When your dog suddenly starts gagging without vomiting, it can be a sign of something serious. Swallowed foreign objects or an upset stomach are common causes, but in some cases, conditions like bronchitis, kennel cough, gastric torsion, or tracheal collapse may be to blame.

It’s important to note that while occasional gagging is usually nothing to worry about, if it happens frequently or is accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.

Shortness of breath is an especially concerning symptom and may require immediate medical attention.

To help you better understand this issue, we’ve compiled a list of the most common causes of non-vomiting gagging in dogs, along with their associated symptoms.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a veterinarian for guidance. You can also start a live chat with a veterinarian here.

Causes of Gagging without Vomiting in Dogs

Did your Dog Swallow a Foreign Object?

Your playful pup may have swallowed a foreign object, as their curiosity sometimes gets the best. Everyday objects that dogs may ingest include:

  • Toys that are too small
  • Pieces of bone that are too large
  • Broken toys
  • Food packaging
  • Small balls

If these objects get stuck in the throat or pharynx, it can lead to breathing problems and a permanent gag reflex without vomiting. 

Read also: Discovering the Truth: Can Dogs Really Dive?

Dog chewing on plastic toy

Signs that your dog may have swallowed a foreign object include:


  • Coughing and gagging
  • Heavy breathing
  • Physical restlessness
  • Refusal to eat
  • Sudden aggression
  • Sudden drooling
  • Constant licking of the lips


If the object is in the throat area, remove it yourself by having one person hold the dog while another opens its mouth. However, if the object cannot be seen, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian. 


They can use an endoscope and ultrasound examination to locate the object and determine the appropriate treatment, including medication or surgery.

Summary:

If your furry friend accidentally swallowed a foreign object, it may cause them to feel constantly nauseous. This can lead to them repeatedly gagging without throwing up.

Other signs to look out for include sudden drooling and them scratching at their mouth. If you suspect your dog has swallowed a foreign object - it's essential to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

An Upset Stomach as a Cause

Thanks to their wolf-like ancestors, dogs have a unique digestive system that can be easily upset. Though they have adapted to an omnivorous diet, their digestion is still relatively primitive compared to humans.

This sensitivity means that even small changes in their food can cause stomach discomfort. Some common triggers to watch out for include:

  • Eating too quickly
  • Consuming toxic foods
  • Internal parasites
  • Viral infections
  • Food allergies
  • Eating grass
Dog has upset Stomach

Your dog’s upset stomach can manifest in various ways, such as retching without vomiting, excessive drooling, and loss of appetite. 

 

Some common signs to look out for include the following:

 

  • Constant licking of the lips
  • Sudden diarrhea
  • Visible flatulence
  • Refusal to eat
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Heavy drooling
  • A depressed demeanor
 

In most cases, an upset stomach will resolve on its own. However –  if it becomes a recurring issue; It’s best to consult a veterinarian and consider changing your dog’s diet. A dog nutritionist can also provide guidance and advice.

 

To alleviate immediate discomfort, try fasting and reducing your dog’s water intake for a short period of time. Afterward, a diet of rice and beans is often recommended.

 

Dogs with an upset stomach often gag without vomiting, drool unusually and constantly lick their lips. It can also often be recognized by the fact that the dog refuses even his favorite treats and seems depressed. 

Summary:

Your furry companion may be experiencing an upset stomach if they're showing signs of gagging without vomiting, excessive drooling, and constant lip licking.

They may also refuse their favorite treats and appear in a low mood. These are all common indicators of an upset stomach in dogs.

Pay attention to your dog's behavior; if you notice any of these symptoms, you may consider visiting a veterinarian and changing the dog's diet.

Laryngeal Paralysis as a Cause

Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that occurs when the nerves at the larynx lose function in some breeds, causing the muscles at the larynx not to react properly. 

The larynx plays a crucial role in breathing, eating, and drinking, and this condition can cause a range of symptoms such as:

  • Choking when drinking or eating
  • Coughing and retching without vomiting
  • Bluish mucous membranes
  • Gasping when breathing
  • A change in the pitch of barking
  • Coughing during physical activity
  • Increased sensitivity to heat

This condition is most commonly found in older, large breeds such as setters, retrievers, and mountain dogs. Thankfully, the onset of symptoms is gradual, allowing for early detection and treatment. 

