Why does my dog keep licking and gagging?

Your pooch is a beloved family member. When you notice odd behavior, it’s natural to worry about your canine companion. It is concerning to see your dog frequently gagging and licking. You are likely wondering why this is occurring, and if you should be worried. 

Why does my dog keep licking and gagging?

Licking is a normal canine behavior. However, gagging is a sign that something is not quite right. When gagging and licking occur together, there are a variety of potential causes. Some of these are minor, while others can be quite serious. 

Naseau

It’s something we’ve all experienced. You feel your stomach begin to flip flop. You feel nauseous or queasy. You may vomit, or gag as if you are about to vomit. 

Dogs can have a similar experience. They will often gag and lick their lips when nauseous. They lick their lips because they produce more saliva than normal when nauseous.

They may also drool or swallow excessively. Other symptoms of nausea include lack of appetite and restlessness.

Just like humans, they will often gag when feeling nauseous as well. The nausea will sometimes lead to vomiting, but not always.  

There are a wide range of causes of nausea in dogs, including dietary indiscretion, changes in diet, and motion sickness. 

Poisoning

One of the most concerning causes of nausea in dogs is poisoning. In addition to nausea, poisoning can cause your dog to lick and gag because the poison irritates their mouth and throat. 

Unfortunately, there are many substances around your home that can be toxic to your pooch. These include plants, household chemicals, and even certain human foods. 

Symptoms of poisoning include agitation, tremors, seizures, and lack of coordination. Gastrointestinal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You may also notice pale gums, oral irritation, and bruising or bleeding. Urinary symptoms can include inability to urinate and kidney failure. 

Hunger

If your pooch begins gagging and licking close to mealtimes, they may simply be hungry. It’s a relief to learn that there’s nothing seriously wrong with your dog. They simply need an adjustment to their diet or eating schedule. 

If your pooch eats normally with no gagging and seems fine after their meal, hunger is the most likely cause. 

Bloat

Bloat is a life threatening condition that begins very suddenly. It occurs when gas builds up in your dog’s stomach. As their food digests, the gas pressure increases. The gas cannot be released. 

If the condition isn’t treated, the stomach can twist. This requires surgery to treat, and will quickly be fatal if not treated.  

The most common symptoms of bloat are gagging without vomiting and excessive drooling. Licking is also common. Their stomach will be visibly swollen, and your dog will clearly be in pain. 

They may also be restless or pace due to the pain. If bloat is severe, they will gag or retch as if trying to vomit, without success. They will not be able to pee, poop, or pass gas. 

Forgein Object

Dogs are experts at sticking things in their mouth. They use their mouth, along with their nose, to explore their world. It’s common for them to mouth things that aren’t edible. Sometimes, they swallow these items. 

The item can become lodged in their throat or esophagus. Your pooch will gag as if trying to bring the object up. They will also lick because their body will produce more saliva. 

Other symptoms your dog has swallowed a foreign object include pawing at their mouth, restlessness or lethargy, difficulty breathing or wheezing sound, and excessive drooling. 

In many cases, you’ll be able to see the foreign object. Open your dog’s mouth. Inspect their mouth and throat. Of course, if the object is lodged in the esophagus or windpipe, it may not be visible. 

Tooth or Mouth Problems

Tooth or mouth problems can also cause your dog to gag and lick frequently. If you’ve ever had a toothache, you can relate. 

If you suspect your pooch has mouth pain, watch for symptoms while they are eating. These include decreased appetite, chewing slower than normal, and dropping food from their mouth while eating. 

They may also experience excessive drooling or pawing at their mouth. It’s a good idea to look in your dog’s mouth if you suspect mouth pain. However, they may cry or pull away when you attempt to touch their mouth.

Irritation of Mouth or Esophagus

This is typically caused by allergies or food intolerances. Have you ever had an allergy cause your mouth or throat to itch? Have you felt a “lump” in your throat? These issues can cause your pooch to gag and lick their lips. 

