Dog gulping and swallowing

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    Hello! I’ll apologize in advance for the length of this post.

    We adopted an Australian Cattle Dog (Quincy) at the end of July. He is a year-and-a-half old neutered male, and we were told he was given up due to not being housebroken. I am beginning to suspect that the real reason may have be what I can only describe as his gulping disorder.

    For the first two weeks at home he was totally fine. We switched him from Science Diet to Merrick Lamb and Rice, which he gets twice a day. We did have to board him about two weeks after adopting him due to a family wedding, and it was after this that he started his first episode of gulping/swallowing. Usually at night, he will begin frantically swallowing and gulping. Quincy will frantically search the house for carpet fibers to pull up, and will eventually vomit and then re-eat his food if we don’t get to it in time. This went on for about a week the first time – we brought him to the vet, they said he looked fine, and that it was probably just all the changes in his life. I did give him a gas-x one night, because he was swallowing so much air I was concerned about bloat. He ate some carpet this first time, when I fell asleep with him out of his kennel (he normally sleeps in bed with us, but when he is having these bouts I have learned to kennel him so that he can’t get into anything). He threw the carpet up about 3 days after that.

    At that point, we thought he just had a sensitive stomach. So, when we switched his food again (our other dog has an iron stomach, and had done well with us rotating food, so we already had a bag of grain-free salmon from Nutrisource), we weren’t all surprised when the symptoms started up again. This time I gave him a couple of doses of pepto-bismol to ease his tummy troubles, and about 6 days later he stopped vomiting. I should note – when he vomits, it seems associated with these bursts of gulping/swallowing/licking. I thought it was him having an upset stomach and panicking about it, but the vet thought it was odd that he is willing to eat his vomit right away, and that a nauseous dog wouldn’t do that? I am beginning to think that the actual issue is the gulping/swallowing, and the vomiting may be a side effect of that, rather than the other way around.

    I switched him to rice and boiled chicken, and he seemed to get better. We put him back on Merrick (chicken and rice this time, because they were out of lamb and rice), and he did fine for about a week. Then last week, he threw up again (he had had a minor bout of swallowing, but nothing like he normally gets). We fasted him for 36 hours, and brought him to the vet. Again, his stool and activity is normal. The vet gave him an anti-nausea shot, and sent us home with some anti-nausea pills and canned science diet ID (for gastro-intestinal health). He was fine for about 3 days, and then last night had one of his worst bouts of swallowing/gulping yet. He didn’t throw up at all (that I know of, I did fall asleep for a little while), but did try to eat a rope toy. I kenneled him for the night, and this morning he ate grass like crazy.

    His bouts tend to start at night when we’re going to bed, and he works himself up into a frenzy. Once it starts, it tends to last for multiple days, and kenneling him seems to work to calm him down a little. Our other dog (LoJack) has been totally fine through all of this. They are never outside without my supervision, and he doesn’t get human food (except for the two occasions he has stolen it off of the counter). I haven’t been feeding treats for a few weeks now, but tonight had to give him some zukes at training class. The only other thing would be that he did start HeartGuard and Frontline, but both of those started after his initial attacks. One last thing I should mention is that he plays a LOT with my other dog, and they usually wrestle and play tug of war every night before bed, but will often stop for >2 hours before going to bed. I haven’t felt like there was any correlation between them playing and one of these attacks. When we walk he is on a gentle leader or harness, but he is on his collar when on his tie-out in the yard. I remove the dog’s collars when they’re wrestling so that they don’t hurt each other.

    Has anyone dealt with similar symptoms? What did you do? My Internet searches have found that others have this issue but I haven’t found anyone who has solved it. We will probably do blood work and an X-ray next to rule out anything normal, but I want opinions from others on possible nutritional changes that could help. I refuse to switch to science diet unless I absolutely must. I’m considering trying raw, but currently scared of anything that might upset him, since I’ve been cleaning vomit for the past month it seems! I do natures variety raw with my cat, and our other dog has been on grain free nutrisource or merrick for the past year.

    Thanks for any advice, I appreciate it!



    First question. Do you feed at the same time every day? How many hours after feeding does this occur? Have you tried giving multiple small meals? This does sound like a digestion issue. He sounds like he is having some kind of stomach pain.

    Try multiple small meals. Try adding digestive enzymes to each meal. Try giving him a probiotic supplement. Try feeding at a different time. Try feeding at a time when he will not be able to play afterwards. Try adding water to his food. Try a grain free food.

    It may take some detective work to figure this out. Sorry I don’t have any definite answers.



    Can you video the gulping episode next time it happens? That might help the vet figure out whats happening.



    Thanks for the responses!

    We feed at about 6:45am and 6pm every day. They were on Merrick lamb and rice, but he is now on I/D canned food. It occurs about 4 hours after dinner, but again, not every night. And once it starts, he will do it during the day and all night as well, until he gets randomly better. We started a calendar now so I am keeping track of food, exercise and gulping and vomiting episodes to find a pattern.

    I will try your suggestions for sure, thanks!

    And I do have a video on my phone for our next vet visit, but I am first trying a strict week of the canned food with water to make it soupy, and nothing else. We will see how it goes.



