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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 will 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 something to worry about, recurring or non-stop gagging can be cause for alarm. 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.

Sinusitis and Rhinitis

Sinusitis is a sinus infection and rhinitis is a nasal infection. The postnasal drip from these infections will cause your dog to gag and retch. Infected teeth are a common cause 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 will 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 because 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 is suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is common in smaller breeds such as the Chihuahua. Your dog will have recurring gagging and the collapse will worsen over time and may require 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 wormer that will kill off 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 $650. If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, treatments will average $2500 whereas treatment for tracheal collapse will average about $1800.

Gagging Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Charlie
Shih Tzu
1 Year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Vomiting

My dog is about to turn 2 in 2 weeks. 2 weeks ago she started to gag and she vomited. Now she's been gagging almost everyday now and she looks like is going to vomit again. I don't know what it is or what to do?

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
245 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without seeing her, I can't comment on what might be happening with Charlie. Some possibilites might be kennel cough virus, or an irritation or infection of her throat. It would be best to have her examined by your veterinarian to make sure that she is okay, take x-rays if needed, and get treatment for her. I hope that she is okay.

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Rory
Golden Retriever
7 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Gagging no vomit

7 month golden retriever is gagging occasionally without vomiting anything up. Cannot see anything in the mouth or throat. Eating, drinking, playing and pooping regularly. Gave Benadryl last two days to see if it was allergies but made no difference. Any ideas?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1808 Recommendations
Gagging may be an initial sign of kennel cough or may be due to irritation caused by foreign bodies (like a stray hair) or some other respiratory tract disorder. Some issues with the stomach may also cause gagging too; it is important to speak with your Veterinarian to determine if it is something infectious or another cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jack
Labrador Retriever and Jack Russell Terrier mix
11 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Hacking
Gagging
Vomiting

Our puppy is turning 1 in a couple weeks. He started gagging sporadically about a week ago. The first few times, it was only a few times a day. He vomited one day and we thought he expelled some small sticks... but the gagging continued the next day. This morning he sounded very hoarse and more labored while he gagged or hacked. Like a dry hacking. It went on for 2-3 minutes. First time I felt scared for him. Almost immediately after his dry hacking spell, he ate his breakfast like nothing was wrong. What could be going on?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1808 Recommendations
There are many reasons for a dog to gag, many times it is due to a stray hair at the back of the throat, but other times it may be due to other causes including tracheal disorders, laryngeal disorders, allergies, chemical irritation, foreign bodies among other causes. Without giving Jack a once over I cannot tell you the cause, if he isn’t in any distress and he isn’t struggling to breathe just keep an eye on him and try to see if there are any triggers; if it continues, bring it up with your Veterinarian at your next visit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sox
Norwegian Elkhound
13 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Labored and difficult breathing
Slowed mobility
Urinary and occasional stool accidents

Medication Used

Hill prescription mobility food
Duralactin canine joint plus chews

My dog has had short periods of gagging at night without any product being expelled. She just had one that lasted for about 5 minutes.Her health has gone from looking like a 9 year old to becoming her age within the last couple of months. Never used to urinate or have bowel movements on walks but now it just seems to drop out of her and she has difficulty squating to do her business. Her breathing goes from one extreme to the other when she is at rest. It is sometimes so shallow I don't think she is breathing to labored.Since she has had these changes come on so quickly don't t know if heart issues could be a cause. It s10 till 3 in the morning and she jysted driufted back to sleep. Was going to take her in as an emergency trip to vet but she is now resting comfortably. Any advice would be apreciated

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1808 Recommendations

There are various possible causes for the symptoms you’re listing here and it can be very distressing for you to see your loved one go from peaceful sleep to gasping for air. Possible causes include heart failure, infections, nervous system disorders, cancer among other disorders; a comprehensive physical examination will be needed and your Veterinarian may want to take blood tests and x-rays. I would recommend taking Sox to her Veterinarian when they open during consultation hours (unless another episode comes on beforehand) to get her checked over before the weekend. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Nilla
Spinone Italiano
13 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

runny nose, sneezing

Medication Used

Apoquel
Loratidine 10mg qd
fish oil 1000mg 2/day

My dog is 13. She has been coughing/gagging for a while now. We have tried Loratidine, Apaquel (sp), steroids, and a ton of other prescription meds from the vet. They have said she has severe allergies. We have changed her food to grain free, chicken free, dye free. That's hard to do. The only thing that seems to work is Benadryl. How much is safe for her.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1808 Recommendations

Allergies can be difficult to manage, especially if they are caused by environmental allergies; I would recommend allergy testing just so you know that allergen(s) you’re up against. Benadryl is a great product and can be given safely at 1mg/lb twice per day; start at 0.5mg/lb daily and work up the dosage if it isn’t effective. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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