Retching in Dogs

Why is my dog retching?

Most common conditions

Collapse of the Wind Pipe / Foreign Objects Stuck in the Throat / Stomach Disorder

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Rated as moderate conditon

16 Veterinary Answers

Most common conditions

Collapse of the Wind Pipe / Foreign Objects Stuck in the Throat / Stomach Disorder

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Why is my dog retching?

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What is Retching?

Retching is the action of vomiting that is not productive, or does not produce vomit. In many cases, retching, or dry heaving, will precede vomiting, while in others, it may only produce a small amount of mucus or bile. Extreme coughing can also progress into retching. Noticing any other symptoms concurrent with the retching can help you and your veterinarian to discover the true cause. Reasons your dog may be retching include:

  • Respiratory disease
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Throat obstruction 
  • Nausea
  • Bloat
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Bilious vomiting syndrome

Why Retching Occurs in Dogs

Respiratory Disease

There are many respiratory diseases and conditions that produce a severe cough that can lead to retching. One such disease is kennel cough, a highly contagious disease also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough can be caused by a number of viruses and bacteria, including the Bordetella bacteria. This airborne disease can be coughed into the air, infecting any other dogs in the area. A dry and unproductive cough and a characteristic “goose honk” can lead to pneumonia, weight loss, and lethargy. 

Collapsing Trachea 

The trachea, or windpipe, stretches from the neck to the chest and allows air to flow to the lungs. 

Due to a hereditary defect of some breeds, such as Poodles and Pomeranians, the cartilage rings that make up the trachea can weaken and cause an obstruction. This can cause severe coughing which can end in gagging and retching. 

Throat Obstruction

 

Most dog owners have witnessed their dogs eat foreign objects. Balls, rocks, sticks, tissues, and other non-edible things can become lodged in the throat and cause a blockage. This can lead to gagging, retching, and vomiting. Other signs there is something caught in your dog’s throat might include audible breathing noises, drooling, pawing at the face, and pacing. In some cases, your dog may vomit out the foreign material, but when it is lodged too securely, unproductive dry heaving can result.

Nausea

Nausea can be caused by many things. If your dog has eaten something that has upset his stomach, he may retch and attempt to expel the noxious material. Eating too much food, or too quickly, can also cause your dog to heave. Certain medications may cause nausea, as can infections in the ear. Motion sickness is commonly seen in dogs, and can result in additional symptoms of whining, pacing, drooling, and diarrhea. 

Bloat

Bloat can be confusing, as it can refer to three different conditions. A case of simple bloat occurs when a lot of air is swallowed, such as if food is eaten too quickly, and causes the abdomen to swell. This type is often relieved through belching or retching. Gastric dilatation (GD) occurs when the stomach fills with gas, while gastric dilatation with concurrent volvulus (GVD) results in a twisted stomach that can become a life-threatening condition needing immediate medical care. While the cause has been hotly debated, the symptoms of unproductive retching with a bloated abdomen can be indications of one of these more serious conditions. Other symptoms can include shallow and rapid breathing, abdominal pain, and restlessness.  

Gastrointestinal Issues

Besides bloating, other gastrointestinal complaints can result in retching. Various infections, digestive issues, organ malfunction, tumors, and certain diseases such as gastroenteritis, can cause symptoms that may include vomiting. An obstruction or impaction in the intestines can cause a disruption in the entire digestive system as food and fluids cannot pass through. All of these kinds of conditions will present additional symptoms, so be sure to relate any you have noticed in your dog to your veterinarian to help in a diagnosis.

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

 

Bile is a yellowish green substance that aids your dog in digestion. When the stomach is empty, there is nothing to absorb the bile and stomach acids, and this can cause nausea and retching. Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) occurs when this buildup of bile causes irritation to the stomach lining over a long period of time. Vomiting occurs when the stomach is empty, usually in the morning or late at night, and can produce a frothy yellow vomit. Other signs include lethargy, drooling, decreased appetite, pale gums, and dehydration.

What to do if your Dog is Retching

Vomiting or retching that occurs often in your dog should be a cause for alarm. Your veterinarian should be informed of all the symptoms you have noticed, if the retching has been accompanied by any vomited material or has been unproductive, if your dog has eaten anything he shouldn’t have recently, and his general eating habits. A physical examination may include feeling his abdomen for any bloat and checking the skin elasticity. Any samples of vomited material can be examined. Often, bloodwork, a urinalysis and fecal testing are performed. 

