Nausea in Dogs: Reasons and Treatment

If your dog is nauseous, the causes can range from gastric torsion to a coughing fit. Learn how to identify these signs accurately here.
Nausea in Dogs: Reasons and Treatment

Last update: 04 January, 2022

If your dog feels nauseous, it’s very likely that they’ll also gag. However, you need to know how to differentiate this from coughing, because, in dogs, both physiological conditions are very similar. However, sometimes the coughing itself can cause nausea and retching. Find out about nausea in dogs in this article.

In this article, you can also learn about the most common ailments that cause nausea in dogs. We’re sure that this knowledge will be very useful in order to give reliable and accurate information to the veterinarian.

The differences between retching and coughing

When a dog has nausea, it’s very likely to also end up retching, as the purpose of this reflex is to expel the contents of the stomach in case the body signals it as harmful. In this case, we can deduce that the dog is suffering from a digestive disorder.

A dog’s cough is sudden, dry, and has virtually no mucus. With a dog’s cough, only microdroplets, or droplets of saliva, are expelled and perhaps some phlegm or mucus that you may not be able to see, because they can often swallow it.

Nausea, on the other hand, stimulates gagging in the dog. During this process, the animal will open its mouth, and its abdomen will contract, as the stomach will try to empty itself. Sometimes, the dog will only expel a little mucus or even none at all.

Coughing may cause gagging, but when gagging causes coughing, laryngeal problems are suspected.

Nausea in dogs.

Is coughing and gagging a reason to go to the vet?

Dogs, just like humans, gag from time to time. At these times, you’ll see your dog cough and they may gag, but they’re not likely to be experiencing nausea. In other cases, however, there is cause for concern. Here are some scenarios in which to sound the alarm:

  1. The dog doesn’t want to eat or drink.
  2. The gagging doesn’t stop by itself, but the dog doesn’t vomit.
  3. The dog has trouble breathing.
  4. The dog is lethargic.
  5. The dog rests its abdomen on the floor or stretches frequently.

All of these signs indicate that your dog could be suffering from a digestive or respiratory disorder. Therefore, it’s best to go to the vet, because the experts there have the means to assist your dog in case it’s something serious and to make an accurate diagnosis.

If you do a video of your dog coughing or retching, it’ll be very helpful to your veterinarian.

Nausea in dogs

The first thing you think of when a dog is feeling nauseous and retching is that it’s due to some type of digestive disorder, such as gastroenteritis. However, other causes produce this same reflex and should be taken into account. If you want to know more about them, read on.

The presence of foreign bodies

If the dog swallows a sharp object or one that gets stuck in its digestive tract (splinters, fishhooks, spikes, etc.), it may gag to try to expel it, even if it hasn’t reached the stomach. This situation is a veterinary emergency, because the complications that can occur go beyond nausea (such as perforations of the stomach).

You should never try to remove the foreign body on your own – the animal may need to be sedated and specialized equipment may be required.

Pharyngitis and bronchitis

Both these inflammations (of the pharynx and bronchi, respectively) can be reasons for nausea in dogs, as well as retching. Pharyngitis causes gagging due to the inflammation itself, but bronchitis causes nausea due to the incessant coughing that afflicts the animal.

Even if the animal expels something by gagging, it isn’t vomiting as such, just phlegm. In other words, you’ll only see white foam or mucus, never stomach contents.

Tracheobronchitis or kennel cough

This disease is so named because of its ease of transmission, as it was typical to see it in shelters, kennels, and places where several dogs cohabit. As in the two previous cases, tracheobronchitis isn’t a digestive disorder, but ends up causing nausea in dogs as well as vomiting, because of the continuous coughing fits.

You won’t see vomiting of stomach contents, but the dog will expel excess mucus through gagging. Symptoms such as a runny nose and eyes, sneezing and even pneumonia are also common if this condition isn’t treated in time.

Stomach dilatation and twisting

Apart from minor digestive disorders that cause a dog to feel nauseous, there’s a serious and urgent condition that you should know about: stomach dilatation and twisting. In this condition, the stomach apparatus dilates due to gas and fluids and then twists in on itself. This ailment requires urgent veterinary attention. It usually requires surgery and the dog’s life is in danger.

The twisting of the stomach prevents it from emptying properly, as the contractions of the gagging aren’t strong enough to expel it. You’ll see that the dog gags and retches, but isn’t able to vomit anything. As a result, the stomach contents begin to ferment, producing gas, and aggravating bloating.

Motion sickness

Motion sickness, such as when traveling in a car, is another reason for a dog to feel nauseous. It’s very likely to vomit, and, before it does, it’ll feel restless, salivate excessively, and retch.

To prevent this, we recommend that you go to the vet, because there’s medication that can prevent motion sickness. Another measure is to not give the dog any food or water in the few hours prior to the trip.

Laryngeal paralysis

In this pathology, the larynx loses the ability to contract when breathing in, and doesn’t close completely. This, in addition to producing symptoms such as an intolerance to exercise, hoarseness, or wheezing, also means that food and liquids can enter the airways. When this happens, the dog will cough and gag as a result, as the body needs to expel the foreign body.

A dog being sick.

Other reasons can cause nausea in dogs, such as internal parasites, eating grass, bacterial infections, or heart disease. However, it’s important to realize that a visit to the vet is the best solution, as most of these conditions can be treated very effectively if detected in time.

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  • Ibáñez Añón, M., Serrano Casorrán, C., & García Sanz, L. Colapso traqueal, laríngeo y Parálisis Laríngea: Resoluciones quirúrgicas.
  • White, R. S., Sartor, A. J., & Bergman, P. J. (2021). Evaluation of a staged technique of immediate decompressive and delayed surgical treatment for gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs.