Why Is My Dog Licking Everything And Gagging? (Vet Tech Explains)

Why Is My Dog Licking Everything And Gagging

For most of us, our pets are part of the family. When something is wrong with our dogs, we feel the same amount of concern as we would for another member of the family. It can be worrisome when your dog starts to do strange things all of a sudden. What if your dog starts to lick and dry heave at the same time?

You’ll probably wonder, why is my dog licking everything and gagging?

If your dog is licking everything and gagging, odds are that they’re feeling nauseous. Nausea will cause dogs to salivate and lick their lips and then gag when they’re about to vomit. Licking and gagging can also be signs of a respiratory infection, a mouth ulcer, a furball, or just an upset stomach.

In this article, we’ll talk about all the reasons why your dog might be licking and dry heaving.

Reasons Why Your Dog Might Be Licking Everything And Gagging

As we mentioned above, it can be concerning when your dog starts to act differently than normal. Some dog breeds just lick a lot, but excessive licking and gagging are definitely weird to observe in your pets.

Usually, it’s not a good sign, and it means that something just isn’t right. Here are some of the things that can explain why your dog has started to do these two things.

1. They’re Nauseous

The most likely explanation for licking and gagging together is nausea.

PetMD lists some of the symptoms of nausea and two of them are licking and retching.  Nausea causes dogs to lick excessively because more saliva is produced when your dog is in the state.   That means that they’ll be licking to help contain their drool. Retching or gagging is another side effect of nausea that is caused by the body feeling as if it needs to expel something in the stomach.

Other symptoms of nausea include drooling, vomiting, gulping, panting, and shaking.

If you think your dog might be licking everything and gagging because they’re nauseous, there are a few things you can do right away. Always pick up your dogs, water, and food as you don’t want them to scarf down more things that might upset their stomach.  Keep an eye on your pet and watch their comfort level.   If they seem to start acting normal again, their nausea has probably passed. On the other hand, if your dog stays nauseous or starts vomiting, it’s probably a good idea to call your veterinarian.

What Causes Nausea In Dogs?

You might be wondering how your dog even got nauseous in the first place.

Well, there are plenty of things that cause our dogs to feel a little sick to their stomachs.   Acute nausea is usually caused by the ingestion of something inappropriate.  That can be anything from table scraps to chocolate to wrap poison that your dog found around the house. Obviously, some of these causes of nausea are worse than others.  It’s important to keep a close eye on nauseous pads and make sure that things don’t escalate.

Some dogs seem to have chronic nausea and become nauseous about once a day.  It’s hard to say what chronic nausea is caused by and it varies from case to case.

2. They Have An Upper Respiratory Infection

Upper respiratory infections are fairly common in dogs.  You may have heard the term “kennel cough.”   Kennel cough is a name for one of the most common respiratory infections passed among dogs. These infections are usually highly contagious and not very dangerous. However, if left untreated, your dog will have some unsatisfactory side effects.

Some of the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection can be excessive, licking and gagging or coughing.   Dogs with a respiratory infection might lick everything because their noses are runny and they’re trying to clean their faces off.    They might also gag or cough because of a buildup of phlegm and their thoughts. Just like us, dogs get a little noisier when they’re sick.

One great way to tell if your dog might have a respiratory infection is to look for signs of congestion.  Are their eyes crusty?   Do they have a cough or snot coming out of their nostrils?  If so, they’re probably a little sick.  Luckily, most respiratory infections are easily treated through antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

3. They’re Licking Something That’s Making Them Sick

I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely had dogs who will eat anything that hits the floor.  Certain breeds like German Shepherds are notorious for licking anything within tongue reach.

Maybe you’ve dropped something on the floor while cooking or cleaning that’s making them sick.  Even though it’s making them sick, they still want to lick it up because that’s just who they are. Naturally, this will cause your dog to lick excessively and gag at the same time.  Although you might wish your furry friend was smarter, the reality is, they might keep licking something that’s making them want to vomit.

You can tell if this is the case with your dog if they’re fixated on licking a particular spot on the floor. Try and get them away from that spot. Give it a quick, wipe down and see if that solves your problem.

4. They Have An Ulcer In Their Mouth

Just like humans, dogs can get oral ulcers or sores in their mouths.

There are plenty of causes of oral ulcers in dogs.  Dental disease from plaque buildup, folds in facial skin, tumors, and kidney disease all put dogs at a higher risk of getting oral ulcers.  So, how do ulcers make dogs lick everything and gag?

Some of the side effects of oral ulcers are drooling and thickened saliva.  As we know, excessive salivation, can you make your dog lick more often than they normally would. It might seem like they are licking just about anything they can get their mouth on.  The gagging might show up as a side effect of the excessive, licking or as a response to the inflamed tissue in your dog’s mouth.

Ulcers are usually treated by addressing the causes of the sore.  Make sure to take your dog in for regular checkups so that a vet can get a look in their mouth at least once a year.

