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Dry Heaving in Dogs

We know that sometimes our dogs can fall ill and begin to show the associated symptoms, but what happens if they aren't your typical concerns? Here, our Seattle vets talk about why your dog has a dry heaving cough and what you can do to help them.

Why is my dog dry heaving?

Anytime your dog is showing extreme signs of illness, it can be nerve-wracking. It can be confusing when they look and sound like they need to vomit yet nothing is happening.

Dry heaving in dogs can be a sign of various health issues, such as:

  • Tonsillitis
  • A tumor partially obstructing your dog's throat 
  • Upper respiratory infection 
  • A foreign object lodged in your dog's throat 
  • Gastric dilation-volvulus (bloat)

If it only happens once, it may not be a cause for concern, but you should still schedule an examination. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment for your dog's dry heaving.

What exactly causes dry heaving in dogs?

There are many different illnesses and conditions that can result in dry-heaving dogs. These are:

Kennel Cough (Bordetella)

Bordetella is a contagious disease that primarily affects socially active dogs. If your dog develops kennel cough, it will have a runny nose and a loud honking cough. Dry heaves are one of the symptoms of kennel cough. Because kennel cough is highly contagious, dogs who exhibit symptoms should be separated from other dogs to prevent the disease from spreading. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation-Volvulus)

Bloat can be fatal to dogs that do not receive emergency veterinary care right away.

This complicated medical condition develops when the dog's stomach fills with air, increasing pressure and preventing 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 causing the pancreas to release toxic hormones that can cause the dog's heart to stop. Bloating symptoms include dry heaving, an enlarged abdomen, increased salivation, restlessness, and pain when you touch your belly.

Without treatment dogs suffering from bloat will likely go into shock within 1-2 hours, experience increased heart rate, lose strength, and the condition will become fatal. If you see any of the signs of bloat in your dog you should call your vet right away.

Object Lodged in Throat

If your dog has something stuck in their throat, causing a partial obstruction, they may exhibit gagging, retching, and dry heaving as they attempt to force the object out. If you suspect your dog has an object lodged in their throat, contact your local emergency veterinarian immediately to have their airway cleared.

Tonsillitis, Sore Throat, or Throat Infection

When your dog has a throat infection or illness, it can have breathing, swallowing, and gag reflex issues. If your dog's tonsils are swollen, he or she may gag and dry heave. If you suspect your dog's tonsils are swollen, contact your veterinarian.

Tumor Causing a Blockage

Any growth in the back of your dog's throat can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties, as well as gagging or dry heaves. If your dog has a growth in the back of their throat, it must be surgically removed to open the airway and prevent dry heaving. If you notice any growths in your dog's throat, call your veterinarian to schedule an examination.

What should you do if your dog keeps dry heaving?

No matter the possible cause of the dry heaving, if your dog is suffering from these symptoms you should contact your vet right away. Their life could depend on it.

Kennel cough and tonsillitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications or oral antibiotics and are not considered urgent; however, more serious causes of dry heaving will necessitate veterinary attention.

Foreign objects can damage the throat or shift and block the dog's 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. 

If your dog is dry heaving or showing any other concerning symptoms, please contact us at Aurora Veterinary Hospital right away. We will do our best to fit you into our schedule. You can also contact one of the emergency hospitals in the Seattle area.

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