If you live with a dog, there’s a strong chance you’re attuned to its many peculiarities. Depending on the pup, these range from munching their blankets after dinner to barking at passing tricycles.
One of the more noticeable canine quirks is dog gagging. Typically, there’s no cause to worry. But if they start making a habit of it, it might be time to call the vet.
So, when does it become chronic, and what are the most common causes?
Most Common Reasons for Dog Gagging
It’s no secret among dog owners that their adventurous pets can and will eat anything. Unfortunately, not everything always agrees with them. That can lead to gagging, vomiting, and retching of varying severity.
But just what causes gagging in dogs?
Foreign Object in Throat
Perhaps the most common reason dogs gag is because they ingest something they shouldn’t. Sticks are favorite and infamously hazardous.
Dogs that eat them risk internal splinters to the throat and esophagus. No wonder your pup gags.
The good news is that most dogs have a sixth sense for realizing when an ill-gotten snack disagrees with them, and they go out of their way to speed up the gagging or vomiting process, usually by eating grass.
Another common cause of chronic gagging in dogs is Kennel Cough. This is a highly contagious, if innocuous, illness that dogs catch from one another. It’s likely your pooch will experience Kennel Cough at some point in their life.
But as canine illnesses go, Kennel Cough is manageable. A veterinarian can prescribe medication that will help with the gagging.
If you think your dog has Kennel Cough, minimize contact with other dogs. Also, watch for symptoms other than gagging to confirm the diagnosis. Look for signs of:
- Your dog keeps coughing
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
Another cause of dog gagging or vomiting is infection. There are various infections responsible for this kind of behavior, but the most likely are:
As the name suggests, sinusitis is a sinus infection. Rhinitis comes from infected nasal passages. In both cases, the excess mucous and postnasal drip associated with these kinds of infections can quickly clog a dog’s airways. When your pooch gags, they’re trying to make breathing easier on their congested lungs.
Neither is comfortable for your dog, but sinusitis and rhinitis are easily treatable.
If the gagging doesn’t clear up on its own, speak to your vet about possible treatments.
Also be aware that, unlikely though it sounds, if your dog suffers persistent nasal or sinus infections, there may be an underlying problem with their teeth.
Various dental issues ranging from gingivitis to tooth abscesses can all cause sinus infection due to the unfortunate combination of bacterial build-up in the mouth and its proximity to the sinuses.
So, while you’re treating your dog for possible infections, make sure the vet examines their teeth, too.
Yet another common medical reason for dog gagging is parasites.
As discussed, dogs will eat anything. It might be simultaneously horrifying and comedic to catch your dog eating something they found outside, but you need to remember that many of these animals are carriers for other creatures.
One of the most common parasites dogs pick up eating prey they should have left alone is roundworm.
Roundworms appear in your dog’s gut. But when they hatch their larvae, the young worms promptly migrate. That is always worrisome, especially when the larvae drift up into a dog’s lungs.
If that happens, your dog’s breathing may start sounding different, and it may also cause gagging.
Other symptoms of a roundworm infestation include:
- Sudden anorexia
- Potbelly abdomen
- Dull coat
You may notice some of the adult roundworms in your dog’s fecal matter, so if any of these symptoms appear simultaneously to the gagging, start paying attention.
If your dog has roundworms in their poo, you’ll know. They’re long, spaghetti-like worms. If what you’re seeing looks more like rice, your dog may have tapeworms.
Neither parasite is good, and both can be treated with routine deworming.
Keep in mind that some parasites, like roundworms, can be inherited. If a pregnant dog has them, so will her puppies.
Another common cause of canine gagging is heart disease. However, you usually only see this in senior dogs, so keep your pooch’s age in mind before you panic.
Once you’ve factored in age, there are several other symptoms to look for when confirming possible heart disease.
A dog gagging due to a deteriorating heart may also exhibit:
- Cyanotic tongue
- Rapid/shallow breathing
It’s also important to remember that there’s a significant diagnostic overlap between symptoms in dogs. Lethargy and breathing difficulty could mean anything from Cushing’s Disease to heart problems. So, while you’re right to be concerned, the best thing you can do is go to the vet and give them a detailed history of the gagging and other symptoms.
You most often see a tracheal collapse in smaller dog breeds, like:
- Yorkshire terriers
Left untreated, the condition worsens over time and if the trachea narrows too severely, surgery may be necessary.
Because tracheal collapse can be breed-specific, it’s more likely than other medical conditions to be congenital. If your dog is on the list of breed types likely to develop the condition, monitor their gagging over time and mention it to your vet.
Dog gagging has all kinds of causes, some more common than others.
Since symptoms tend to overlap across medical conditions, it’s important to mention the gagging or vomiting to your vet if you think it’s become chronic.
Pay attention to other symptoms that accompany the gagging, and how often it occurs.
Finally, don’t forget that sometimes gagging and vomiting are normal for dogs. If it’s happening sporadically rather than routinely, your pup may simply be having the odd, illicit snack and struggling to digest it.
At the end of the day, you know what is usual for your companion. If something feels off, calling the vet never hurts.