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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 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.  

  • Foreign object in throat
  • Gastric dilation-volvulus (bloat)
  • Kennel cough
  • Tonsillitis
  • Tumor partially obstructing throat

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Why Heaving Occurs in Dogs

Any disease that results in vomiting can cause dry heaves 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. 

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

This potentially fatal disorder is more commonly known by the name of bloat. This condition is caused when food and gasses are trapped in the stomach, causing it to expand. Eventually, this expansion will lead to the rotation of the stomach which cuts off the blood supply to the organ. Canines that are suffering from bloat may also have a tender or bloated abdomen, increased heart rate 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 tumor that is located the throat area may have the effect of interfering with both breathing and diet. Growths in this area of the body may need to be removed 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 oral antibiotics to eradicate any bacteria that may have caused the infection as well as any secondary infections that may 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 dilation-volvulus or bloat 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.

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Prevention of Heaving

Kennel cough can be prevented by avoiding crowded or inadequately ventilated conditions, stress, and exposure to cold as these factors may all contribute to the formation of this infection. 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 entirely. 

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.

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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. While the diseases that are most often related to infection of some sort are relatively inexpensive to treat at averages of $500 for tonsillitis and $650 for cases of kennel cough, treatment for gastric dilation generally averages $5000 and tumors that are located in the throat area are likely to run in the $8500 range to treat.

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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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18 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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18 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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8 found helpful

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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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8 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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Cockapoo

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

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Dry Heaving

My dog is trying to throw up. So he’s ripping at the carpet to make himself throw up and can’t. I’ve given him water. Nothing is helping

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is still dry heaving, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian right away. He may have a stomach upset, or an intestinal problem, or a twisted stomach. I hope that he is okay.

Oct. 7, 2020

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Mix

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Twelve Years

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0 found helpful

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Gagging

It seems like he is trying to get something out but is not able to do so. Some spit comes out sometimes, but nothing else. He stops and then starts doing it again. Should I induce vomiting? What should I do?

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I hope that he is feeling better. If he is still having this problem, It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 2020

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Cocker Spaniel

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One Year

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0 found helpful

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Concave Chest

My dog keeps dry heaving and won’t eat and rarely drinks this has happened for almost 2 days what do I do

Sept. 26, 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 reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Zeke

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Mixed

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Dry Heaving

I have a mixed almost 2 years old dog that has been dry heaving randomly at night. It’s been a few days. He’s fine all day, but then randomly starts to do it for about a minute. Any suggestions to what’s going on?? I’m one sad mommy :(

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T

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Mix

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Not Eating
Not Drinking
Mucus In Stool
Retching

My dog has been dry heaving all day since around 9:30 this morning. She ate a lot of grass this morning and throw it up with a lot of white foam but nothing since 10:30 this morning. This morning she also had mucus in her stool. She is not eating or drinking water. She seems more lethargic than normal. She just got her bordetella vaccination last week. I'm not sure what to do.

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Eddie

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miniature poodle

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving

I just adopted my dog about a week ago, and a few days later w took him to the vet and he got diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection. We received doxycycline for the infection, but ever since he started taking it he has been dry heaving a few times every day. He has never actually thrown anything up. It usually only lasts for a few mins each time and only happens when he gets overly excited. His eating is normal and he is having normal bowel movements. Is this just a side effect of the meds?

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Bella

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Shar Pei, Pitbull, Pyrenees

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving

We have a 3 year old Sharpull and Pyrenees mix dog. She has been dry heaving all night. We took her to the emergency vet, they did an X-Ray and confirmed that it was neither bloat nor torsion, but could not figure out what was wrong. The X-Ray showed some swelling in her bronchial tubes. They gave her a shot for nauseous and sent us on our way. What should we be looking for and what could have caused this?

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Star

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Rottweiler

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving And Lethargic

Our star is about 7 and we moved from one town to another. My back yard doesn’t have any grass yet. She was perfectly fine when we moved but not long she started dry heaving and not acting like herself. I took her to the vet and they said it could be gastric so we put her on new food. They changed me over $500 for all. Well I since completely changed foods for her and my other dogs and she is still dry heaving. She’s not eating well and sleeps a lot more with her having some deep breathing. Almost like she’s panting. I’m very concerned and I have several medical issues of my own so can’t afford a $500 vet bill. What do you suggest??? Thank you!

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