Australian Shepherd Gagging: Common Causes + What To Do

Australian Shepherd gagging can be scary and very concerning. Gagging looks like a vomiting motion with a dog having its mouth open but with no expulsion of stomach contents.

It is usually accompanied by a cough and small amounts of mucus may come out, and some Australian Shepherds may swallow again.

So, what causes the Australian Shepherd to gag?

Here’s what you need to know about Australian Shepherd gagging and what you can do to help your Australian Shepherd.

Here’s Why Australian Shepherd Gagging happens

Possible causes of Australian Shepherd gagging include respiratory infections such as kennel cough, sinusitis or rhinitis, foreign objects lodged in the mouth or esophagus, tracheal collapse, laryngeal paralysis, heart disease, and intestinal parasite infection. Recurrent gagging is a cause for concern and requires medical attention.

Australian Shepherd gagging

Australian Shepherd Gagging

Gagging is a reflex contraction of the throat muscles caused by stimulation or irritation of the larynx at the back of the mouth. 

The reflex action is natural protection resulting in rejection of something from being swallowed, preventing choking and also it is triggered by some health conditions.

Simply, gagging is the opposite of swallowing.

The contraction of the throat muscles closes off the entry of the throat and the Australian Shepherd is forced to open their mouth and produce a heaving sound, however, no vomiting occurs.

Only small amounts of mucus may be produced from the mouth during the process.

Gagging in most cases is accompanied by coughing. the Australian Shepherd can either cough first then gag or gag first then cough. This series of symptoms can give an insight into what could be wrong with the Australian Shepherd.

When coughing occurs first before gagging, this is often due to lower respiratory disease or problems which cause bronchitis while gagging before coughing often occurs due to dysfunctions of the larynx.

Australian Shepherd Gagging, Coughing, or Dry Heaving? Which is it?

It can be confusing to distinguish between coughing, dry heaving, and gagging because they somewhat sound the same, however, there is a distinction.

Australian Shepherd gagging is similar to human gagging where the throat muscles contract and spasm, making swallowing or breathing difficulties. It is often accompanied by a cough, before or after.

In comparison to coughing, coughing produces a dry hacking noise or a productive cough with the production of mucus.

Dry heaving is when a Australian Shepherd’s whole body spasms, including the stomach, with a dog being in a vomiting position with its head down, however, nothing comes out in the process.

Recognizing which of the three the Australian Shepherd is experiencing, helps in the identification of the cause and the appropriate action to take.

Read more here on Australian Shepherd coughing to learn about the causes, complications, and when to seek help.


Gagging is a natural reflex that is normal to prevent the Australian Shepherd from swallowing something that may be harmful, such as a foreign object or eating fast which can make food go into the airway.

Gagging in an Australian Shepherd in most cases comes on quickly and goes away as fast, without being non-stop. In this case, it is harmless to a dog.

However, in some cases, it can be recurring or non-stop which is an indication of an underlying problem. When this occurs, the gagging is regarded as an emergency.

Complications of this include serious underlying problems including illness, laryngeal collapse, and obstruction of the esophagus by an object, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Related: Common Causes of Australian Shepherd limping

What to do

When an Australian Shepherd is gagging it may not be immediately a problem. If they continue to go about their day as normal without difficulty in breathing or eating and drinking, as usual, they should be fine.

Monitor them for 48 – 72 hours to observe any behavioral change or continuous gagging.

When to seek help for Australian Shepherd Gagging

When Australian Shepherd gagging is recurrent over a 48 – 72 hour period, this is a medical emergency and requires medical evaluation by a veterinarian. 

Australian Shepherd gagging accompanied by other symptoms is also another indication of a more serious health problem.

Therefore seek medical attention when you observe: 

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Clawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling or panting
  • Lethargy

The veterinarian will conduct a physical exam on your Australian Shepherd and will also conduct various tests to diagnose the cause of the gagging. 

They will also ask you about the additional symptoms you may have observed.

Treatment for Australian Shepherd Gagging

Treatment of Australian Shepherd gagging varies depending on the underlying cause which is determined by the different diagnostic tests conducted.

Depending on the diagnosis, the veterinarian will provide treatment for the health condition identified such as heart disease.

Administration of antibiotics for infections is also provided if the underlying cause is found to be due to infections. 

Anti-inflammatory or cough-suppressing medications may also be prescribed.

Tracheal collapse may be treated through emergency surgery to correct the problem.

the Australian Shepherd with collapsed trachea is provided with cough suppressants, sedatives, and bronchodilators. In severe cases, surgery may also be required to open the airway.

If the gagging is due to a parasitic infection, medication and dewormers are prescribed. 

Gagging due to esophageal obstruction caused by ingestion of an object is treated by the removal of the object to clear the esophagus. 


Do you feel you understand a little bit more about Australian Shepherd gagging? As you can see, some of the causes are not serious because it is a reflex action to protect a dog, however, some underlying causes need medical attention.

If your Australian Shepherd shows any signs of respiratory distress or gagging due to an ingested object, seek medical care immediately.

When in doubt about your dog’s health, it is best to always have your Australian Shepherd examined by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.