Why is My Puppy Dry Heaving? [Possible Causes]

sick puppy laying on bed

Puppies dry heave for several reasons. The only way to confirm why your puppy is dry heaving is to take them to the vet. Some common reasons for dry heaving include Bordetella, distemper, parvo, and kennel cough. Some puppies even dry heave when they’re hungry. 

Vomiting is a pretty common response to eating something bad or just not feeling well. 

While it’s annoying to clean up, the occasional vomit from your dog isn’t cause for concern. But if your dog is repeatedly going through the motions of vomiting without producing anything, that can indicate a deeper and potentially serious concern. 

Dry heaving can even have fatal causes, so afflicted dogs should be taken to a vet to evaluate the possible causes and get quick treatment.

What is Dry Heaving?

There are many issues dogs can have that look similar to dry heaving but have more innocent causes. 

How do you know if your dog is dry heaving? First, it is important to eliminate some other issues, such as vomiting, gagging, and reverse sneezing.

Other Issues That Imitate Dry Heaving 

Vomiting

If your dog throws up the contents of its stomach, this is known as vomiting. Vomiting just means that something is upsetting your dog’s stomach. 

All dogs vomit from time to time, they can eat or drink too fast, snack on too much grass, or eat something that doesn’t agree with them. 

If your dog vomits occasionally, it is not usually cause for concern. On the other hand, if your dog suddenly vomits frequently, it can indicate an underlying illness. In this case, contact your vet.

Gagging

Gagging is a gesture that is similar to dry heaving, but not the same. 

If your dog lowers its head and makes a loud gagging or hacking sound, this likely means that it has something stuck in its throat. 

If it’s just a small item like a fragment of treat, the dog can usually dislodge it and be totally fine. If your dog is gagging and coughing repeatedly and having trouble breathing, hurry to an emergency vet.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing can be very alarming to hear, but it does not hurt your dog. 

A dog will begin gasping and gulping while making a loud honking sound through its nose. It might look like your dog is gasping for breath or choking. 

In reality, reverse sneezing will not harm your pet and will go away on its own. 

It is a muscle spasm caused by throat irritants such as pollen or chemicals, food, or even pulling on a leash. 

If you want to help, you can gently massage the dog’s throat and blow on its nose to encourage the dog to swallow, ending the spasm. 

Reverse sneezing is not an issue that usually requires vet treatment.

Identifying Dry Heaving

Dry heaving differs from coughing and reverse sneezing because the motion is triggered from the stomach. 

Gagging is a similar motion but is usually very brief and preceded by a clear trigger. When your dog dry heaves, it will look just like it is trying to vomit, but nothing will come out. 

Dogs can dry heave as part of vomiting, either before or after. They might try to empty their stomach too early, or they empty their stomach and continue trying to vomit. 

If dry heaving is only connected to vomiting, and the vomiting seems normal, this is not a significant cause for concern. If, however, your dog is dry heaving repeatedly without vomiting, this can be a significant medical concern and indicate several possible issues. 

Why Do Puppies Dry Heave?

Puppies and adult dogs share a lot of the same causes for dry heaving. 

Several illnesses such as Bordetella and distemper can cause dry heaving. Puppies should be vaccinated from both these illnesses at six to eight weeks of age. 

Make sure your puppy is up on these vaccinations before taking them around other dogs.

Dry heaving can also be a sign of parvo, or parvovirus, in puppies. Parvo is extremely contagious and deadly. Puppies are the most susceptible to parvovirus and should be vaccinated at six, eight, and twelve weeks of age. 

If your puppy is dry heaving along with a fever, vomiting, weight loss, weakness, and dehydration, contact your vet immediately. 

If you believe your puppy has parvo, take great care not to let the puppy or any of the puppy’s toys, beds, leashes, or food bowls come in contact with other dogs.

If your small puppy is dry heaving with no other signs of illness, there might be a benign reason. Puppies, unlike older dogs, can dry heave as a sign of hunger. 

Make sure that your puppy is being fed an appropriate amount of nutritious food on a regular schedule. 

To calm your puppy’s stomach, you can offer high fat food such as plain Greek yogurt or goat’s milk. If your puppy is being fed regularly with high-quality food but still dry heaving, visiting the vet would be the safest move.

Dry Heaving in Adult Dogs

Repeated dry heaving in adult dogs is a cause for concern. There are many causes, but all of them are fairly serious. 

Addressing this issue with a vet is the best idea since the causes range from moderate to deadly. 

The least serious cause of dry heaving is a stomach issue, such as reflux or intestinal parasites. To evaluate this possibility, consider your dog’s diet, including anything unhygienic they may have eaten in the yard or on walks. 

You can also inspect your dog’s feces for signs of worms. Your dog is not in immediate danger, but stomach problems can cause a lot of discomfort, so it is best to seek treatment.

If your dog hasn’t been to the vet in a long time, or if you recently adopted a dog with an unknown history, it is important to make sure the dog is given the vaccinations it needs. 

A vet will know the required schedule for vaccinations and how to make up for missed vaccinations in the past. 

Dry heaving can be a sign of Bordetella, also known as kennel cough or distemper. These illnesses are contagious, and often dogs without vaccinations won’t be allowed in kennels or other dog gatherings. Treating the dog’s illness and getting up-to-date on vaccinations will make things a lot easier.

Some dogs dry heave in response to a throat blockage that is causing them distress. This could mean that something is stuck in the dog’s throat, even if it is not choking. 

If your dog has recently chewed on or eaten something unusual, this might be a strong possibility. 

Dogs can also get tonsillitis, which causes throat discomfort. Unfortunately, it is also possible that a throat tumor is irritating your dog’s throat. A vet can help you look into the dog’s throat, as well as any testing or surgery necessary for tumor removal.

The most dangerous and deadly cause of dry heaving is known as bloat or gastric dilation-volvulus. 

Unlike bloating in humans, this is considered a surgical emergency and the main reason you should bring a dry heaving dog to the vet just in case. 

A dog’s stomach can become twisted and full of trapped gas and food. As it increases in size and becomes more convoluted, the stomach can get cut off from blood and damage other organs. If your dog has a tender abdomen or is having difficulty moving in addition to dry heaving, get them to a vet straight away. 

Dog health can be a complicated thing. They rely on their humans to keep an eye out and evaluate each symptom. Something very alarming might be harmless, while something relatively benign can be deadly. 

In terms of dry heaving, every possible cause is worth a vet visit, whether to make your dog comfortable, prevent the spread of contagious illnesses, or catch a life-threatening disease.

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