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Dog Dry Heaving: Causes & What to Do

Dog Dry Heaving: Causes & What to Do

Is your dog acting like they are vomiting, but nothing is coming out? Today, our Mechanicsburg vets discuss dry heaving in dogs, what could be causing your dog to dry heave, and what you should do.

Dry Heaving in Dogs

Our Mechanicsburg emergency vets know that watching or listening to your dog dry heaving can be distressing. When pet owners have a dog that is dry heaving the questions going through their heads are normally "why is my dog dry heaving" and "Is this an emergency and what should I do". In this article, we will go over some of the more common causes of dry heaving and what concerned pet parents should do.

Why is My Dog Dry Heaving?

Dogs can begin dry heaving or retching for several reasons, including:

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

While a single episode of dry heaving is likely not something to be overly concerned about - most likely just coughing something up that was caught in their throat - if your dog is dry heaving repeatedly or dry heaving recurrently it is essential to contact your vet right away to book an examination for your dog so that serious health issues can be ruled out.

Conditions That Can Cause Dry Heaving in Dogs

The conditions that can lead to dry heaving in dogs range in severity. Below are just a few of the reasons why your dog may be dry heaving:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory illness in dogs that is characterized by a dry, hacking cough (often described as sounding like a goose honk) and nasal discharge. Dry heaving may be a sign that your dog has lennel cough. Because of the highly contagious nature of kennel cough, dogs showing signs of the condition should be isolated from other dogs to limit the spread. Call your vet if you think that your dog may have kennel cough. 


Bloat in dogs is a very serious condition, that can quickly become fatal. This complex medical condition occurs when the dog's stomach fills with air, increasing pressure and preventing blood from the dog's hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. In some cases, the stomach flips, cutting off even more blood flow and causing the pancreas to produce toxic hormones which can cause the dog's heart to stop. If your dog shows signs of bloat, urgent veterinary care is required.

Signs of bloat include:

  • Dry heaving
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Increased salivation
  • Restlessness
  • Signs of pain if you touch their belly

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

Contact Your Nearest Emergency Vet Right Away

Foreign Object Caught in Throat

If your dog has something caught in its throat that is causing a partial obstruction it could result in a gagging, retching, and dry heaving as your dog works to force the object out. If you think that your pooch could have something stuck in its throat contact your vet right away or head to your nearest emergency vet for urgent care.

Tonsillitis & Sore Throat

Like people, your dog's tonsils can become swollen and inflamed leading to a sore throat, and possibly interfering with swallowing and your dog's natural gag reflex. If your dog has swollen tonsils it could lead to repeated gagging and dry heaving. Contact your vet if you suspect that your dog has swollen tonsils.

Tumor Partially Blocking Your Dog's Throat & Airway

Any sort of growth that occurs in the back of your dog's throat could cause breathing and swallowing issues and result in gagging or dry heaving. If your dog has a growth in the back of its throat it will need to be surgically removed to clear the airway and stop your dog from dry heaving. It's important to contact your vet to have the growth properly diagnosed and treated.

What Should I Do if My Dog is Dry Heaving?

If your dog is dry heaving it is always best to err on the side of caution and contact a vet right away. 

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

Foreign objects can damage the throat or shift and block the dog's 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 visit our Mechanicsburg trauma and emergency animal hospital to receive urgent care for your pet.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center you never need an appointment to access our full complement of emergency services. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

Contact Us

Contact (717) 796-2334