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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

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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Doberman Pinscher Chihuahua

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Eight Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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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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0 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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Afghan Hound

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Dry Heaving

My Dog Continues to Dry heave numerous amount of times and I'm becoming worried, what should I do?

Sept. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that Ginger is having troubles. There are many reasons for vomiting and GI upset in dogs, but I am concerned if she is dry heaving and not producing vomit for 4 days. I believe that she should be seen by a veterinarian right away, as there is a condition in dogs known as bloat, where their stomach can twist and this can become quite urgent quite quickly. I don't know if this is what's going on with her, but from your description, it would be best to have her seen. I hope that everything goes well for her and she is okay.

Sept. 21, 2020

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Dalmatian

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2 months

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Unknown severity

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Dry Heaving

My puppy dry heaves at night. She cane from Ohio on a plan and we noticed she did this as soon as we picked her up from the flight. And now she does it after about 2 hours of sleeping. She loves to eat grass and I try to stop her but I’ve only had her two nights so I’m worried. We’ve been giving her 3 meals a day and water access. And at night we have been trying to kennel train her. She has been searching her belly a little bit and nibbling in her legs. I made a vet appointment it can’t get in till Saturday. She is up to date on shots. I’m just worried. Any advice helps.

Sept. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Kate D. MA VetMB MRCVS

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Hello, Thanks for contacting us about your puppy. I’m sorry to hear she is couging/heaving. How is she doing in herself — is she active, playful, eating and toileting normally? There are a few conditions that can cause the symptoms your puppy is showing. One of the most common causes of an intermittent cough, that seems to happen only at certain times of day, is a throat infection or Kennel Cough. Even in dogs that have been vaccinated against Bordatella, they can still get a cough if they get the infection. In some cases, the cough will go away on its own, but in some cases it can get quite serious if not treated. I would be especially concerned if your puppy started seeming quiet or ill in herself, especially with her young age. It’s good that you’ve got the appointment at the vet on Saturday, and if you were worried that she was getting worse I hope they would see her as an emergency sooner. In the meantime, I recommend keeping a close eye on her and making sure she is eating and drinking enough. Please also keep her separate from any other dogs so that if it is infectious she doesn’t spread it to anyone else. I hope she does ok; please let me know if there is more I can do to help.

Sept. 3, 2020

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Chihuahua Mix

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Almost 3 years

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1 found helpful

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Regurgitation

Dog around every two weeks randomly regurgitates white liquid after heaving for a few seconds.

Aug. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear that your dog is having issues. There are many reasons that your dog may be acting this way. It may be best for your vet to check him out. Some chihuahuas have heart issues and will cough up white foam every now and then. Your vet should be able to tell if your dog has a heart issue and what is causing him to vomit white foam. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

Aug. 22, 2020

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Boxer

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Two Years

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1 found helpful

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Heaving

My dog is dry heaving and she has gotten up food but she cant vomit whatever she is heaving. is this an emergency?

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. If she is retching and attempting to vomit, but nothing is coming up then I would recommend taking her to your vet or the nearest veterinary ER immediately. It could be GDV (otherwise known as bloat). The veterinarian will be able to examine her, take x-rays to assess what is going on and can then provide you with a treatment and further diagnostic plan if needed. If it just turns out to be gastroenteritis the veterinarian can provide medications to help with the nausea and retching. I hope that she feels better soon.

Aug. 6, 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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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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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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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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