she tends to not do it too often when I walk her on her harness she begins to cough I’m worried that maybe it’s something bad. And she just started coughing 4 months ago She tends to eat whatever she finds on the floor which is what people tell me is the reason but I don’t really have the money to go to a vet so I don’t really know what to do

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Ella

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Labrador Retriever

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9 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Tired

My puppy is 9 weeks old. We just adopted her 2 days ago. She gags and has thrown up a couple times. The last 2 times have been clear and foamy, like spit up. She has been sleeping a lot, i'm not sure if its because she is sad, due to change in environment. or just because she is a puppy.

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Trouble

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Yorkie

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16 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Gagging
Coughing

I recently inherited my grandmothers 16yo yorkie. He has a dry cough that usually ends with a gag. He does this all day, probably 20x/ day. I've had him for about 2 months now and it seems to be getting a little worse. It only lasts for a few seconds. He seems totally fine otherwise. He has a great appetite, voids and stools appropriately. He does have allergies and sensitive/ irritated skin but is not on any medications. He has always been an inside dog without much exposure to other dogs.

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