Why Is My Dog Dry Heaving?
As a pet owner, you have likely seen your dog vomit at some point. While our dogs may experience occasional vomiting due to an upset stomach, dry heaving can point to something a bit more concerning. So what causes a dog to dry heave?
In this article we will discuss the details of dry heaving in dogs, and help you understand what this means for your beloved companion.
What Is Heaving Or Dry Heaving In dogs?
Dry heaving refers to the action of attempting to vomit, but no vomit is produced. Heaving will involve the full body movement and abdominal contractions that dogs experience with GI upset, but when they retch, there is no vomit as a result. Dry heaving may be accompanied by a loud retch and gulp, and possibly even a small amount of saliva. Don’t confuse saliva with vomit as most dogs who are dry heaving don’t actually vomit.
Are They Really Dry Heaving?
Before we discuss the details of dry heaving in dogs, let’s first make sure that your dog is actually dry heaving. Some actions can mimic heaving in dogs, making it difficult to tell the difference between the two. To help you better understand dry heaving in your pup, below are a few examples to be aware of.
Dry Heaving vs. Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing can trick dog owners into thinking their dog is heaving or experiencing an airway obstruction. This is often a result of some type of irritant in their nasal cavity or at the back of their throat. Reverse sneezing will often be accompanied by a honking sound, and will accelerate your dog’s respiration at the time. To help you get a better understanding of the behavior, here is a video that shows reverse sneezing in action.
Dry Heaving vs. Coughing
Since coughing does not often produce fluid, it can be confused with dry heaving. Coughing in dogs is usually accompanied by hacking that is then followed by a loud retch. They may even cough up small amounts of phlegm in severe respiratory infections, or may end in your dog simply gulping and swallowing. Dry heaving also requires a full body motion involving the abdominal muscles, where coughing does not.
Dry Heaving vs. Vomiting
Dry heaving and vomiting are closely related, but have one key difference; whether or not vomit is produced. Dry heaving may involve abdominal contractions and retching, but your dog will not produce any vomit after these actions. Dry heaving may even be present after a dog has vomited up all the contents of their stomach, and usually indicates severe gastrointestinal upset.
6 Common Causes Of Dry Heaving In Dogs
Now that you are certain of how dry heaving presents in our furry friends, let’s look at the 5 most common reasons your dog is dry heaving. From an upset stomach to a potential foreign body in the throat.
One of the most common causes behind dry heaving in dogs is nausea or an upset stomach. Sometimes our dogs dry heave in the time leading up to their vomiting spells, or after they have already vomited up the contents of their stomach. You may notice drooling or lethargy leading up to your dog’s dry heaving spells, potentially followed by other signs of gastrointestinal upset as well.
Our beloved companions can experience nausea from dietary indiscretion, infectious disease, intestinal parasites, pancreatitis, and other conditions that impact gastrointestinal health. Nausea can cause a pup to refuse their food, appear lethargic, drool excessively, and even experience abdominal pain. If your pup is dry heaving along with other signs of gastrointestinal upset, it may be due to nausea. if this is the case, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further care.
2. Foreign Body In The Throat
Some dogs will dry heave in an effort to remove a foreign body from their throat. Dogs are known to eat things they should not, meaning foreign objects can easily become lodged in their throat. This can be a blade of grass, a piece of plastic, or any other material that could cling to the side of their throat.
Foreign material can be extremely aggravating to a dog when it becomes lodged in the throat, causing them to hack and heave in effort to remove it. You may also notice your dog pawing at their mouth, or even experiencing reverse sneezing due to the irritation.
If your dog is dry heaving and appearing agitated, they may have a foreign object stuck in their throat. It’s important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible in these situations, as foreign bodies in the throat can easily lead to an airway obstruction.
3. Respiratory Illness
Some respiratory illnesses can cause a dog to cough so violently that they dry heave. The coughing itself can cause a dog to hack to the point of dry heaving, as well as the presence of inflammation in the throat. Some respiratory illness can cause a dog to feel extremely unwell, even leading to nausea in some cases.
Dogs can fall victim to respiratory issues such as kennel cough, pneumonia, distemper, fungal infections, and more. Each illness can cause a dog to cough violently, often causing them to dry heave as a result. If your dog is displaying any other signs of a respiratory illness, this may be the cause of their dry heaving.
4. Tumor Obstructing The Throat
If your dog is dry heaving often, they may have a serious obstruction in or around their throat. Many tumors or polyps in the throat have been diagnosed due to a dog’s constant dry heaving, and need to be removed to help the dog find relief. Some of these issues cause dry heaving alone, or violent coughing that leads to dry heaving due to the irritation.
Not only can a growth in the throat cause this issue, but growths in the lungs may cause dry heaving as well. Growths in the lungs can push on the esophagus and trachea enough to cause dry heaving, along with causing a chronic cough. If your pup is experiencing chronic dry heaving along with other signs of decline in their health, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian about this possibility.
Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, or bloat, is the most serious cause of dry heaving in dogs. Bloat in dogs is a condition that causes the stomach to flip on itself, trapping the contents of the stomach and cutting off blood circulation to the intestines. Dry heaving in this condition is due to the fact that the dog is extremely nauseous, but is unable to empty the contents of their stomach. GDV in dogs can also cause panting, weakness, pale gums, weak pulse, collapse, and more.
GDV in dogs is always fatal when left untreated, and requires immediate medical attention. Dogs with GDV will require emergency surgery to put the stomach back in its normal space, as well as address any damage to the intestines. Most dogs will need to stay in the hospital for a few days after their surgery, as they require extra care throughout their recovery. While any dog can experience bloat, it’s most common in large breed dogs with deep chests.
If you have a deep chested dog that is at risk of bloat, you can discuss preventative measures with your veterinarian.
6. Eating Too Fast
While this may not be a medical condition in itself, eating too quickly is a common cause of dry heaving in dogs. Some dogs scarf down their food at each meal, causing difficulties when trying to swallow their food. Some kibble can pass through without being chewed, while other pieces can become lodged in their throat.
If your pup is coughing and dry heaving at every meal, you may need to consider switching to a slow feeder. A slow feeder bowl forces your pup to take their time when they are eating, and helps to prevent fast consumption and complications that come along with it. These bowls can also bring a bit of excitement to your dog’s daily meals.
Home Remedies For Dry Heaving
While there may not be a specific treatment for dry heaving in dogs, there are ways to prevent heaving through changes in their routine and preventative medicine. Since dry heaving can be a result of common medical conditions, the key is preventing these issues from the start. Home remedies and prevention for dry heaving include:
- Vaccinating your dog against kennel cough if they go to public places like dog parks, pet stores, park, and more
- Feeding your dog with a slow feeder if they are known to gulp down their meals
- Making sure your dog does not have access to things that can become lodged in their throat
- Treat any gastrointestinal upset from the moment the symptoms begin
- Prevent any immediate activity right after meals, especially in dogs with deep chests
- Prevent your pup from eating grass, as the grass can get stuck in the throat and cause irritation
As you can see, there are a few common causes of dry heaving in our furry friends. Whether your pup’s dry heaving is due to eating too quickly or a pesky bout of nausea, it can always be a bit concerning to witness. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can be better prepared the next time this happens to your pup!
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 10 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! Read more about us here.