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Healthy Pet Care Tips

My dog's dry heaving - what should I do?

Is your dog going through the motions and sounds of vomiting, but nothing is coming out? Here, our PetVet Care Centers member vets explain dry heaving in dogs, what may be causing your dog to dry heave, and what to do next. 

Help, my dog keeps dry heaving!

Our vets understand that listening to or watching your dog dry heaving can be distressing. While it certainly appears and sounds as if they are going to vomit, nothing comes out. So, what could cause this?

Why is my dog dry heaving?

Dogs may begin dry heaving or retching for numerous reasons, including:

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

While you likely shouldn't be overly concerned about a single episode of dry heaving (since a dog is most likely just coughing up something that was caught in their throat), if your dog is dry heaving repeatedly or dry heaving is recurrent it's critical to contact your vet right away. Book an examination for your pup so your veterinarian can rule out serious health issues. 

What conditions can cause dry heaving in dogs?

The conditions that can lead to dry heaving in dogs range from mild to severe. Here are just a few potential reasons why your dog might be dry heaving:

Kennel Cough

This highly contagious upper respiratory illness in dogs is characterized by a dry, hacking cough (often described as sounding like a goose honk) and nasal discharge. Dry heaving can be one symptom of kennel cough. Since kennel cough is highly contagious, dogs displaying signs of the condition should be isolated from other dogs to limit the spread of the condition. Call your vet if you think your dog may have kennel cough. 

Bloat - Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

Bloat is a very serious condition in dogs that can quickly become fatal. This complex medical condition occurs when the dog's stomach fills with air, increasing pressure and preventing blood from the dog's 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 produce toxic hormones which can cause the dog's heart to stop. If your dog shows signs of bloat, urgent veterinary care is required right away! Signs of bloat include dry heaving, enlarged abdomen, increased salivation, restlessness, and signs of pain if you touch their 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.

Foreign Object Caught in Throat

If your pooch has something caught in their throat that is causing a partial obstruction it could result in gagging, retching and dry heaving as your dog works to force the object out. If you think that your pooch could have something stuck in their throat contact your vet right away or head to your nearest emergency vet for urgert care.

Tonsillitis & Sore Throat

Like people, your dog's tonsils can become swollen and inflamed leading to a sore throat, and possibly interfering with swallowing and your dog's natural gag reflex. If your dog has swollen tonsils it could lead to repeated gagging and dry heaving. Contact your vet if you suspect that your dog has swollen tonsils.

Tumor Partially Blocking Your Dog's Throat & Airway

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

What should I do if my dog is dry heaving?

If your dog is dry heaving it is always best to err on the side of caution and contact a vet right away. 

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

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 contact a PetVet Care Center hospital near you for urgent care.

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