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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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