However, if left untreated, laryngeal paralysis can be fatal. Treatment options include medication in the early stages and surgical correction in severe cases.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure proper treatment can be provided.

Summary:

If your furry friend has laryngeal paralysis, they may struggle with swallowing and choke more frequently as water and food accidentally enter their windpipe. Additionally, they may experience persistent coughing and gagging without vomiting.

Although it may sound alarming, fortunately, this condition can be treated with medication or surgery to help improve your dog's quality of life. It's important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible - to determine the best course of treatment for your beloved companion.

Bronchitis as a Cause

Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed due to bacterial, viral, or other irritant accumulation. While the lower airways transport oxygen to the lungs, bronchitis can impede this crucial process.

However, if bacteria accumulate and multiply in the bronchial tubes, then they can become inflamed. This is what doctors call “bronchitis.” In rare cases, viruses, allergens, irritants or even blood-sucking parasites can also be responsible. The most common signs here include:

  • Rapid breathing rate
  • Rotting breathing
  • Rapid exhaustion
  • Dog squeals constantly
  • Gagging without vomiting
  • Frequent coughing
  • Constant runny nose
  • Listless behavior
Dog with Bronchitis

Apart from bacterial and viral infections, allergens, irritants, and even blood-sucking parasites can cause bronchitis in dogs. Be sure to monitor your furry friend’s symptoms and get them treated by a veterinarian if they persist.

Diagnosis of the cause is essential for treatment. In the case of bacterial and viral infections, anti-inflammatory drugs are usually used.
If allergic reactions are the cause, then antihistamines can also help with acute symptoms. In the long term, however, the allergens must be prevented. 

Summary:

Bronchitis in dogs usually causes them to cough constantly, get exhausted quickly and make strange noises when breathing.

Among other things, affected dogs also gag frequently without vomiting. The veterinarian should be consulted for treatment.

Kennel Cough as a Cause

Various viruses and bacteria can affect the upper respiratory tract, causing it to become inflamed. In common parlance, this type of disease is known as “dog flu.”

This is because the name “kennel cough” is somewhat misleading, as the disease has nothing to do with a kennel. In addition to a cough, it usually leads to other symptoms:

  • Breathing problems
  • Dog coughs up mucus 
  • Constantly runny nose
  • Gagging without vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite

Since kennel cough is contagious to other animals, this is where you should isolate your dog from others. However, the infection is not transmissible to humans. Before treatment, the veterinarian must first diagnose the cause. In most cases, antibiotics are recommended. Recovery is relatively quick. 

    Summary:

    Dogs with a kennel cough not only get regular coughing attacks - but also frequently gag when doing so without anything coming out.

    Usually it can also be recognized by the fact that the nose is constantly running, the dog refuses food and seems lethargic.

    Tracheal Collapse as a Cause

    In some dogs of certain breeds, the cartilage on the trachea is sometimes so weak that it collapses over time.

    As a result, the trachea becomes increasingly narrowed, and breathing becomes difficult. For reasons that have not yet been explained, the following breeds are particularly often affected:

    • Miniature Spitz
    • Maltese
    • Yorkshire Terrier
    • Shih-Tzu
    • Pug
    • Miniature poodle

    Fortunately, such a collapse does not occur abruptly but rather insidiously. Loud breathing, as well as rattling, are among the first symptoms. Further signs are:

    • Dog exhausts quickly
    • Whistling breathing
    • Choking without throwing up when lifting
    • Rapid breathing rate
    • Blue mucous membranes

    Ultrasound examination is the easiest way to diagnose tracheal collapse. But, again, therapy is highly individualized depending on the severity.

    In simple cases, dilating drugs or steroids can help. However, surgery may be necessary in severe cases with acute respiratory distress.

      Summary:

      In small breeds with a short snout, tracheal collapse occurs more frequently due to genetics, whereby the airways become increasingly narrowed.

      A choking without vomiting and loud breathing belong here as the most frequent complaints.

      Gastric Torsion as a Cause

      In gastric torsion, the dog’s stomach rotates around its longitudinal axis. This is a life-threatening condition – the “mother of all emergencies.”

