Skip to Main Content

Help My Dog Is Dry Heaving! What Do I Do?

Help My Dog Is Dry Heaving! What Do I Do?

If your dog is making the sounds and motions of vomiting with nothing coming out, they are dry heaving. In this post, our Visalia vets talk about dry heaving in dogs, including the cause and how to stop it.

Dry Heaving In Dogs

Our Visalia emergency vets know how it can be distressing to watch or hear your dog dry heave. It certainly looks and sounds like they are going to vomit, but nothing comes out. So, what can be causing this?

Causes of Dry Heaving In Dogs

Dogs can start dry heaving or retching for many reasons including:

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • A foreign object caught in your dog's throat
  • Kennel cough
  • Tonsillitis
  • Gastric dilation-volvulus (bloat)
  • A tumor that partially obstructs your dog's throat

A single dry heaving episode is probably nothing to be overly worried about (most likely coughing up something that was caught in their throat). However, if your dog is dry heaving repeatedly or their dry heaving is recurrent, it is essential to contact your vet immediately to schedule an examination for your pup, because this could be a sign of a serious health issue.

Medical Conditions That Cause Dry Heaving In Dogs

Dry heaving in dogs can be caused by various conditions that range in severity. Here are just a few of the most common causes of dry heaving in dogs:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an extremely contagious upper respiratory illness in dogs. It is characterized by a dry, hacking cough (often described as sounding like a goose honk) and nasal discharge. Due to its highly contagious nature, we recommend keeping your dog isolated from other pets if your pooch is showing signs of kennel cough, in order to limit the spread of the condition. Call your vet if you think that your canine companion has kennel cough.

Bloat - Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

Bloat is a very serious condition in dogs that can quickly turn fatal. Dogs develop this complex medical issue when their stomachs fill with air, increasing pressure and preventing the blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. In some cases, the stomach flips, cutting off even more blood flow and making the pancreas produce toxic hormones that can make a dog's heart stop. Symptoms of bloat include dry heaving, enlarged abdomen, increased salivation, restlessness, and signs of pain if you touch the belly. If your dog shows signs of bloat, they need urgent veterinary care immediately! 

Without treatment, dogs suffering from bloat will likely go into shock within 1-2 hours, experience increased heart rate, lose strength and potentially die.

Foreign Object Caught in Throat

If your pooch has something caught in their throat, that is causing a partial obstruction, it can result in gagging, retching, and dry heaving, as your dog works to force the object out. If you think that your pooch may have something stuck in their throat, call your vet straight away or bring them to the emergency vet closest to you for urgent care.

Sore Throat & Tonsilitis

Like humans, your dog's tonsils can become swollen and inflamed, causing a sore throat. This could potentially interfere with your dog's swallowing and natural gag reflex. If your dog has swollen tonsils it can cause repeated gagging and dry heaving. Contact your vet if you believe your dog might have swollen tonsils.

Tumor Partially Obstructing Your Dog's Airway & Throat

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

What To Do If Your Dog Is Dry Heaving

If your dog is dry heaving it is always best to err on the side of caution and call your vet immediately.

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

Foreign objects can damage your dog's throat or shift and block their 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 our after-hours emergency vets or your primary care veterinarian immediately. Our Visalia emergency veterinary team is available when your primary care vets are closed, including on evenings, weekends, and holidays, to ensure your furry friend gets the quality care they deserve when they need it most.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from Visalia and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

(559) 739-7054 Contact