A gagging puppy can cause panic in an owner, who may not be sure how to handle the puppy's needs or distress. Gagging can be confused with choking, it's important to establish whether a dog is gagging and coughing, or choking on an object before deciding what to do.
What to Do When a Puppy Is Gagging
Identifying the Cause
A gagging puppy could be gagging because it has a piece of food or other item stuck in its throat, or because the puppy is sick. If a puppy gags regularly in brief spurts, it is probably ill and needs medical attention. If a puppy is eating, chewing on a bone, or any potential exists that something is in the puppy's mouth, it's possible the puppy is gagging because it's choking. If the puppy seems to be struggling for air, or not making any noise, it is probably choking. If the gagging resembles a cough and starts and stops, the puppy is likely sick.
A choking dog requires its owner to be calm and not panic so that the situation can be addressed and treated. If it's safe, examine the puppy's mouth by holding open its jaws and pulling the tongue forward to determine if any items are visibly lodged in the puppy's throat. If it seems safe, reach in and pull out the stuck item. If an item is too far back or not visible, hold 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 puppy's mouth and clear any debris. If necessary, repeat the chest thrusts. Call an emergency animal clinic hotline.
If gagging occurs frequently, the puppy is probably sick with kennel cough or a similar respiratory infection. Coughing caused by infection is sometimes accompanied by a foamy vomit. A puppy with kennel cough should be kept away from other dogs; kennel cough is highly contagious, the puppy should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment.
Seeing a Veterinarian
A veterinarian can treat a dog that is gagging due to an infection 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 it recuperates.