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dog gagging

Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging? The Most Common Causes.

While most dogs gag or dry heave occasionally, it can sometimes indicate a serious health issue, especially if it becomes chronic.

It’s a disturbing sound to hear: your dog gagging and dry heaving. And while these noises are never an indicator of something good, there are a variety of causes for them, some of which are more serious than others. So what are the possible causes for when your dog keeps gagging?

Your dog may be gagging because a foreign object is trapped in their airways, diseases such as kennel cough (Bordetella), infections such as Sinusitis and Rhinitis, heart disease, tracheal collapse, bloating, or intestinal parasites.

Let’s look at the reasons why your dog may be gagging, dry heaving, retching, and choking on nothing.

Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging?

For the most part, gagging is a normal and family common reflex for dogs. It is usually a prelude to vomiting. If your dog occasionally gags and vomits relatively swiftly and there are no other symptoms, there is likely nothing to worry about. Older dogs are usually more susceptible to gagging because they produce more mucus which causes them to gag.

Dogs who drink quickly and/or in large quantities often will gag immediately following the water intake. Again, this is usually resolved quickly and doesn’t pose any serious threat or indicate a serious health issue.

Recurrent or non-stop gagging is a cause for concern, however, and if you observe this in your dog, they may require veterinary attention. Gagging is caused by inflammation in the area of the larynx. There are several reasons why your dog may be gagging. These include:

A Foreign Object in the Throat, Esophagus, or Mouth

Small objects like stones and sticks can be lodged in the back of your dog’s throat quite easily. These objects can also enter the esophagus and throat. You should closely monitor your dog when they’re playing and discourage chewing on sticks or rocks.


One common illness responsible for gagging in dogs is Kennel Cough (Bortedella). It is a contagious disease and can be passed from one dog to another. You will observe your dog having a dry, hacking cough, followed by continuous gagging with this condition. As the disease runs its course, the gagging and coughing will become worse.

You should visit a veterinarian who will prescribe medications to alleviate your dog’s gagging. There are also vaccinations available to prevent this disease.


Infections such as Sinusitis and Rhinitis may be responsible for gagging in your dog. Sinusitis is a sinus infection, while Rhinitis is a nasal infection. The postnasal drip from these infections may be responsible for gagging in your dog. Common causes of these infections include infected teeth or problems with nasal passages and sinuses.

Luckily, there are medications for these infections. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on this.

Heart Disease

This problem is common in senior dogs, and it may cause gagging. Signs that your dog may be suffering from a cardiovascular disease include chronic gagging accompanied by fast breathing, lethargy, and a bluish tint on the tongue.

Cardiovascular problems can be very serious, of course, so it’s important to get your dog medical attention if your gagging dog is also exhibiting breathing issues or other symptoms.

Intestinal parasites

It’s easy for dogs to pick up intestinal parasites without you realizing it. Gagging can indicate that your dog has a roundworm infestation. Larvae can migrate to the lungs and then go through the capillaries in the lungs into the air sacs. Once the roundworms are in the air sacs, your dog will start gagging.

Immediate veterinary care is required in this case. Regular deworming is also necessary to prevent this.

Tracheal collapse

This condition is more likely to occur in small dog breeds such as a Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier. If you notice your dog constantly gagging, a collapsed trachea may be the cause. The collapse may worsen over time and may require surgical intervention.

This condition can be congenital, or your dog may acquire it at some point in his life.

It’s important to observe your dog closely to identify what the problem might be. Don’t hesitate to consult a vet if the gagging becomes chronic. Try to keep a log of the circumstances surrounding your dog’s gagging as well as any other symptoms they may be exhibiting. 

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis occurs when the nerves in the muscles surrounding the larynx (the dog’s voice box) become weak or paralyzed. This causes the cartilage that forms the larynx to collapse inwards, paralyzing the larynx.

There are a variety of symptoms for this condition, but coughing and gagging, often after exercise or drinking, are very common clinical signs of laryngeal paralysis. Another symptom often observed is a change in the sound of a dog’s bark — it may become higher pitched than normal (though this also occurs naturally with many dogs in old age).

This condition can occur in all breeds, but is most common in Labrador Retrievers.

Why Does My Dog Keep Coughing and Gagging Like He’s Choking?

