What is Heaving?

Dogs vomit frequently, sometimes even when they just eat a little too quickly, so a dog that occasionally vomits without any other symptoms of distress may not be a serious worry. However, a dog that is making the motions of vomiting without producing anything, known as dry heaving, retching or heaving, may be afflicted by a number of serious disorders. If you see your dog exhibiting this behavior, a call or trip to your pet’s veterinarian should be made right away.  Possible causes include:

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Why Heaving Occurs in Dogs

Any disease that results in vomiting can cause dry heaving if the patient's stomach is empty, but some disorders that only rarely cause vomiting are known to frequently cause gagging, retching, and heaving.

Foreign Object in the Throat

Foreign objects that get caught in the throat don’t always obstruct the entire airway and can induce gagging and dry heaving. If you suspect that your pet has an object caught in their throat, they should be taken to a veterinarian right away. These dogs may salivate profusely and find it tricky to eat their food.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

This potentially fatal disorder is more commonly known by the name of bloat. This condition is caused when food and gases are trapped in the stomach, causing it to expand. Eventually, this expansion can lead to the rotation of the stomach which cuts off the blood supply to the organs. Canines that are suffering from bloat may also have an increased heart rate, pale gums, and may have difficulty moving or standing.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a contagious upper respiratory illness that is characterized by a dry, hacking cough and nasal discharge. In moderate to severe cases, dry heaving is a frequent sign of the infection. Dogs with kennel cough should be quarantined from other canines to prevent the spread of this disease. 

Tonsillitis or Pharyngitis

Tonsillitis is the swelling of the tonsils, located far back in the throat. When these glands get swollen, they can interfere with the dogs breathing as well as triggering the gag reflex, leading to dry heaves. 

Tumor Partially Obstructing the Throat

Any growth, such as a polyp or cancer,  that is located in the throat area may have the effect of interfering with both breathing and eating. Growths in this area of the body will need to be removed or medically treated before the dry heaving behavior can be eliminated.

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What to do if your Dog is Heaving

If your dog starts heaving, time is often of the essence. Disorders and diseases that trigger the symptoms of dry heaving can be quite dangerous if left untreated or if handled incorrectly, and most of them require assistance from a veterinary professional.

If your dog is exhibiting signs of kennel cough or tonsillitis, these disorders are usually handled with the use of anti-inflammatories. Oral antibiotics may be needed if any secondary bacterial infections crop up. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful in reducing both the pain and swelling caused by this disorder, and any growths that are found in the throat area will require removal followed by a biopsy for diagnosis. 

Additionally, it is crucial to get the assistance of a veterinary professional to remove foreign objects in order to prevent further harm. Foreign objects can tear the lining of the throat or fully obstruct the passage of air into or out of the lungs if handled improperly or left without treatment.

 Of all the diseases listed, gastric dilatation-volvulus is the disorder most likely to become fatal quickly. As the stomach twists, the structures that feed blood into the gastric system also twist and they cut off that flow of blood. If left untreated, this can lead to tremendous pressure in the stomach and death of the tissues that are deprived. If your dog develops bloat, they will typically be admitted right away as bloat usually requires surgical intervention to cure. If left untreated, a dog can pass away within hours.

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Prevention of Heaving

Kennel cough can be prevented by avoiding crowded or inadequately ventilated conditions and stress as these factors may contribute to the development of this infection. All dogs should be vaccinated. 

Ensuring that your dog does not have access to things that can get stuck in their throat and watching them closely to make sure they are not chewing on inappropriate items may help to prevent anything becoming lodged in the throat. 

Although any breed of dog can develop bloat, deep-chested breeds such as the Doberman, the Standard Poodle, and the Great Dane among others are predisposed. If your dog has a deep chest and has a high likelihood of developing the disorder, several steps can be taken to reduce the possibility that it will become a problem.

Feeding your companion multiple smaller meals, slowing their rate of eating by using feeding bowls designed to reduce the rate of feeding, and adding wet food to the diet are measures that may be taken. Owners of dogs that are at particularly high risk may choose to perform an elective surgery to suture the stomach to the wall of the body to prevent it from being able to twist (gastropexy).

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Cost of Heaving

The types of diseases and disorders that are associated with dry heaving or retching generally need some form of veterinary care. You could be looking at a bill of about $100-$200 for tonsillitis and $100 for cases of kennel cough. Treatment for gastric dilatation generally averages $5000, while tumors that are located in the throat area could run to as much as $8500 to treat.

As you can see, the symptoms of many of the conditions associated with heaving can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Heaving Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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coonhound

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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26 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving

My dog is dry heaving occasionally but not vomiting. Otherwise he’s acting completely normal. He’s drinking water, and eating. His energy level is normal. This started about 24 hours ago.

Nov. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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26 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. Dry heaving can indicate inflammation of the throat (such as occurs with laryngitis), an upper respiratory tract infection (such as kennel cough), a foreign body in the mouth or throat such as a grass awn or blade), nausea etc. A vet check is best so we can best determine what is going on and provide the appropriate treatment.

Nov. 24, 2020

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Doberman Pinscher Chihuahua

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Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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12 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving

For the last past couple days my dog has been dry heaving he's has not really drink fluids but he has in a little bit of food can you tell me what's wrong with him

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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12 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I get very concerned in puppies about parasites or infectious diseases like parvovirus. These are also good at getting into things they shouldn't, and having GI upset from that. If this is not improving over a day or two, I think that it would be best to have your puppy seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine your puppy, see what is going on, and let you know what treatment needs to happen. I hope that everything goes well for your puppy.

Sept. 29, 2020

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