Dry Heaves, Retching and Gagging

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    What Are Dry Heaves?

    Dry heaves is a hard gag or attempt to vomit without a discharge. It is an indication of a potentially dangerous condition that requires veterinary attention. Dry heaves may indicate that your pet has internal parasites, internal infection, food allergybloat, liver dysfunction, or has swallowed and ingested a poisonous substance, such as bone meal fertilizer, which is very attractive to dogs who see it as a food source. In other cases, dry heaves might be caused by a head injury or bloat, a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to shock and ultimately, death.


    Dry heaving is a frequent sign of a foreign body in a dog’s esophagus, most common being bones (lamb and pork vertebrae), chicken bones, turkey bones, and beef bones, commercial dried pig ears, piece of cooked chicken breasts, potato, piece of silicone, and sticks. These may lead to potentially fatal complications, so you would be well advised to take your dog to the vet when retching is accompanied by vomiting episodes.5

    Retching could be a sign of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency.1 Selamectin is a topical formulation for dogs and cats that is used for prevention of heartworm and for killing fleas and ear mites. The most common clinical signs following selamectin exposure or overdose include vomiting, drooling, retching, and licking of lips.2 Imidacloprid soft chewable tablets administered for the treatment of flea (Ctenocephalides felis) infestations on dogs and puppies are highly effective with a rapid knockdown effect and rapid elimination. In some animals, imidacloprid may produce vomiting, coughing, gagging, retching, and drooling.3

    Potential Related Diorders

    Gagging, retching, regurgitation and vomiting, along with other lower gastrointestinal signs are present in dogs with brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome seen in:

    or cricopharyngeal dysphagia, a rare swallowing disorder. Although the causes are usually unknown, most cases are thought to be a congenital neuromuscular disorder that results in an inability to transport a normally propelled pharyngeal bolus of food through the upper esophageal sphincter.4,6

    Explore the most common causes of a sudden and unexpected death of dogs that were considered healthy bytheir owners when last seen. The review contains a list of potentially severe diseases and disorders of dogs that do not have clinical signs or become apparent in a very short period of time.


    1. Toresson et al. – Oral Cobalamin Supplementation in Dogs with Chronic Enteropathies and Hypocobalaminemia
    2. Merola et al. – Toxicology of Avermectins and Milbemycins (Macrocylic Lactones) and the Role of P-Glycoprotein in Dogs and Cats
    3. Qureshi et al. – Development Of Advantus™(Imidacloprid) Soft Chewable Tablets For The Treatment Of Ctenocephalides Felis Infestations On Dogs
    4. Caccamo et al. – Glottic And Skull Indices In Canine Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome
    5. Juvet et al. – Oesophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs: Factors Affecting Success Of Endoscopic Retrieval
    6. Langlois et al. – Successful Treatment Of Cricopharyngeal Dysphagia With Bilateral Myectomy In A Dog


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