Your Why does my older dog keep gagging? A Step-by-Step Guide

Laryngeal Paralysis

If your dog is both coughing and gagging, laryngeal paralysis is a likely cause. This illness is also especially common in labrador retrievers as they get older.

You can read about other common labrador health conditions here.

It occurs when the dog loses control of the muscles and nerves that manage their laryngeal function.

They can still breathe, but not as much air is passing through their larynx and into their lungs as normal. They might cough or gag to try and let more air through.

Symptoms most often appear when they are eating, excited, or exercising. The symptoms tend to gradually worsen over time.

There are several surgical options available to alleviate this problem.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog’s Cough?

If your dog lets out the occasional cough, this is nothing to be worried about you. Just like with you, something has entered the breathing pathways that shouldn’t be there, and they are getting it out.

When Is Coughing Serious Enough to See Your Vet?

You might be wondering if your dog’s cough or gagging is serious enough to justify a visit to your veterinarian.

It can be hard to know as an owner when a cough is serious enough to warrant veterinary attention. A dog may occasionally cough to clear their throat or if something irritates them. That’s usually not a cause for concern. However if a cough becomes persistent, lasts more than 2 days, or becomes more frequent or severe, then veterinary attention is required. A cough is always serious if it comes with breathing diffiulties, if your dog is generally unwell in themselves or if they are coughing up large amounts of phlem or blood.

As a general rule, if your dog is still bright in themselves and eating and drinking as normal it may be okay to just monitor their cough, as long as it isn’t happening too frequently. Since coughing can be a symptom of a serious ailment, it’s important to be cautious and take your dog to the veterinarian if you are unsure about what to do.

It’s important to be prepared for the basic questions your vet will want to ask about your old dog’s coughing or gagging. Being able to answer your vet’s questions will help improve diagnosis and ultimately solve the issue faster for your canine friend. Questions may include:

  • How can you describe the cough? (choking, gagging, retching, gasping or throat clearing noise, etc?) – it may not even be a cough at all!
  • How frequent is the cough? Is coughing on a daily basis, several times per day?
  • How long has coughing been going on?
  • Are there any other symptoms associated with the cough such as breathing issues?
  • Is the cough productive – i.e. does your dog bring anything up when they cough?
  • Does the cough appear to come more from the throat or chest?
  • Does anything trigger the cough? Or does it happen in a specific environment?
  • Why Does My Dog Keep Gagging?

    When a dog coughs or gags, it could signal a simple throat irritation or a serious illness. Learn why dogs cough or gag and how to help your pup feel better when it happens.

    Coughing is a natural process – it helps to clear irritants like dust, pollen, or mucus from the airway. Occasional coughing in your dog is not a cause for concern. But excessive coughing can be a sign of illness in dogs – such as heart disease, infection, or a breathing obstruction – and some of these ailments can be life-threatening. Read on to learn about the different types of coughing in dogs and what you can do to take care of your canine loved one.