Imaging techniques such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and fluoroscopy can reveal the presence of an obstruction, tumor, a twisted stomach, or a collapsing trachea. Exploratory endoscopy or surgery may be needed to definitely diagnose the problem causing the retching. 

Treatment will follow according to the condition in your dog. Your vet may attempt to induce vomiting in some cases. Immediate surgery may be needed for obstructions or impactions in the throat or intestines, or for a twisted stomach. These can be life-threatening conditions that will need to be remedied without delay. Appropriate fluids and anesthesia will be given. Any infections or viruses, such as those implicated in kennel cough, can be treated with antibiotics, cough suppressants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Dogs with kennel cough will need to be isolated from other dogs to prevent spreading this disease. 

While a case of simple bloat is relieved through belching or retching, gastric dilation can benefit from stomach pumping. There is no cure for a collapsed trachea, but it can be managed with cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories, bronchodilators, antibiotics to control infections, and keeping the dog’s weight under control, as obesity can complicate the condition. Surgically, an expandable stent or a rigid prosthesis can be inserted.

Prevention of Retching

It may be hard to predict when your dog may succumb to an illness, but there are steps you can take to prevent his risk. Monitor your dog’s area for items he may eat that could cause an obstruction, and teach him good eating habits that discourage the intake of too much air during meals. Vaccinating your dog can lower his risk of becoming infected by many types of viruses and bacteria. If you have a breed that is at a higher risk for GDV, you can have your dog’s stomach tacked to prevent this potentially fatal condition from occurring.

Cannanine

Cost of Retching

Costs for treatment of a condition that can cause retching in your dog can vary considerably. For cases of a simple bloat or an obstruction that can be relieved by vomit induction, your costs may only be around $50 or more. For more serious conditions, such as the respiratory kennel cough, treatment can average $650. A throat obstruction that needs more serious treatment can range from $1200 to $6000, while a collapsed trachea can average $1800.

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Retching Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Dexter

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American Staffy x American bulldog

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9 Months

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Mild condition

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0 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Retching

My 9 month old am staff x American bulldog has been retching in the late night/ early morning for the last three nights. Nothing comes out and then he goes back to sleep but I am worried as he is currently on medication for suspected pneumonia. He was diagnosed with pneumonia two months ago based on his temperature and lung sounds alone, and went on nine days of medication. Everything seemed fine until he started having the same symptoms last week and has gone back on the medication as they think it didn't quite clear up last time. I'm worried that they may have been too quick to think it is pneumonia without further testing, especially now with the retching which he did last time as well

Sept. 8, 2018

Dexter's Owner

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Pongo

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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5 Months

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Serious condition

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0 found helpful

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Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Shaking
Mouth Salivation
Gagging
Eye Redness
Lethargy
Eye Swollen
Coughing
Nausea

I have a 5-month old Staffordshire mix and last night he started retching in the middle of the night. He hasn't been able to vomit though. I thought it stopped, but then it started up again in the morning. It's really loud too. I thought it was because he ate a pig's ear yesterday, but he's eaten, drank water, and gone to the bathroom since then so I would think it'd be out of his system by now. I went to the vet, they said it should go away within a day. But then I took him home and he became extremely lethargic and completely unlike himself. His eyes are very red. He has white fur, and the tear stains around his eyes are worse than they've ever been. He also has brown staining around his mouth. He won't let me go near his face. I can't wipe his eyes or touch his mouth or anything. I took him to the emergency room too, and they said it was probably nausea. They gave him fluids and nausea medication, but he still seems off. He's normally full of energy and wants to be around me all the time, but now he's barely moving and doesn't want me anywhere near him. It almost looks like his one eye is swollen, but he shrieks if I try to touch his face. I thought the retching stopped when he got lethargic, but it's still happening. Is there anything else this could be? I'm out of ideas.