5. They’ve Got A Dog Hairball

Did you know that cats aren’t the only pets who get hairballs? That’s right, a man’s best friend can also get a hairball.

Although a hairball might not cause a dog to lick everything, it’s actually a side effect of a dog who licks themselves a lot. If your dog seems to do a lot of grooming or has been licking a hot spot, they might have accumulated a hairball in their stomach.

Naturally, one of the easiest ways for an animal to get rid of a hairball is to throw it up.  After your dog has gotten a hairball, they’ll likely start to gag and rash as they try to get it out. Some long-haired dog breeds are more at risk for hairballs than others.

Here is some more in-depth information on dog hairballs if you’re interested.

Unfortunately, hairballs can be more dangerous in dogs than and cats. Some dogs even need surgery to remove hairballs. If you notice your dog, licking themselves excessively, try to remember that a hairball might be forming as we speak.

6. They Might Have Pica

Pica is another explanation for why your dog is licking everything and gagging.

According to the University of California Davis, pica is a condition that dogs can develop when they chew and devour non-nutritional items.  These items can be anything from wood to rocks to rubber bands.  As you can imagine, pica has a lot of bad side effects and symptoms. Dogs that consume non-food items are at risk for gastrointestinal perforations, general stomach issues, and potential surgeries.

If your dog has pica, you might notice that they lick everything, even when it’s not food. After they’ve consumed something, you’ll also see that they start to gag. This is because dogs aren’t meant to eat the items that they’re consuming at the time.

Pica can be caused by boredom, stress, anxiety, and many other disorders. If your dog is licking everything, gagging, and consuming inappropriate items, you’ll definitely need to take them to your veterinarian.

What If They’re Vomiting too?

So, your dog is licking everything, gagging, and now they’re also vomiting? That probably means that something is very wrong.

If your dog is vomiting, their body is trying to get rid of something in their stomach. It means that they’re sick, nauseous, or they’ve eaten something bad. Vomiting can quickly turn into an emergency for a dog. If your dog vomits a lot, they will become dehydrated and weak. With all of these symptoms combined, you’ll probably need to go to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Should You Be Worried?

Now that we’ve talked about what might make your dog, lick everything and gag, let’s talk about what you should do.

Unfortunately, if your dog is licking everything and gagging, there’s probably something wrong. Unless your dog has always liked to lick things, excessive, licking is usually a signal of a mental or physical issue.

When licking is accompanied by gagging or coughing, it’s not a good sign. As we mentioned above the combination of these two things is probably caused by nausea, but could be a respiratory infection, a sign of a behavioral disorder, a hairball, or an oral ulcer.

The problems above are all problems that need to be addressed by a veterinarian. For the most part, these issues aren’t emergencies. But, if left untreated, they could lead to serious and long-lasting side effects for your furry friend. Don’t be too worried, but make sure you see a veterinary professional as soon as you can.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hopefully, we’ve given you a good overview of dogs licking and gagging. Now, we’ll answer some commonly ask questions on the subject.

Why Is My Dog Dry Heaving And Licking Everything?

Dry heaving is essentially the same as gagging. If you feel like your dog is dry heaving, that’s really the same implication as a dog who is gagging or coughing. When your dog is dry heaving, they’re trying to throw up but aren’t able to. They’re also looking at the same time you can assume that one of the above issues is going on with your pup.

Why Is My Dog Licking Everything And Throwing Up?

If your dog is licking everything and throwing up, you probably have a more serious issue on your hands. Gagging might just mean your dog has a cough or doesn’t like the taste of something, vomiting is a clear indication of stomach issues.

Vomiting can become an emergency in dogs because it causes them to lose hydration and nutrition quickly. If your dog is licking and throwing up, they’re nauseous at the least and could have a serious stomach issue at the worst.

Why Is My Dog Gagging Randomly?

If your dog is gagging randomly, but not licking everything, there are plenty of other issues that could be going on.

Dogs that gag can have issues with their throats. Some causes of random gagging are things like acid, reflux, esophagus diseases, trachea diseases, foreign bodies, or masses. And, of course, a dog that gags randomly could also have something stuck in their throat. Because excessive gagging can cause airway and breathing issues, this situation is classified as an emergency.

Final Thoughts

It’s not normal for dogs to lick everything and gag.   Sadly, if your dog is doing this often, that means something is very wrong. Luckily, the most common cause of these two symptoms is nausea.   Nausea is pretty easy to treat once you find the cause.  Less likely causes of licking and gagging in dogs include pica, respiratory infections, oral ulcers, and behavioral issues.

If you notice your dog doing anything, we’ve mentioned above, it definitely warrants a visit to your veterinarian.  Help them figure out what’s wrong with your pet make sure you keep track of what dog is licking and when and how often they are gagging.  Hopefully, you’ll get an answer and a treatment in no time.

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