If you observe your dog hacking away or constantly making choking sounds, then they may have a case of Bortedella, or Kennel Cough. Dogs catch this illness when they breathe in air filled with bacteria and virus particles.

Kennel Cough infection results in the inflammation of the larynx and trachea. This is why you may be observing your dog coughing and gagging like he’s choking.

The classic symptom of this illness is a persistent, forceful cough, followed by choking sounds. Some other symptoms of this illness can include sneezing, a runny nose, and eye discharge.

This illness is contagious to other dogs (and in some cases, contagious to humans). Luckily, most of the time, it isn’t fatal. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics to treat it, and there are also vaccines for it.

What Does It Mean If My Dog Keeps Dry Heaving?

If you own a dog, then you probably already know that dogs frequently vomit, sometimes when they eat just a little too quickly or eat something that irritates their stomach. So if you have a dog that occasionally vomits without displaying any other symptoms of distress, you may not have cause for worry. 

Usually, it’s a one-off thing, and your dog will feel better once it releases the contents of their stomach. You probably already know what to expect and do when this happens.

However, a dog that keeps on making vomiting motions without producing anything may have a serious affliction. This is called dry heaving or retching, and it is similar to vomiting. Dogs will make a similar retching noise and look like they are trying to force something out of their stomach. The difference, however, is that nothing comes out when your dog is dry heaving.

If it occurs frequently and suddenly without warning, then it can be alarming. Heaving may be a sign of something serious. Therefore, it is important to identify the signs and causes so you know what to do to provide relief.

So what does it mean if your dog is dry heaving?


The most common cause of dry heaving is nausea or an upset stomach. Dogs dry heave in the time leading to vomiting or after they have already vomited. Dogs can experience nausea from infectious disease, intestinal parasites, pancreatitis, dietary discomfort, and other conditions that affect gastrointestinal health.

Bilous Vomiting Syndrome

While it is still unclear what exactly causes this condition, the basic scenario is that a dog’s stomach becomes empty well before their next meal, causing discomfort. The dog dry heaves and then vomits up a small amount of fluid, mucus, and bile (and sometimes some foam as well).

This often occurs early in the morning, when the dog has gone longest between meals. If your dog is regularly experiencing this condition, you can try feeding your dog late in the evening and then again early in the morning. Dividing your dog’s daily food volume into three separate, evenly separated meals (roughly 8 hours apart) can help prevent this condition, too.


Bloating can cause a serious case of dry heaving in dogs. This condition occurs when food and gases are trapped in the stomach, causing it to expand. Eventually, the expansion may cause the stomach to flip on itself, which cuts off blood supply to the organs. This condition requires immediate medical intervention to avoid possible death.

Tumor obstructing the throat

Any growth such as a cancer located in the throat area may interfere with your dog’s eating or breathing. It will cause dry heaving in your dog. Growths in the throat area will have to be removed or medically treated before the dry heaving condition is eliminated.

Foreign body in the throat

Dogs eat things they are not meant to, and often the result is that foreign objects may become lodged in their throat. Dogs will usually dry heave to remove such foreign bodies from their throats.

Respiratory illnesses

Some respiratory illnesses may cause your dog to cough so violently they they dry heave. Some of these illnesses include Kennel Cough, Pneumonia, Distemper, and fungal infections.

Why Does My Dog Keep Choking on Nothing?

If you observe a cough that involves a choking sound coming from your dog, then the chances are that some sort of disease has infected your dog. Common causes of this symptom include reverse sneezing, pneumonia, kennel cough, heart disease, collapsing trachea, or a foreign object in the throat.

Observe your dog closely, and if they keep choking on nothing, this may be an indicator of any of the above diseases. In such a case, it may be time to visit the vet, who will properly diagnose the problem and help deal with it.

Final Thoughts

In the end, no one knows your dog better than you. So it’s important that you always keep an eye on your pup and identify when he’s gagging, dry heaving, or choking on nothing, and whether it is chronic or just an occasional occurrence.

Any sudden change in your dog’s behavior is cause for alarm, as they are creatures of habit and routine, and don’t normally deviate from these without good reason.  If you are unsure about the situation, consider visiting the vet for consultation.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor