Why Does My Dog Keeps Gagging and Choking But Won’t Throw Up

Dogs are complex creatures, and there are a lot of things we don’t know about them. If you’ve lived with your dog for a long time, it may seem you know everything about it. However, there’s a limit to how much you can know.  

Sometimes you may be completely lost about some health concerns your dog may experience. One of such concerns is when your dog gags but doesn’t throw up. If you’ve ever seen your dog repeatedly gagging without throwing up, you’ve probably wondered what was happening. 

In this write-up, we’ll explain what it is, how you can help your dog when it happens, and whether it a health emergency.

What Gagging Without Throwing Up Looks Like

When a dog gags but does not throw up, it is called dry heaving or Retching. Usually, when Retching happens, your dog becomes dramatic and appears to be coughing. Your dog will experience all the emotions and sensations that precedes vomiting, but it won’t vomit. 

It may cause your dog to make strange sounds and appear to be in agony. If you’ve ever seen a dog that is choking on something, then the sight of a Retching dog looks very similar to that. 

Is Retching A Health Emergency?

Sometimes, Yes! Although most dry heaving cases may be a not-to-serious condition, there are some cases where dry heaving could end up being fatal. If your dog retches agonizingly, it’s crucial to pay close attention and seek medical help immediately. Nonetheless, the frequency and underlying cause of dry heaving usually determine whether the condition is a cause for alarm. 

In terms of frequency, if your dog retches once in several weeks or months, then the issue might not be a cause for alarm. However, if it seems to occur daily with each episode happening for several minutes, then it might be symptoms of a severe underlying problem. 

What Could Possibly Be Wrong?

There are dozens of possible causes for Retching in dogs. It could be caused by an accidental condition like throat obstruction or a gradually built-up health condition like respiratory diseases. Unfortunately, when your dog retches, it is not usually immediately apparent what may be the cause. This means the whole experience can be agonizing to your dog while you stay helplessly and watch it suffer. Fortunately, you can get an idea about what is causing the Retching from some hints. 

Sometimes Retching can seem like a cough, especially if you haven’t seen your dog go through such a situation before. However, the sound your dog makes while it coughs is usually a bit different from the sound of Retching. Retching sound is usually lower than the sound of a cough. If you can’t tell just by the sound your dog makes, the next thing to look out for is the appearance of your dog’s stomach while it gags. A retch will cause your dog’s stomach to contract quickly and seem to reduce in size significantly. Apart from your dog’s stomach contracting, they’ll also likely round their head backward and tilt it downwards. 

Once you’ve confirmed that you aren’t dealing with a mere cough but Retching, the next thing to do is to try ruling out some possible causes that could prove fatal. 


If your dog retches agonizingly because of choking, it could be potentially fatal. However, if the situation is discovered early enough, you could be able to offer lifesaving help. Whenever you notice your dog retching, inspect its mouth or throat for any foreign object or obstruction of any kind. Try using your hands to feel under the tongue and between the gums. If you notice anything out of place, an obstruction, or object of any kind, it means your dog is likely choking. 

In the case of choking, a vet can help, but getting across to a vet might take too much time. A choking dog might not have that much time, especially if it’s completely obstructed from taking in air. Consequently, the plausible thing is to attempt a Heimlich maneuver on your dog. If you’re skilled in carrying out Heimlich maneuvers, your chances of saving your dog’s life are significantly high. If you’re not, then here’s how to go about it.

Carrying Out Heimlich Maneuvers for Dogs

If you’ve carried out Heimlich maneuvers for humans, the process is a little modified to suit the body of a dog. However, before carrying out the maneuver, there are sine things you can try. The first thing to try removing the foreign object with your hands. To do this, you’ll need to approach your dog and restrain it carefully. Do not attempt to muzzle it. Muzzling your dog can rapidly exacerbate the situation. 

After restraining your dog, check to see if the object it is choking on can be removed by using your fingers. If it seems possible, gently open your dog’s mouth and use your fingers to get rid of the object. If the object is out of the reach of your fingers, using a spoon to push the object closer to your fingers’ reach is always a good trick. 

However, if you’re sure the obstruction cannot be removed by using your fingers, the next thing to try is swinging your dog. For small dogs, foreign objects can be removed from the throat by picking them up and swinging from side to side. It might look weird initially, but it has worked time and time again. Just apply pressure to their abdominal region and swing. However, this technique may not work in all cases, especially for larger, heavier dogs that are hard to swing. In that case, the next thing to do is to attempt the Heimlich maneuver.

To perform the maneuver:

  • Ensure your dog is standing in place. Wrap your hands around its belly, just behind its ribcage, while making a fist. Apply pressure; use your fist to push your dog’s stomach forward and up.
  • If your dog is unable to stand in place, you can make it lie down. After it lies down, place one of your hands on its back and the other in its abdomen. Use the hand on the abdomen to squeeze your dog’s abdomen upwards. 
  • After repeatedly carrying out any of the above procedures, check your dog’s mouth for any dislodged object and remove it with your fingers, preferably with a glove. 

Even after performing a successful Heimlich maneuver, you should still call in your vet to check up on your dog. 

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV)

If you’re confident that your dog is not Retching because it choked on something, the next serious threat to look out for is GDV. GDV is a severe and life-threatening condition. Although the exact cause of the disorder is still a subject of research, early evidence points to stress as a contributing factor. Statistics indicate that big deep-chested dog breeds are more prone to the disorder. Breeds like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Weimaraners, Gordon setters, Irish setters, Basset Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Doberman Pinschers are particularly prone to GDV. However, while some breeds are more prone to GDV, the disorder can hit any dog breed. 

Although figuring out whether your dog has GDV when it retches isn’t quite simple, some hints and signs could help you decide. 

  • Excessive drooling: it’s entirely normal for your dog to drool. However, when the drooling gets excessive and is accompanied by dry heaving, then you may be having a case of GDV in your hands.
  • Hard and Swollen Stomach: one of the most prominent symptoms of GDV is a swollen and hard stomach. If this happens in combination with excessive drooling and gagging, GDV could be the culprit. 
  • Increased Heart Rate and Faster Breathing: While your dog is gagging, pay close attention to its breathing pace. If it is fast, listen to the heart rate. If the heart rate is fast as well, then you’re dealing with potentially dealing with GDV symptoms. 
  • White foam: this an easy to spot symptom in GDV plagued dogs. Use a flashlight to search your dog’s mouth for signs of white foam. If you find some, your dog could be dealing with GDV. 
  • Weakness:  it might be hard to spot weakness in your dog when it is gagging. If you notice any signs that point to it, you could be dealing with GDV. However, if you noticed your dog is unusually inactive prior to gagging, then GDV may be an underlying cause of the gagging. 

However, irrespective of your GDV diagnosis, it is important to seek professional help in order to help save your dog’s life. 

They Ate Too Much Grass

For some inexplicable reason, dogs tend to each grass. There are tons of suggestions as to why this happen but not of them are concrete. However, when your dog eats grass in excess, it can lead to dry heaving and vomiting. If you have a dog that is gagging and not throwing up, then this might be the issue. 

Other plausible causes of Retching in dogs include stomach virus, kennel cough, age, and overeating grass.

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