Why Is My Dog Gagging and Coughing Up White Foam?

why is my dog gagging and coughing up white foam
Written by Graeme Hall

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It can be concerning when your furry friend begins to gag and cough up white foam. While this can be a common occurrence, it’s important to understand the underlying reasons why it’s happening. In some cases, it can just be a harmless reaction to something your dog ate or drank, but in other cases, it could actually be a sign of a more serious underlining health issue.

One possible cause of dogs throwing up white foam is kennel cough. This highly contagious respiratory infection is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria and can be easily spread among dogs in close proximity to each other. Another possible cause is an obstruction in the airway, such as a foreign object or tumor, which can lead to difficulty breathing and coughing up foam.

If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, I strongly recommend that you consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. 

Understanding Your Dog Is Throwing Up White Foam

I know it can be concerning to see your dog coughing and throwing up white foam. While it’s never a pleasant sight, it’s important to understand what’s causing these symptoms.

Firstly, it’s important to note that gagging and coughing are not the same thing. Gagging is the reflexive contraction of the back of the throat, while coughing is the forceful expulsion of air from the lungs. Dogs may gag or cough for a variety of reasons, including lung infections, allergies, and foreign objects lodged in the throat.

However, when it comes to white foam, this can be a sign of a more serious issue. A dog vomiting white foam is often indicative of an upset stomach, which could be caused by a variety of factors, such as eating something toxic or spoiled food, gastrointestinal issues, or even stress. 

If your dog is coughing up a white foamy substance, take note of any other symptoms they may be experiencing, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, mucus, or upper respiratory problems. Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a more serious issue that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Common Causes

There are a few reasons why this might be happening. In this section, I will cover some of the most common causes of why your dog is vomiting white foam.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a highly contagious canine disease that is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. Dogs with kennel cough often have a dry, hacking or honking cough that can also be accompanied by gagging and retching. The cough can be triggered by excitement, exercise, or pressure on the trachea. Other symptoms of kennel cough include nasal discharge, sneezing, and fever.

Bloat or Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid and then twists on itself. This can cause the dog to gag and retch, and they may also drool and vomit white foam. Other symptoms of bloat include a distended abdomen, restlessness, and rapid breathing. Bloat is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Foreign Object Obstruction

Dogs are curious creatures and can sometimes ingest foreign objects that can cause an obstruction in their digestive system. This can lead to gagging, retching, and vomiting white foam. Common objects that dogs ingest include bones, toys, and rocks. Other symptoms of a foreign object obstruction include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and lethargy.


Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines that can be caused by a variety of factors, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Your dog might be vomiting if suffering from gastroenteritis, have diarrhea, and lose their appetite. Other symptoms that might be present include lethargy and abdominal pain.

Heart Disease

Heart disease can cause coughing and gagging in dogs. This is because the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, causing fluid to build up in the lungs. Dogs with heart disease may start coughing white foam, have difficulty breathing, and become tired easily. 

Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can cause a dog to cough. Dogs with respiratory diseases may cough up white foam, have difficulty breathing, and tire easily. Other common symptoms include nasal discharge and fever.

Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases, such as distemper, influenza, and parvovirus, can cause coughing and gagging in dogs. Dogs with infectious diseases may vomit white foam, have diarrhea, and lose their appetite.

Identifying Symptoms

Physical Symptoms

As a pet parent, it can be concerning to see your furry friend gagging and spitting up white foam. The physical symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Vomiting: Your dog may vomit white foam, which is usually caused by excess saliva mixed with stomach acid.
  • Nausea: Your dog may feel nauseous and may show signs of drooling or licking their lips excessively.
  • Lethargy: Your dog may be less active or may appear tired or weak.
  • Loss of appetite: Your dog may refuse to eat or may eat less than usual.
  • Dehydration: Your dog may become dehydrated if they are not drinking enough water due to vomiting or diarrhea.

Behavioral Changes

In addition to physical symptoms, you may notice that your dog is also exhibiting behavioral changes. These may include:

  • Weakness: Your dog may not be able to stand or may have difficulty walking.
  • Diarrhea: Your dog may have loose stools or diarrhea.
  • Cough suppressants: Your dog may cough frequently, which can lead to gagging and vomiting.
  • Gas: Your dog may experience flatulence or excessive gas.

