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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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Pitbull

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3.5 Years

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2 found helpful

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None

Very light panting or like something caught in his throat.she just does a light panting I don't want to say coughing but gagging but very lightly and maybe a couple times an hour throughout the day

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If this is something that you're just too noticing, it may be an early sign of something going on. If it is something that has been going on for quite a while and seems normal for your dog, then it may not be anything to worry about. Without being able to examine your dog or listen to your dog's heart or lungs, it is difficult for me to say what might be going on, but if you are concerned, the best thing to do maybe to have a Veterinary and take a look at your dog. They will be able to do a good examination, see if there is a problem or what is going on, and let you know if any treatment is needed. I hope that all goes well.

Sept. 29, 2020

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Bichon Frise Poodle

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11 weeks

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Cough And Gagging

My puppy coughs and gags in his sleep. We got the puppy 6 days ago

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. This may be a normal behavior for your puppy as the pup develops. If it is continuing to be a problem, it would be best to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian, as they can see what might be going on with the puppy and see if it needs treatment.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Three Years

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Gagging

Gagging out of nowhere. Nothing coming up but a little bit of mucus like white stuff.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. This may be a short term problem, and hopefully he is feeling better by now. If he is continuing to have this problem, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can see what might be causing this problem and what treatment he might need.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Dachshund

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Seven Years

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1 found helpful

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Gagging

Betty had two gagging fits 5 minutes apart, each time lasting about 30 seconds and resulting in no production. She seems calm now but she was trembling and afraid for a few minutes each time after it happened. For context, the first one was right after I had to jerk her leash because she was running and abruptly turned into the street, so I think it was from that but I want to make sure that’s the most likely explanation. She has dry heaved/vomited a few times in the past because she licks her paws and essentially gets a hairball, but this sounded more like a honking noise.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If Betty is still having any problems with a hack or a cough, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they will be able to examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Corgie

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Two Years

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Gagging And Drawing Up

My dog is gagging and as thrown up twice I am concerned

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my response, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. IF he is still having this problem, Since I cannot see your pet, it would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be causing this, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 13, 2020

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Coconut

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Puggle

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Gagging
Coughing

My dog has been gagging and coughing for over a year now. I have taken her to many different vets. They press on her trachea. They give her antibiotics. Last year she had bronchitis. I had her x ray taken again to see whether that was why she was still coughing but after it being sent to a radiologist, they said there was nothing wrong with her. Now I am sitting on the bed with her and she gags three times in a rough no cough but it didnt seem comfortable. Sometimes she poops out my hair (I have long hair) and I’m wondering if she has some hair lodged in her throat? How can the vet tell if this is the case? The x rays didn’t have any problems with her trachea or lungs so I just don’t know what is going on. Also she had her feces tested and heart worm test, both came back negative. I’m guessing it isn’t kennel cough, it’s gone on for over a year and I’m sure one of the vets would have known/ treated it.

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DJ

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cockapoo

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Gagging

My 13 year old cockapoo has been gagging for the past month, at least 2-4 times a day. It almost sounds like he's going to throw up. I've also caught him eating grass quite frequently. However, both his energy and appetite are normal. He is quite active, as I take him on walks everyday and he enjoys free range at my cottage. Both blood and x-ray tests have come back normal. But I'm concerned because the gagging hasn't gone away and seems very discomforting. If anyone has any suggestions or advice on what I can do next, I'd really appreciate it!

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Lady

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cockapoo

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17 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Coughing
Warts
Hacking

My dog has been coughing/hacking many MANY times a day. It's dry, not wet at all. It doesn't necessarily sound like a goose honking, but I guess it is close to that, as I know that's a major indication of a collapsed trachea... She has been getting warts and moles all along her body as well. She is a 16 (almost 17) year old Cockapoo.

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Casper

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Labrador Retriever

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Gagging, Seizures

My Pet Casper started Gagging about 2 days back and has had 1 seizure yesterday. Today upon thorough examination by the Vet, it was found that he has multiple tumurs in his liver. One of them is quite large and is reaching up to his lungs. The doctor says thr is nothing much that can be done, surgery is not recommended due to his age and since there are many of them. He is been given medicines to control the growth of tumurs, not sure if they will help. Is this common among old dogs? If my dog had multiple tumurs in his liver all this while, how is that there were no other symptoms earlier. We are not able to comprehend all the information received. Can’t the large tumur alone be removed surgically? Or part of liver removed?

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Kiwi

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Puggle

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging

My parents dog seems to have an issue, whenever too much pressure is put onto her sides or chest she starts to gag. This can be from just picking her up or petting her too hard. She is overweight and fairly inactive, I am trying to get them to change her diet and walk her more often to hopefully get some of the weight off but I am not sure if that is the only cause of the problem.

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