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Dog Coughing and Gagging

Dog Coughing and Gagging
If you notice your dog coughing and gagging way too often, then it is time you took him to a vet. Here, we have narrowed down some common medical conditions associated with these symptoms.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Jan 30, 2018
Coughing is the body's natural response to get rid of something that is irritating the airway. In most cases, your dog may gag and cough because of a tight collar or simply because he is aging.

However, if episodes of coughing and gagging are frequent, persistent, and lessen but recur, then you might have enough reasons to show your pet to a veterinarian. Symptoms such as these may indicate several conditions.

In some cases, the underlying problem may be a foreign object stuck in the throat of your pet, while in some, it may be something as severe as a heart disease.

That is why, a proper medical diagnosis is required to rule out the potential causes, and devise an appropriate treatment plan to manage the condition.

A gagging cough in your pet may point towards the following factors.

Foreign Objects
Often, a foreign object may get stuck in the throat or esophagus of your dog, causing him to gag, cough and retch. Such episodes, however, do not usually affect breathing. The following objects are usually responsible for such incidents:
  • Rubber ball
  • Bones
  • Bone splinters
  • String
  • Wood slivers

Medical Problems
Diseases that are associated with coughing and gagging in canines include:

Kennel cough
Kennel cough often triggers a dry, hacking cough, which may be accompanied by gagging and retching. This cough has a honking sound, and may seem as if your dog is choking on something. Also called canine infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough often worsens after physical activity. As terrible as it may sound, this condition, is not serious in most cases.

Sore Throat and Tonsillitis
If you notice your dog gagging and coughing weakly, after he swallows or licks his lips, then suspect sore throat and tonsillitis as the underlying causes. These two conditions, in canines, almost always go hand in hand. The latter usually occurs as a secondary symptom of the former.

Roundworm Infection
Bouts of coughing and gagging may indicate a roundworm infection in your dog. When roundworm eggs find their way inside an animal's body, they hatch in the stomach. With the help of the circulatory system, the larvae are then carried to the lungs. Once present in the lungs, these parasites make their way into the air sacs by boring through the capillaries. This activity may cause irritation and a gagging cough.

Tracheal Collapse
If your dog has a honking and gagging cough, especially when he is excited, eating, or exercising, then he may be having a condition called tracheal collapse. Trachea is a flexible tube made of sturdy, incomplete rings of cartilage. This tube helps in transporting air to and from the lungs. Certain factors may cause the tracheal rings to collapse, causing airway obstruction, and hence the aforementioned symptoms. Toy-breed dogs are mostly affected by this condition.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
A more severe condition than the ones mentioned earlier, congestive heart failure has intermittent coughing (sometimes accompanied by gagging) as one of its early symptoms. The coughing grows worse with excitation or physical exertion. In most dogs, the cough begins at night after they go to sleep.

Chronic Bronchitis
If your dog continues to experience cough (dry or productive) that usually ends with gagging, retching and spitting foamy saliva, for over two months, then the odds are, he has chronic bronchitis. The condition is more common in middle-aged dogs, both male and female. Despite showing all such symptoms, your dog may continue to eat normally and maintain a normal weight.

Congenital Abnormalities
Your dog may have an elongated soft palate. The extra length obstructs the airway by partially blocking the entrance to the trachea. This abnormality may cause him to gag, cough, vomit and retch. Symptoms may get worse with exercise.

Accompanying Symptoms
Get your pet immediate medical help if he shows the following symptoms, apart from a gagging cough.
  • Fever
  • Foul breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Heavy panting
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unusual lethargy
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Spitting up white foam
  • Gums with a bluish tinge
  • Anxious for no apparent reasons
  • Pain in closing and opening the mouth
  • Chronic diarrhea and vomiting
  • Constant pawning at the mouth
  • Persistent nasal discharge for over two days
Coughing and gagging in canines may not always be indicators of poor health. However, if these symptoms keep showing up, get worse, or are accompanied by other abnormal symptoms, then they should raise an alarm. Using any kind of home remedy or medicines to suppress or manage these symptoms in your pet, may lead to unpleasant or even dangerous situations. As a responsible pet owner, the best you can do for your pet is take notice of his illness, and take him to a vet at the earliest.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.
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