Updated at: 14-06-2022 - By: petstutorial

The most common illness which causes dog retching is chronic bronchitis; also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is when the bronchi in your dog’s lungs become inflamed. It leads to a chronic cough, which can present as a dry hack or retching sound (like a smoker’s cough in humans).


Why Retching Occurs in Dogs

Respiratory Disease

There are many respiratory diseases and conditions that produce a severe cough that can lead to retching. One such disease is kennel cough, a highly contagious disease also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough can be caused by a number of viruses and bacteria, including the Bordetella bacteria. This airborne disease can be coughed into the air, infecting any other dogs in the area. A dry and unproductive cough and a characteristic “goose honk” can lead to pneumonia, weight loss, and lethargy.

Collapsing Trachea

The trachea, or windpipe, stretches from the neck to the chest and allows air to flow to the lungs.

Due to a hereditary defect of some breeds, such as Poodles and Pomeranians, the cartilage rings that make up the trachea can weaken and cause a narrowing of the trachea. This can cause severe coughing which can end in gagging and retching.

Throat Obstruction

Balls, rocks, sticks, tissues, and other non-edible things can become lodged in the esophagus or trachea and cause a blockage. This can lead to gagging, retching, and vomiting. Other signs there is something caught in your dog’s throat might include audible breathing noises, drooling, pawing at the face, and pacing. In some cases, your dog may vomit out the foreign material, but when it is lodged too securely, unproductive dry heaving can result.


Nausea can be caused by many things. If your dog has eaten something that has upset his stomach, he may retch and attempt to expel the noxious material. Eating too much food, or too quickly, can also cause your dog to retch. Certain medications may cause nausea, as can infections in the ear. Motion sickness is sometimes seen in dogs, and can result in additional signs of whining, pacing, drooling, and diarrhea.


A case of bloat can occur when a lot of air is swallowed, such as if food is eaten too quickly, and can cause the abdomen to swell. This may be relieved through belching. Gastric dilatation (GD) occurs when the stomach fills with gas, while gastric dilatation with concurrent volvulus (GVD) results in a twisted stomach that can become a life-threatening condition needing immediate medical care. Unproductive retching with a bloated abdomen can be indications of one of these more serious conditions. Other signs can include shallow and rapid breathing, abdominal pain, and restlessness.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Besides bloat, other gastrointestinal complaints can result in retching. Various infections, digestive issues, organ malfunction, tumors, and certain diseases such as gastroenteritis, can cause signs that may include vomiting or retching. An obstruction or impaction in the intestines can cause a disruption in the entire digestive system as food and fluids cannot pass through. All of these kinds of conditions will present additional signs, so be sure to relay any you have noticed in your dog to your veterinarian to help in a diagnosis.

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

Bile is a yellowish green substance that aids your dog in digestion. When the stomach is empty, there is nothing to absorb the bile and stomach acids, and this can cause nausea and retching. Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) occurs when this buildup of bile causes irritation to the stomach lining over a long period of time. Vomiting occurs when the stomach is empty, usually in the morning or late at night, and can produce a frothy yellow vomit. Other signs include lethargy, drooling, decreased appetite, pale gums, and dehydration


What to do if your Dog is Retching

Vomiting or retching that occurs often in your dog should be a cause for concern. Your veterinarian should be informed of all the signs you have noticed, if the retching has been accompanied by any vomited material or has been unproductive, if your dog has eaten anything he shouldn’t have recently, and his general eating habits. A physical examination may include feeling his abdomen for any bloat and checking the skin elasticity. Any samples of vomited material can be examined. Often, bloodwork, a urinalysis and fecal testing are performed.

While a case of simple bloat is relieved through belching or retching, gastric dilation can benefit from stomach pumping. There is no cure for a collapsed trachea, but it can be managed with cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories, bronchodilators, antibiotics to control infections, and keeping the dog’s weight under control, as obesity can complicate the condition. Surgically, an expandable stent or a rigid prosthesis can be inserted.

What causes a puppy to dry heave?

Dry heaving can indicate inflammation of the throat (such as occurs with laryngitis), an upper respiratory tract infection (such as kennel cough), a foreign body in the mouth or throat such as a grass awn or blade), nausea etc.

Why does my dog act like he’s going to throw up?

A dog wanting to throw up is very common and is often perfectly natural. Most dogs will vomit if they eat or drink too fast, too much, or exercise after eating. Motion sickness is common in dogs too and can cause him to throw up.


Yellow Labrador retriever puppy sitting on carpet at home next to a pee accident.

Prevention of Retching

It may be hard to predict when your dog may succumb to an illness, but there are steps you can take to prevent his risk. Monitor your dog’s area for items he may eat that could cause an obstruction, and teach him good eating habits that discourage the intake of too much air during meals. Vaccinating your dog can lower his risk of becoming infected by many types of viruses and bacteria. If you have a breed that is at a higher risk for GDV, you can have your dog’s stomach surgically tacked to prevent this potentially fatal condition from occurring. This is a procedure that is often performed at the time of a spay or neuter.

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