Common causes include dust, smoke, or unpleasant odors that irritate their mouth or respiratory tract. Food additives or flavors can also cause the issue. 

Acid Reflux 

Just like humans, dogs can experience acid reflux. This occurs when stomach acid comes up into the throat. This causes irritation and swelling in their esophagus. They will swallow frequently in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. 

They may also gag or regurgitate their food. Other signs include difficulty swallowing or pain when eating. 

Laryngitis or Laryngeal paralysis

What to do about my dog licking and gagging?

If your dog is licking and gagging, there are things that you can do. How to help your pooch will depend on the cause of the symptoms. 

Visiting the Vet 

Before we look at things you can do to help your pooch at home, let’s take a look at when you should bring your dog to the vet instead. 

First, it’s important to know when your pooch needs immediate veterinary attention. Poisoning, bloat, and choking on a foreign object are veterinary emergencies. If you suspect one of these is the cause of your dog’s symptoms, the best thing is to bring them to the vet immediately. 

If this isn’t possible, or your dog’s symptoms aren’t severe, there are some things you can do at home. 

Poisonng 

If your dog has eaten something poisonous or toxic, you may induce vomiting. However, you should never induce vomiting if your dog is already vomiting, is unconscious or very lethargic, or the substance is caustic. 

Give one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide 3% for every 5 pounds of body weight. Do not exceed 4 tablespoons for larger dogs. They should begin vomiting within 15 minutes. If they don’t vomit, you can repeat the dosage one time. 

You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 for advice. 

Forgein Object 

If your pooch has swallowed a foreign object, you may be able to remove it yourself. If you can see and reach the object, attempt to pull it out gently. If the object is jagged or sharp, do not attempt to remove it. 

Once the object is removed, it’s a good idea to bring your pooch in for a checkup. They will check the throat and mouth for injury. 

Bloat 

Bloat should not be treated at home. If you suspect your dog has bloat, they need immediate veterinary care. Bloat can be fatal within hours of symptoms beginning.  

Noting and Documenting Symptoms 

Because there are many things that can cause gagging and licking, it can be helpful to document your dog’s symptoms. Write down any information you notice. Does it occur at certain times or under certain conditions? 

How long does it last? Does anything improve the symptoms? Does your dog display any other symptoms? You may find it helpful to video your pooch when they begin gagging and licking. You can then show this to your vet. 

Seeing exactly what is occurring, along with any other information you note, can help your vet make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. 

Make a Vet Appointment 

If you suspect tooth or mouth problems or acid reflux, you should get your pooch checked out by their vet. These issues are not emergencies, but they do require veterinary care. 

Acid reflux can be treated at home with famotide. Give them .5 mg per pound of body weight. A 20 pound dog can take 1 10 emg tablet. The dose can be repeated every 12 hours. 

While this can give your pooch relief from acid reflux symptoms, if it’s an ongoing problem, they should be evaluated by your vet. 

Tooth or mouth problems require veterinary treatment. In the meantime, feed them wet dog food, or soften dry food with water or broth. Mouth pain can cause your pooch to avoid eating, particularly dry food. Offering soft meals will ensure they get the nutrition they need. 

Naseau 

Simple nausea can be treated at home. You can give famotide for nausea as well as acid reflux. Again, the dosage is .5 mg per pound of body weight. 

Pepto bismal is another home remedy for nausea. You can give your pooch 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, up to 4 tablespoons for large dogs. 

Lastly, a bland diet can help calm your pooch’s stomach. Feed them 2 parts of rice to 1 part boiled chicken. After 24 to 48 hours, begin adding their standard food back into their diet. 

Start with 1/4 regular food and 3/4 chicken and rice. Gradually increase the amount of regular food. 

Irritation of Mouth or Esophagus 

If irritation of mouth or esophagus is the issue, it may be relieved by moving your pooch to another area without the irritant. Giving water can provide relief, along with fresh air. If possible, limit or eliminate your dog’s exposure to the irritatant.