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Why Is My Dog Gagging? What Should I Do To Help My Dog?

Gagging is one of the most confusing signs in a dog. Is it that your dog took way too big of a bite of the snack and is having trouble swallowing? Or is it something more serious that is causing the reflex gagging?

For the most part, gagging is often a sign of irritation either in the dog’s airway or esophagus. Taking them to the vet immediately is the best way in dealing with the gagging situation that has turned into an emergency.

In the sections below, we shall take a look at some of the most common causes that trigger this reflex. We will also get into what you can do to help offer relief to your dog if they are gagging consistently.

Without further ado, here is all you need to know about dog gagging.

Why Is My Dog Gagging All Of A Sudden?

If your dog is gagging all of a sudden, it is most likely as a result of an acute irritation of their upper airway or their esophagus.

For some perspective on what you may be working with, here are some of the causes of sudden dog gagging.

Upper Respiratory Tract Infections And Irritation

The upper airway in a dog includes the nose and mouth, the larynx, pharynx, and upper part of the trachea. Any infections in those areas can manifest with gagging. Laryngitis in particular is the most commonly implicated infection in a dog that is suddenly gagging.

With these infections, the gagging will be accompanied by other signs such as noisy breathing, difficulty eating and swallowing, hoarse barking sounds, and uncharacteristically bad breath.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis is another common cause of gagging in dogs. It can be idiopathic which means there is no identifiable cause. However, the paralysis could also be secondary to other conditions such as tumors, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease.

In dogs with laryngeal paralysis, you will notice the pooch gagging but not throwing up. The gagging may also be associated with other signs and symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath with gasping even at rest.

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the dog’s heart is unable to perform its pumping functions adequately. This could be as a result of dilated cardiomyopathy, congenital heart malformations, or even secondary to obesity in the dog.

The heart failure causes the dog to gag as a result of fluid buildup in the lungs. The dog may also cough a lot and get tired easily with little amounts of exercise.

Foreign Body Choking

Another common reason why your dog may be gagging all of a sudden is because they are choking on a foreign body. This can be anything from a toy to dry kibble.

In these cases, your dog will be otherwise fine then suddenly start to gag, cough, and appear agitated. This is unlike all the other causes where the dog may have had signs and symptoms of the underlying disease before the gagging episode.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a condition in dogs where the cartilaginous rings that keep the trachea patent collapse and effectively obstruct the doggy’s airway.

This process can be sudden or gradual, and has both signs and symptoms similar to that of laryngeal paralysis. These include coughing and noisy breathing. The pooch may also turn blue as a result of cyanosis from low oxygen levels. It may vomit as it gags.

Why Is My Dog Gagging And Licking?

A dog that is simultaneously gagging and licking may be doing so as a result of not only airway irritation but also hypersalivation and general discomfort.

The causes of this combination of symptoms are typically more sudden. Here are a few of these causes.

Nausea

If your dog is nauseated and on the verge of throwing up, they may gag and lick their lips a lot. This is often followed by episodes of throwing up. The dog will also be generally lethargic and may prefer to just lay calm as the discomfort continues.

Dental Diseases

Dental issues, such as cavities and gingivitis, can also cause your dog to gag and lick their lips excessively. The dog may also experience symptoms of dental diseases, such as very bad breath, tartar buildup, and obvious dental cavities.

Poison Ingestion

Another reason your dog may be coughing, gagging, and licking themselves a lot is if they have ingested a poisonous substance. The licking and gagging is usually as a result of either nausea or hypersalivation both caused by irritation by whatever substance they ingested.

Hunger Pangs

One of the most innocent causes of gagging and licking in dogs is a simple case of the munchies. This results from hunger pangs as a result of delayed meals. The best way to tell that this was the cause is that the gagging and licking stops as soon as the dog eats.

They should also not have any trouble eating or swallowing. If they do, it is likely that there is another cause for their gagging.

Nasal And Oral Irritation

Finally, your dog can be gagging and licking themselves as a result of nasal, oral, or laryngeal irritation. The most common triggers in these cases include dust, smoke, unpleasant odors or flavors in their food.

More often than not, removing the offending substance or moving your dog to a different environment causes the gagging and licking to stop.

SPOTLIGHT: Check out your dog’s weight at with our very own puppy weight chart right here.

What To Do If My Dog Is Gagging A Lot?

The best thing to do if your dog is gagging a lot is to take them to the vet. This is because innocent causes of gagging like hunger pangs and local irritation by dust or smoke will usually resolve spontaneously within a few minutes of addressing the issues.

However, if your dog is persistently gagging despite your home remedies, it could be a sign of more serious causes that require urgent medical attention.

While seeking veterinary assistance is the most important step you should take, it is not the only thing you can do for your gagging pooch. Here are a few things to do if your dog is coughing and gagging to help offer relief to your dog.

Get Your Dog Some Fresh Air

For issues involving irritation by dust, pollen, or unpleasant odors, all your dog may need to stop gagging and coughing is some fresh air. So move your pooch to an open spot or a room with an air filter.

If the irritation was from air pollution then they should stop gagging within a few minutes.

Give Your Dog Some Water

Giving a gagging dog water can be a bit tricky, especially if they have something such as laryngeal paralysis or tracheal collapse. These may increase the risk of the puppy choking on the water.

However, water could offer relief for dogs gagging as a result of something like nausea or hunger pangs.

Feed The Pooch

Speaking of hunger pangs, all you may need to do to help your dog stop gagging is to feed them. However, as with giving them water you need to be sure that the other possible causes are unlikely.

If your dog still gags and chokes while they are eating, it is best to stop feeding them to avoid the choking to persist.

Try Choking First Aid For Dogs

If you think your dog is gagging as a result of choking on a foreign body, you may want to attempt choking first aid for dogs, as you make arrangements to take them to the vet.

This may be as simple as inspecting the mouth for visible objects and manually clearing the dog’s throat to more complex measures like the Heimlich maneuvers on the dog.

SPOTLIGHT: Check out your dog’s weight at with our very own puppy weight chart right here.

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