A closer look: Gagging and Dry Heaves (Unproductive Vomiting) in Dogs
Cause and prognosis of gagging in dogs varies widely. It is a common presentation, often seen alongside other symptoms as part of many different conditions.
Mild cases are often self limiting, require no treatment and have an excellent prognosis whereas other cases are indicative of life threatening disease. Dogs with symptoms of persistent, unexplained gagging require prompt veterinary attention. Severe gagging, non-productive retching, and difficulty breathing indicate an emergency and require immediate veterinary attention.
Connect with a vet to get more information
Diseases that result in persistent gagging generally affect either the respiratory or gastrointestinal system.
The severity of gagging varies in dogs depending on the underlying condition.
Gastritis resulting from a dietary indiscretion usually presents with a mild, self limiting form of gagging which resolves spontaneously. BOAS often presents with chronic, intermittent acid reflux that results in gagging. These cases often don’t resolve but symptoms wax and wane.
Severe, sudden onset gagging is seen in acute conditions such as GDV or foreign body obstruction and are often life threatening without emergency treatment. Progressive conditions, such as GOLPP, result in gradual worsening of symptoms and are sometimes fatal.
Testing and diagnosis
Investigation of gagging in dogs involves detection of the underlying disease and may include:
- Physical examination
- Blood work
- Bacterial culture
- Virus isolation (specialized bloodwork)
- Diagnostic imaging
Treatment similarly depends on the underlying disease but options may include a combination of medications, surgical interventions, and dietary and lifestyle changes.
Many other symptoms are seen alongside gagging and depend on the underlying disease.