For the most part, occasional vomiting is not something to worry about. Dogs vomit all the time because they ate too fast or ingested something their stomach didn't agree with. Usually, it's a one-off thing and your pup will feel better after releasing the contents of their stomach.
If you're a dog owner, you probably already know what to expect when this occurs. Most dogs even learn to ask to go outside, so you can anticipate these occurrences.
But what if your dog starts dry heaving regularly?
Dry heaving is similar to vomiting. Dogs make the same wretching noise and look like they're trying to push something out of their belly. The difference, however, is that nothing comes out.
It can be an alarming thing to witness. This is especially true if it occurs suddenly and frequently. Heaving can be a sign of something serious. So, it's important to understand how to identify the signs and what you can do to provide relief.
Here are the most common causes of dry heaving in dogs and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
5 Common Causes of Dry Heaving in Dogs
1. Heaving Due to Illness
Yes, your canine companion can get the sniffles every once in a while. If your dog has spent some time around other pups, there's a good chance they caught a contagious illness. Some of the most common are Bordetella and Distemper.
Distemper is airborne, making it easy to spread. When your dog catches it, they may start to cough repeatedly. The heaving may also be accompanied by a high fever and yellowish discharge from their eyes and nose.
The good news is that distemper doesn't usually get that serious. Symptoms can subside on their own with a bit of loving care. To prevent future problems, you can get an annual vaccination that keeps your dog protected from the illness.
Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is another contagious disease. Dogs can get it when kept in confined spaces with other canines. In addition to coughing, it causes dogs to feel lethargic. The coughs are dry, which is what often causes the heaving.
Like distemper, your dog should start to feel better on their own after a few days.
2. Parasitic Infections
It might be a little gross to think about, but parasitic infections are quite common in dogs. The most innocuous thing, such as a single flea, can cause a major infection that affects your pup's entire body!
Roundworms are the most common. Dogs can become infected by licking soil that's contaminated with eggs. These tiny pests can make their way to your pup's lungs and windpipe. It's that constant tickling of worms that causes dry heaving.
Tapeworms may also be the culprit. Dogs can get tapeworm by ingesting an infected flea. While these usually latch onto your dog's intestines to steal nutrients, they have been known to cause a persistent cough.
Finally, there's heartworm. Heartworms can be deadly if left untreated. They can migrate through your dog's heart and lungs to wreak havoc. Like roundworms, they can get into your pup's throat and cause dry heaving.
Luckily, parasitic infections are treatable and preventable. For round or hookworms, you don't even need to visit a vet. You can stop by your local pet supermarket and pick up deworming products to get the job done.
They kill the parasites within a couple of days, finally providing your pup with the relief they are after.
Heartworms require a bit more intensive care from a veterinarian. However, you can get monthly heartworm preventatives to ensure that your pup will never have to deal with those parasites again.
3. Foreign Objects in the Airways
Dogs have a penchant for getting into things they aren't supposed to be messing with. They love to chew on small toys, bits of plastic, and pretty much anything else they can get their paws on. Unfortunately, all of those small items pose a significant choking hazard.
You'd be surprised by how many dogs have to get things removed from their throat a year. The heaving is your dog's attempt to dislodge whatever's stuck in their throat on their own. Depending on the size and placement of the item, your dog may be having issues breathing.
It's imperative that you bring your pooch to the vet as soon as possible. Attempting to dislodge the item on your own is risky. If it's an accessible place in their mouth, you may be able to remove it. However, deeper items in the throat require the expert hands of a professional.
Foreign objects can damage the lining. Plus, you run the risk of pushing the item further into their throat and blocking air altogether. It's best to leave this task to the vet.
4. Blocked Air Passages
Your dog might also be dry heaving because of a non-foreign object blocking their airways. For example, your pup could have a tumor in their throat. Tumors aren't always cancerous, so don't panic just yet.
However, they do need to be surgically removed. Tumors can affect breathing and eating, so it's best to take care of them as soon as possible.
Tonsilitis and Pharyngitis can affect breathing, too. These conditions cause swelling of the glands in the back of the throat. The inflammation prevents air from flowing freely. They can also trigger your dog's gag reflex, which causes dry heaving.
Now, let's move on to the most serious cause of dry heaving in dogs. Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilation and Volvulus, is a potentially fatal condition that doesn't take long to affect dogs.
While bloating in humans is nothing more than a discomfort, the issue is very dangerous in dogs. With GDV, the stomach fills with air and expands rapidly. This causes the stomach to twist and cut off its own blood supply.
Typically, dry heaving is done by dogs in an attempt to let some gas escape. Unfortunately, the twisting of the stomach prevents this from happening.
GDV requires immediate emergency care. Dry heaving is usually accompanied by lethargy, a tender abdomen, labored breathing, and increased heart rate.
Remedies to Prevent Bloat
Bloat can be caused by several things. More often than not, it's contributed to poor eating habits. Dogs who eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time are at a very high risk of bloat. That's because they tend to take in more air than normal as their gobbling down their kibble.
If dogs start running around and playing after they eat, their risks increase as well. Some breeds are also more prone to suffering from bloat than others.
Deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Labrador Retrievers, are automatically at a higher risk because of the structure of their internal organs.
Older dogs tend to experience it more as well. While the condition is largely associated with physical activity, genetics may come into play as well. If the dog's parents had a history of GDV episodes, there's a good chance that the child will too.
There are many simple remedies that you can do to prevent bloat and dry heaving. These changes are cheap and can help you be proactive about the issue. It's important to note that these remedies will not treat GDV itself.
If your dog starts exhibiting the signs of the condition, you'll need to visit a vet immediately.
Invest in a Slow Feeder
Dogs get excited about mealtime. There's no way to stop that! However, you can make it more difficult for the pup to swallow food whole!
Slow feeders are unique dishes that contain deep pits and thick grooves. The food falls into these hard-to-reach spots, forcing your pup to slow down if they want to eat.
You can also consider feeding your dog with food dispensing toys that require a bit of work to get into. Whatever you choose, the goal is to create an obstacle your dog has to work around.
Don't worry, they'll still be able to eat. However, they will be forced to take their time and swallow less air in the process.
Limit Activity for Half an Hour
It's important to keep your dog calm and contained for at least 30 minutes after a meal. This can be difficult because the sudden influx of calories creates a lot of energy your pup wants to get rid of.
You may need to invest in a crate or dog gate to stop your dog from running around. Alternatively, you can just change your attitude.
Treat mealtime as calm time. Wait for half an hour to give the food some time to settle before you go outside to take a walk.
Stick to a Feeding Schedule
Free-feeding isn't recommended for dogs susceptible to bloat. Having free reign of all that food is just a recipe for disaster. Stick to a feeding schedule with small portions.
It's better to break their daily calorie requirements into two or three meals a day rather than feeding it all at one time. This prevents bloat as well as excessive weight gain.
No one knows your dog better than you. So, keep an eye on them when they start dry heaving and take the necessary actions to provide relief as soon as possible. Once the episode has subsided, consider changing your dog's lifestyle a bit to prevent future problems from occurring.
Take the steps to minimize bloat, get your dog vaccinated to prevent illness, and dog-proof your home to prevent them from swallowing foreign objects. Being prepared can help you keep your pup safe, healthy, and comfortable.