A gagging puppy can cause panic in a dog owner, who may not be sure how to handle the puppy's needs or distress. Gagging can be confused with choking or retching. In order to seek the appropriate medical attention, it is important to establish whether a dog is gagging and coughing or choking on a foreign object.
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Common causes of dog gagging
A gagging puppy could be gagging because they have a piece of food or other item stuck in their throat or because the puppy is sick. If a puppy gags regularly in brief spurts or the gagging resembles a cough that starts and stops, they are probably ill and need medical attention.
If a puppy is eating, chewing on a bone or toy, or any potential exists that something is in the puppy's mouth, it's possible the puppy is gagging because they are choking. If the puppy seems to be struggling for air, turning blue, or not making any noise, they are probably choking on a foreign object.
Dog choking is different than gagging
A choking dog requires their owner to be calm and not panic so that the situation can be addressed and treated. If it's safe, examine the dog's mouth by holding open their jaws and pulling the tongue forward to determine if any foreign objects are visibly lodged in the dog's throat. If it seems safe, reach in and pull out the stuck item.
If an item is too far back into the esophagus or not visible, perform the Heimlich maneuver. Start with holding the dog's spine against your chest. Make a fist and place it against your dog's abdomen where the sternum ends. Grasp your fist with your other hand and make five rapid thrusts inward and upward. Then, check the dog's mouth and clear any debris. If necessary, repeat the abdomen thrusts. Call an emergency animal clinic hotline immediately.
What to do if the puppy loses consciousness
If your puppy loses consciousness, they were likely choking. Check to see if they're breathing and feel or listen for a heartbeat. You can check for a pulse on their inner thigh. If your puppy has lost consciousness, you need to take them to an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.
If you have a second person with you, one person should call ahead to give the clinic a heads up and drive while the other person begins CPR on the way. There are pet CPR and first-aid courses offered for pet parents. Consider getting certified so you know what to do before an emergency presents itself.
How to perform canine CPR
If your puppy loses consciousness they were likely choking. Check to see if they're breathing and feel or listen for a heartbeat. You can check for a pulse on their inner thigh. If your puppy has lost consciousness you need to take them to an emergency veterinary hospital immediately. If you have a second person with you one person should call ahead to give the clinic a heads up and drive while the other person begins CPR on the way. There are pet CPR and first aid courses offered for pet parents, consider getting certified so you know what to do before an emergency presents itself.
Dog kennel cough can be a serious illness
If gagging occurs frequently, the puppy is probably sick with bordetella, commonly known as kennel cough, or a similar respiratory infection. Coughing caused by infection is sometimes accompanied by foamy vomit, a runny nose, reverse sneezing, or a honking sound.
A puppy with kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs. Kennel cough is highly contagious, and the puppy should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment. Your puppy may have picked up kennel cough if they visited a groomer, day care, boarding facility, dog park, or anywhere that has a large group of dogs in close proximity to each other.
Tracheal collapse in older dogs
Typically, collapsed tracheas are seen in older dogs. However, some small dog breeds are predisposed to the medical condition. A common symptom is a honk or gagging sound. Tracheal collapse should be diagnosed by a veterinarian, as it can sometimes be associated with heart disease or other health issues and will require checkups.
Seek medical attention if your puppy is gagging
If a dog is gagging and having difficulty breathing due to an infection, a veterinarian can treat them with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine. The antibiotics will help rid the puppy of the infection, and the anti-inflammatory medicine can open the puppy's airways to help ease irritation and allow the puppy to breathe easier while they recuperate.
There are many medical conditions or common reasons for a puppy to gag. It is important to know the difference between coughing, choking, and gagging. If your puppy is having trouble breathing, they need immediate veterinary assistance. If they are gagging or have a persistent cough, they should see a veterinarian to rule out kennel cough or other infectious health issues. To be better prepared in the event of an emergency, attend a pet first-aid course being offered in your area.