Licking is a common behavior that your furry friends exhibit. Gagging, too, is a natural reflex action they display. They explore their surroundings using their mouths. As a result, they are bound to lick something weird that makes them gag instantly.
So if your dog licks and gags once in a while, it is not a behavior that requires an emergency vet visit.
If your dog is excessively licking and gagging is a reoccurring action, then the cause needs to be investigated. The reason could be your dog’s eating style, routine, or a medical issue that may require the vet’s attention.
So, if you are wondering why my dog keeps licking everything and gagging and what I can do in such situations, the article will provide you with answers.
Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Everything And Gagging?
Dogs lick themselves or their offspring for grooming purposes. They may try to relieve irritation, discomfort, or pain with licking.
Smelling and licking are also ways dogs explore their surroundings. Your dog could lick something it should not, for example, a wooly blanket, and gag when the fibers enter its throat. On other occasions, it could be health or behavioral issues that may cause licking and gagging.
Here is why your dog could be licking everything and gagging.
Being nauseous is a weird feeling. Your stomach feels different; you may want to vomit, and you may also feel disoriented. Dogs go through a similar experience. Nausea can be linked to simple causes like the dog gulping down the food too fast, over-eating, or motion sickness.
If the dog eats something spoiled or an allergen such as ice cream or licked a table that you freshly wiped with a cleaning agent, it could feel nauseous.
Licking and gagging could be the dog’s way to get some relief. After gagging for some time, the dog may or may not vomit. If it shows symptoms like restlessness, loss of appetite, drooling, and lethargy, please contact the vet.
Your dog could be hungry. Licking everything, it can lay its eyes on, and gagging could be its way of telling you it is feeding time. It is important to give dogs predictability when it comes to food. They can develop destructive behaviors like eating non-food items if they are left hungry often.
Ideally, it would be best to feed dogs two meals a day. The interval between them should not exceed 12 hours. However, puppies would do better with three meals a day. Your vet can better prepare a customized meal routine for the dog.
If you are not around to feed the dog and it often goes longer hours without food, its stomach can become hyper acidic. As a result, it could get nauseous and start licking and gagging.
3. Skin Conditions
Your dog may excessively lick itself if it suffers from a skin condition. For example, if the dog is dealing with a flea infestation, it will lick the areas that have become itchy. You may see other symptoms like scratching, hair loss, redness, and scabs.
Your dog’s sensitive skin also has to deal with bacterial, yeast, and fungal infections. If it has caught an infection, its skin can become itchy and irritated. You will see reddish-brown discharge along with hair loss.
Home remedies such as oatmeal baths, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda may temporarily relieve the itching. But the skin irritation and licking will continue until the infection is not treated.
The vet will take skin samples and run skin culture and follicle tests to determine the organisms affecting the dog’s skin. Then accordingly, the vet will provide an antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasitic, or steroid medication.
4. Foreign Body
In general, your canine friends are curious. They will sniff and lick, trying to make sense of their environment.
As you cannot leave small knick-knacks around a baby, you cannot do so with dogs as well. There is a risk that they can gobble up some small object. This object may pass through the dog’s system and get stuck in its throat or somewhere down in the digestive tract.
If any foreign object is stuck in your dog’s throat, it will lick to generate saliva and gag to get rid of the object. Also, fibers from your blankets or upholstery can irritate the dog’s throat.
If your dog lacks essential nutrients in its diet, it will try to eat non-edible items like stones, dirt, and sticks. The condition is known as pica. Treatment for the condition can involve medications and behavioral training.
If your dog is hurt, it will lick the area to soothe the pain. However, some injuries may be visible and show obvious symptoms like swelling, redness, bleeding, or discharge.
In other cases, the injuries could be intrinsic or hidden below all that hair. For example, your dog’s joints and bones could be in pain because of health issues like arthritis.
Carefully examine the areas the dog is licking. See if there is a change in its gait or is it limping. Or does the dog whimper when you touch the area.
If it is a small wound, you can clean and treat it yourself. If the joints are swollen or the dog is in too much pain, visiting the vet would be best.
Read More: Why Is My Dog Licking The Air
6. Kennel Cough
This is a respiratory infection wherein the dog first coughs with a loud goose-like sound and then gags. A dog can catch this cough from other infected animals. The cough can spread through airborne droplets or by drinking and eating from a contaminated source.
Most cases of mild kennel cough resolve without treatment in about 1 to 2 weeks. The infected dog, though, must be kept away from other animals. The gagging may become worse before the symptoms subside.
If the coughing and gagging are severe, the vet may prescribe cough medication to ease the symptoms. Vaccines are available, but they do not protect against all variants causing the cough.
7. Behavioral Issues
If there is no physical issue with the dog, the reason for licking and gagging could be behavioral. For example, your dog could be stressed or bored, and licking everything would be its way to cope.
