Why is my Dog Dry Heaving?

Is your dog coughing and lurching like they're going to throw up, but nothing is coming out? This is called dry heaving. Here, our East Setauket vets discuss why your dog might be dry heaving and when you should be concerned about it.

Dry Heaving In Dogs

It's common for our dogs to cough or hack to get something out of their throat, but if your pooch is doing it consistently or almost every day, it might not be something to ignore. Below are some potential causes of dry heaving in dogs that owners should be aware of.

Causes of Dry Heaving In Dogs

Dogs can start dry heaving or retching for many reasons including:

  • Tonsillitis
  • Gastric dilation-volvulus (bloat)
  • A tumor that partially obstructs your dog's throat
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • A foreign object caught in your dog's throat
  • Kennel cough

Medical Conditions That Cause Dry Heaving In Dogs

Dry heaving in dogs can be caused by various conditions that range in severity. Here are just a few of the most common causes of dry heaving in dogs:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an extremely contagious upper respiratory illness in dogs. It is characterized by a dry, hacking cough (often described as sounding like a goose honk) and nasal discharge. Due to its highly contagious nature, we recommend keeping your dog isolated from other pets if your pooch is showing signs of kennel cough, in order to limit the spread of the condition. Call your vet if you think that your canine companion has kennel cough.

Bloat - Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

Bloat is a very serious condition in dogs that can quickly turn fatal. Dogs develop this complex medical issue when their stomachs fill with air, increasing pressure and preventing the blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. In some cases, the stomach flips, cutting off even more blood flow and making the pancreas produce toxic hormones that can make a dog's heart stop. Symptoms of bloat include dry heaving, enlarged abdomen, increased salivation, restlessness, and signs of pain if you touch the belly.

If your dog shows signs of bloat, they need urgent veterinary care immediately! Without treatment, dogs suffering from bloat could potentially die 1 to 2 hours into having the symptom.

Foreign Object Caught in Throat

If your pooch has something caught in their throat, that is causing a partial obstruction, it can result in gagging, retching, and dry heaving, as your dog works to force the object out. If you think that your pooch may have something stuck in their throat, call your vet straight away or bring them to the emergency vet closest to you for urgent care.

Sore Throat & Tonsilitis

Like humans, your dog's tonsils can become swollen and inflamed, causing a sore throat. This could potentially interfere with your dog's swallowing and natural gag reflex. If your dog has swollen tonsils it can cause repeated gagging and dry heaving. Contact your vet if you believe your dog might have swollen tonsils.

Tumor Partially Obstructing Your Dog's Airway & Throat

Any kind of growth that occurs in the back of your dog's throat can result in breathing and swallowing problems and cause gagging or dry heaving. If your dog has a growth in the back of their throat it will have to be surgically removed in order to clear the airway and stop your pet's dry heaving. It's important to contact your vet to have the growth properly diagnosed and treated.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Dry Heaving

If your dog is dry heaving it is always best to err on the side of caution and call your vet immediately.

Kennel cough and tonsilitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or oral antibiotics and might not be considered urgent. Although, more serious causes of dry heaving will require veterinary intervention.

Foreign objects can damage your dog's throat or shift and block their ability to breathe, and bloat is always a veterinary emergency.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our East Setauket vets today to book an appointment for your dry heaving pooch.