Aug. 23, 2018

Pongo's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are a few possible causes for retching which may include nausea, foreign objects, laryngeal disorders, infections among many other causes; however if your general Veterinarian and an emergency Veterinarian couldn’t narrow in on a cause I cannot think of anything else it may be without examining him myself. Monitor Pongo and ensure that he keep hydrated. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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Isabell

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Chihuahua

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5 Months

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Coughing Gagging Retching

I have a 5 month old Chihuahua that we got 2 weeks ago. 3 nights ago she started coughing and then gagging. We have very poor air quality as our Province is currently experiencing some major wild fires. Isabell is fine until she eats or runs around and gets excited. Then she will start to cough then unproductive gagging, which produces nothing, but is distressing to her at the time. Isabell weighs 3.2 pounds and seems to be eating and doing her business as normal. Please help as im freaking out, Thanks K.

Aug. 19, 2018

Isabell's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are various causes for gagging and retching which may include over activity after eating leading to gastric reflux, air pollution quality among other causes; try to keep Isabell calm after eating and try to feed in smaller portions more often. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 20, 2018

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Jerry

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German Shepherd

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6 Years

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Fair condition

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1 found helpful

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Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Retching

2 nights ago my dog Jerry was dry heaving. I heard him about 3 times throughout the night. The next day morning he let out a huge fart. He hasn't done any dry heaving since that night. My kids told me he some beans, which is something he doesn't normally eat. Is there any reason for extreme concern??

Aug. 18, 2018

Jerry's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are various causes for dry heaving/retching in dogs, it is possible that the ingestion of an unfamiliar food may have caused some gastrointestinal upset which lead to the dry heaving. If Jerry isn’t showing any symptoms and is in good spirits, I would keep an eye on him for the next few days but if you have any concerns visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 18, 2018

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Kyzer

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Siberian Husky

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8 Months

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Fair condition

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0 found helpful

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Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Gagging

My 8 month old Siberian Husky has been retching for a week now. The first day we noticed he had thrown up six times in the house. All clear bile pukes and one that had dirt in it. He then proceeded to puke up bile all night. He has stopped puking up bile but it still retching throughout the day. His behaviour is normal and appetite is also normal. Should we be more worried and take him to the vet?

Aug. 12, 2018

Kyzer's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Vomiting and a little gagging may occur for a variety of reasons and a little tummy upset may occur from time to time; however if Kyzer is having ongoing retching all day everyday you should visit your Veterinarian as he may need something to settle his stomach. You should visit your Veterinarian but in the meantime try to feed small portions of boiled chicken and rice every few hours and ensure that he is hydrated. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 13, 2018

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Oscar

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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Mild condition

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0 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Retching And Vomiting

Hi, Oscar has been retching for about 2 months now,sometimes there's clear saliva or bile? He vomited up some food last night. The last time he was checked by a vet they said he has a heart murmur so I'm worried it could be respiratory

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Willow

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Australian Cattle Dog

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11 Weeks

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Mild condition

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1 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Retching

My 11 week old puppy began retching in the middle of the night. She has done it about 6-7 times now and is just throwing up a white mucous substance. The first time there was a hair in it and it was clear but the more she does it the more it is just white mucous. She isn’t whining & she does keep falling asleep I just am not sure if I should take her to the vet or see if it gets better.

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Miss P

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Labrador Retriever

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13 Years

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Serious condition

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0 found helpful

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Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Drooling
Not Eating
Wretching

My almost 14 year old lab has completely stopped eating as of 12 days ago. She went from a food hog to picky to full stop in about 10 days. She wretches and drools constantly. We've done blood work, an ultrasound and vet has no feed back to provide. She drinks enough water to pee twice a day, likes to stand in the yard in the spring weather, but otherwise looks tired and miserable. We are thinking the end is near as we are not going to pursue the invasive options the vet suggested to find out further what is going on. Started giving her an antacid yesterday (that was a fight). Any advice would be appreciated, or is it just time to say goodbye to my best friend:(

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Squirrel

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Mutt

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14 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Dry Heaving
Retching
Shallow Breathing
Mild Seizures

My 14 year old mutt has been retching and dry heaving and breathing shallow for several weeks. In the beginning, his retching preceded a mild seizure. The seizures lasted approximately 2 weeks. The retching and dry heaving are still here as well as shallow breaths. It's all day, every day.

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Vinnie

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Yorkshire Terrier

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2 Years

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Mild condition

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0 found helpful

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

Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Not Eating Food&Making Vomit Sound

My Yorkie is pacing around the room making throw up noises, and then move his tongue as if he was lapping water. This was the first time he has done this, and he's refusing to eat his food, even if we add meat to it. He even refused his treats. What should I do?

Cannanine