Do you always react positively ad shower the dog with attention when it licks you? Then licking could be an attention-seeking behavior.
If the dog excessively grooms itself, it can lead to hairballs in its throat. It will try to get rid of the irritating substance with gagging.
8. Laryngeal Paralysis
This is a common respiratory condition in dogs that affects their upper airways. The dog will have difficulty breathing deeply and will gag as a response.
The cause and symptoms of this paralysis can vary widely. The condition often found in middle-aged to senior dogs could result from trauma, tumors, or hormonal diseases. Some dog breeds that can have the condition in the congenital form are Siberian Huskies, Dalmatians, and Bull Terriers, among others.
Coughing, gagging, and shortness of breath are the initial symptoms. If the dog shows chronic gagging, a test done by the vet can lead to an early diagnosis.
Treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs, medications, and surgery in severe cases.
9. Other Health Conditions
Licking and gagging could point to several other health conditions, depending on the accompanying symptoms.
For example, if the dog suffers from a heart ailment, it will have chronic gagging along with symptoms like coughing, rapid breathing, reduced activity level, and exercise intolerance.
If the dog is dealing with roundworm infestation, it will cough, gag, and even vomit. The worm larvae can find their way into the dog’s lung and make breathing a difficult activity.
And if the dog particularly licks one area on its body, it could be an indicator of a health issue. For example, liking of the genital area could point to a urinary tract infection.
In unspayed dogs, excessive licking of the vulva could be an infection.
How Can I Help My Dog From Licking And Gagging?
Now that we have gone through the reasons why my dog keeps licking everything and gagging let us see what you can do in such situations.
1. Check Your Dog’s Physical Condition
If the dog’s licking and gagging keep reoccurring, then you should start by checking its physical condition.
Check the dog’s mouth, and see if there is anything stuck in its teeth or throat. If you can see any foreign object, remove it carefully. If not, a vet visit will be necessary. Do it with the help of another person, as you do not want the dog to bite you accidentally.
Check the dog’s coat and skin if the dog is licking itself. See if you can see any creepy crawlies or visible signs of skin infection. A wound hidden below your dog’s fluffy coat could also be the issue.
Causes like injury or skin infections often leave behind signs that you can identify with a simple physical examination.
2. Check for Additional Symptoms
Dogs can lick random objects and gag when the object tastes weird or micro-particles or fiber get stuck in their mouth or throat. If this happens occasionally and your dog seems fine at other times, you can attribute the licking and gagging to its natural behavior.
But if the pet excessively licks and the gagging is chronic, then it is often accompanied by additional symptoms. For example, in case of nausea, the dog may feel lethargic, drool, and even vomit. In the case of kennel cough, it will make a distinctive goose-like sound while coughing.
If, along with licking and gagging, you notice any behavior that is different from the usual, then please note down the symptoms and visit the vet.
3. Consult with the Vet
If the cause of licking and gagging are hairball stuck in the dog’s throat, laryngeal paralysis, kennel cough, or behavioral issues, they do not require emergency vet visits. But, it would be best if you set a vet appointment as soon as possible and not delay treatment.
If the dog is in pain, has swallowed a non-digestible object, or is showing signs of extreme nausea, it is best to contact the vet immediately. The vet will perform tests depending on the clinical signs and information you provide.
4. Plan for Diet and Exercise
Make a proper routine for your dog’s diet and exercise. Do not let it go for longer periods without food. If you feed the dog irregularly, it may overeat as it does not know when it will be fed the next time. So set a schedule and give the dog predictability.
Ensure it has a balanced diet. If you are confused about what diet to feed your pet, please consult the vet.
Take the dog for walks and runs, and give it toys and puzzles to keep it mentally stimulated. Dogs often develop destructive behaviors if they are bored or anxious. A simple walking routine can keep it both physically and mentally healthy.
Are you wondering why my dog keeps licking everything and gagging? The reasons could be something simple like hunger, overeating, or eating too fast. These habits can make the dog nauseous. If cloth fibers, pollen, or dust lodge in the dog’s throat, gagging could be a reflexive action to get relief.
If the dog continues to show this behavior, it could be suffering from a skin infection, injury, arthritis, kennel cough, laryngeal paralysis, or heart condition. It could also be a result of behavioral issues.
If you notice additional symptoms like skin redness, discharge, chronic gagging, pain, limping, or difficulty breathing, please contact the vet.
Meet John Patterson, an accomplished Dog Trainer and a dedicated advocate for building strong human-canine relationships.With years of experience as a Professional Dog Trainer, John firmly believes that well-trained dogs are a reflection of patient guidance and unwavering care. Beyond his training skills, he finds solace in grooming and playing with dogs, nurturing their physical and emotional well-being.