      At least, that’s what veterinarians call it since gastric torsion can be fatal within a few hours if left untreated. The reason? The twisting blocks the blood supply.

      It can usually be recognized by the fact that the stomach suddenly swells and the quadruped becomes increasingly restless. Further typical symptoms are here:

      • Sensitivity to touch
      • Rapid breathing
      • Heavy drooling
      • Dog appears stressed
      • Constant choking without vomiting
      • Pale gums
      • Circulatory collapse

      According to statistics, only one in 160 dogs suffers from it. Large and old quadrupeds are said to be most commonly affected.

      Surgery is almost always necessary for treatment in this case. This allows the stomach to be rotated back to its original position and the blood supply to continue.

      If you suspect a gastric torsion, you should also immediately visit the emergency veterinary service. The sooner you act, the better the chances of treatment.

      X-ray of dog lateral view with Gastric torsion
      X-ray of dog lateral view with Gastric torsion

      Summary:

      Dogs with gastric torsion often retch several times a row without throwing up.

      Gastric torsion can usually be recognized by the fact that the dog's abdomen suddenly swells and the four-legged friend makes a stressed impression.

      Tonsillitis as a Cause

      The tonsils are part of the natural defense system in dogs. This is because they contain large quantities of white blood cells that can kill pathogens.

      Paradoxically, however, the tonsils can also become a problem when inflamed. Surely you know the feeling when swallowing is very painful.

      In addition, inflamed tonsils can often be recognized by swelling strongly, and the dog increasingly abstains from eating and drinking. Other typical symptoms are:

      • Constant nausea as if something is stuck in the throat
      • Dog retches without vomiting
      • The dog stares at food without eating
      • Extreme drooling
      • Dog breathes very loudly
      • Constant licking of the lips

      Despite a lot of retching, nothing usually comes of it. Bacteria are responsible for this in almost all cases. That is why antibiotics are usually used for treatment.

      With the help of medication, the inflammation should subside within a few days. In severe cases, the tonsils can also be removed surgically.

      Summary:

      Tonsillitis can cause dogs to suddenly refuse food and water and have a constant gag reflex without vomiting.

      Affected quadrupeds very often lick their lips and breathe unusually loudly.

      Cancer of the Larynx and Trachea

      In rare cases, tumor disease may also be responsible for the unusual behavior. However, the symptoms of these cancers are very similar.

      A Laryngeal Cancer occurs predominantly in middle-aged and senior dogs. In principle, it can affect all breeds. However, male dogs are more often affected.

      Initially, it can usually be recognized that the dog barks at a different pitch or suddenly can no longer bark. Other symptoms are:

      • Dog exhausts quickly
      • Constant coughing without vomitting
      • Increased loud mouth breathing
      • Problems with swallowing
      • Bluish mucous membranes
      • Collapse on exertion

      Despite a lot of retching, nothing usually comes of it. Bacteria are responsible for this in almost all cases. That is why antibiotics are usually used for treatment.

      With the help of medication, the inflammation should subside within a few days. In severe cases, the tonsils can also be removed surgically.

      Summary:

      A tumor in the larynx or trachea can trigger continuous nausea in dogs without causing vomiting.

      It can often be recognized that the pitch changes when barking, and the quadruped coughs more.

      Conclusion

      Gagging without vomiting in dogs can be a sign of various underlying medical conditions – such as swallowing foreign objects, an upset stomach, bronchitis, kennel cough, laryngeal paralysis, tracheal collapse, gastric torsion, tonsillitis, and even cancer of the larynx and trachea.

      While occasional gagging is usually not a cause for concern, if it happens frequently or is accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

      Early detection and treatment can greatly improve a dog’s quality of life and prevent serious complications.

      Reas also: Does a Labrador Really have Webbed Feet? 


      Dr-Orika-Mosquera-Lopez

      Dr. Orika Mosquera

      Hello, I am Dr. Orika Mosquera Lopez graduated from the free university of colombia sectional Barranquilla as a doctor and surgeon. I work as a General Practitioner with Experience in the Emergency Department, Hospitalization and External Consultation. I love pets, i have 2 cats, Bagheera and Nhala and one Yorkshire Terrier called Princess. I care a lot about the well-being of my animals

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