If you suspect your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Diagnostic Procedures

Physical Examination

When a dog is coughing up white foam, a veterinarian will typically start with a physical examination. During this examination, the veterinarian will observe the dog’s behavior and breathing patterns whilst looking for any signs of distress. They will also listen to the dog’s heart and lungs, check for any lumps or bumps, and examine the dog’s mouth and throat.


If the physical examination does not provide a clear diagnosis, the veterinarian may recommend radiographs. Radiographs, also known as X-rays, can help identify any abnormalities in the dog’s lungs, trachea, or esophagus. This diagnostic procedure is non-invasive and can normally be performed relatively quickly.

Blood Work

Blood work is another diagnostic procedure that a veterinarian may recommend. Blood tests can help identify any underlying health conditions that may be causing the dog’s symptoms. 


If the above diagnostic procedures do not provide a clear diagnosis, a veterinarian may recommend an endoscopy. An endoscopy involves inserting a small camera into the dog’s throat to examine the esophagus, trachea, and lungs. This diagnostic procedure is more invasive than the previous ones and may require sedation.

Treatment Options


The vet may prescribe medications to help relieve the cause of coughing. These medications may include antibiotics to treat any underlying infections, anti-nausea medications to help with vomiting, and even mild sedatives to help your dog relax.


In some rare cases, surgery may be necessary to remove any foreign objects that may be causing your dog to gag and cough up white foam. This may include objects that have become lodged in your dog’s throat or esophagus.


If your dog’s condition is severe, they may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluids and close monitoring. Hospitalization may also be necessary if your dog needs oxygen therapy or other specialized treatments.

Oxygen Therapy

In cases where your dog is having difficulty breathing, oxygen therapy may be necessary. This may involve the use of an oxygen mask or oxygen cage to help your dog breathe more easily.

It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely when it comes to treating your dog’s vomiting. With proper treatment and care, your dog can make a full recovery and return to their normal happy, and healthy self.

Preventive Measures

Regular check-ups, vaccinations, and heartworm prevention are essential to keep your canine buddy healthy and prevent them from becoming sick.

Regular Check-Ups

As a responsible pet owner, it is essential to take your dog for regular check-ups with the veterinarian. During these visits, the vet can examine your dog’s overall health, including their respiratory system, and detect any underlying health issues that might be causing your dog’s problems.


Vaccinations are crucial to prevent your dog from contracting various diseases that can cause respiratory problems. Ensure that your dog is up-to-date on all their vaccinations, including the kennel cough vaccine, which is highly contagious and one of the reasons your dog might be coughing.

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can cause dogs to cough and vomiting up white foam. Regular heartworm prevention medication can protect your dog from this disease. It is essential to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and administer the medication on time to ensure maximum protection.

A Few Final Words On Causes Of White Foam

If you see that your dog coughing up white foam, it is important to take them to the veterinarian immediately. This could be a sign of a serious health issue, such as an infection, respiratory problem, or even heart disease.

During your visit to the vet, they will likely perform a physical exam and run some tests to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s symptoms. Depending on the diagnosis, they may prescribe medication, recommend lifestyle changes, or suggest further treatment options.

Remember, your dog cannot speak, so It is important to note that prevention is key when it comes to your pet’s health. Regular visits to the vet, a balanced diet, exercise, and proper hygiene can all help keep your dog healthy and prevent health issues from arising.

In addition, being aware of your dog’s behavior and any changes in their habits or symptoms can help you catch potential health problems early on. If you notice anything unusual or concerning, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your vet.

Overall, taking care of your pet’s health should be a top priority. By staying informed and proactive, you can help ensure that your furry friend lives a long, healthy, and happy life.

About the author

Graeme Hall

Graeme is the founder of Doggytastic! which is where he blogs about dog training, health, nutrition and anything else related to keeping a dog happy and healthy. Want to know a little bit more? Make sure to check out his full bio.