    Hi Molzy,

    I don’t know if you came across this as possibly being a seizure disorder but I found a few references describing behavior like you are seeing that were diagnosed as a form of seizure. You may want to ask your vet about this.

    “Clinical signs commonly associated with sialadenosis included retching and gulping…… Response to treatment with phenobarbital was rapid, although most dogs required continuous treatment to prevent recurrence of clinical signs.”

    The dog’s pupils were dilated, and it protruded and retracted its tongue frequently while swallowing or gulping(“glugging”). The dog ingested clumps of hair and other debris lying on the floor and tore up and ingested a portion of the linoleum flooring in the kitchen.

    Bouts of the behavior had increased in frequency in the 2 months preceding examination and
    tended to occur in the evening….. provisional diagnosis of partial seizure disorder was made on the basis of the clinical signs.

    Hope this helps Good Luck



    Hi Molzy-
    Unfortunately, I do not have any advise for you. But, I’m really hoping that you find a solution. This dog is so lucky that your family rescued him. A lot of families probably would have returned him by now. I have no doubt that you will be successful at getting him better. I’m wishing you the best!



    Thanks for the advice everyone! So far he’s been ok on canned foot, I am currently working on switching him over to Chicken Soup cans, and if that works I will start considering raw.

    Aimee, I have heard that it may be seizure related, or allergy induced seizures. I will ask my vet about it. I’ve found I can talk him out of an attack if I catch him at the beginning. The wet diet seems to be helping a lot.

    Thanks again for your advice!



    Thanks for keeping us updated. Hope he continues to do well.



    Hi. Sadly, I know exactly what you are talking about. The wretching and gagging and swallowoing. It is the worst thing to watch. I’m lucky enough to live near a vet school. After thousands of dollars in tests, 5 different types of medicine and a prescription vet diet, I thought my lab mix was on the mend. Then it happened again one night after I saw sympotoms during the day for a few weeks previously. Very long story short (about 1.5 years of vet visits), the only thing that helped him was Chinese herbs. I went to a Comparative Medicine Dr at the vet school and she diagnosed him right away and tried acupuncture but said he needed too many sessions, it wasn’t feasible. She then prescribed him Chinese herbs in the form of teapills and he has not had another session (knock on wood!!!). The teapills started working in about one day. Every once in a while, we still deal with episodes of swallowing BUT nothing like what used to happen. It is pretty infrequent and manageable. He is still on a motility drug twice a day but the Dr hopes that we will get to the point, with the right diet, where we only manage flare ups and he isn’t regularly on any drug.
    This is the worst, most heart breaking thing to watch. Good luck to you. I’d get to a Chinese Med Dr asap.



    Thanks mmt. So, was your dog diagnosed with a specific condition? I live in a small town, and for the first time in 25 years I am not near a vet school. I don’t think my chances of finding a Chinese doctor around here are great, but I can try to bring him to one the next time I’m visiting my mom in the big city!

    The wet food appears to be helping for now. He did throw up once in the last week. Nottingham sure if he ate something I didn’t see or what. Otherwise we’ve only had some swallowing, no gulping.

    Sorry to hear you’ve been through this, it sucks watching them panic!



    Yes, he was diagnosed with Liver Qi Stagnation. I guess it’s common in people and pets and is commonly thought to be IBD. A natural medicine vet/acupuncturist might have some recommendations. I don’t think food is much of a player in getting this disease under control but who knows, maybe your dog has a different issue. I definitely would talk to a vet about trying Omeprazole (Prilosec) for general acid reduction. When they put a scope down my dog’s throat it was totally raw and burnt from acid reflux. I still use it sometimes when he seems to be swallowing more. Very best of luck to you!



    Thanks mmt. I’ll talk to my vet, we will probably be doing more testing if we can’t get it under control. So far, our vet hasn’t wanted to jump into all the tests simply because he’s trying to save us a little money, so we are taking it one step at a time. I do think it his has something to do with food, as he does have less episodes on canned food so far. Next steps will be trying dehydrated or raw food to try and nail down a fix.

    Thanks again!



    Molzy, it does sound to me like an acid stomach problem, but I’m not a vet….
    This site has some good supplements for acid stomach and digestion problems and some good articles, too. I have a dog that has allergies and has mild occurrences of licking, swallowing. I have used these supplements when that happens with success.



    Quick update. In the past month he has had two episodes. One was 10 days ago, when he managed to eat our other dogs vomit before we could get to him (have I mentioned that this dog will eat ANYTHING??). That episode lasted about 5 days, but it was not helped when he also was given free range to a pile of compost (friend said that the yard was dog proof, failing to mention that her dog ignores their open compost pile).

    Now this said, he also ate some turkey this past weekend without any ill effects (unless they are showing up 72 hours later). In the past, he has also gotten a granola bar and package of brat buns without any noticeable effects. This dog is extremely food motivated, and can jump onto the counter (all 4 feet) with ease. At home we don’t leave things on the counter anymore, but have run into trouble when traveling (finding stuff in the car, or surfing other people’s counters). We are learning to constantly supervise him, and all of these mishaps have been our fault for underestimating him!

    Anyways, Now tonight, he has been gulping again and threw up once. I am fairly certain he hasn’t gotten into anything, but he could possibly have eaten bird seed or cat litter while I showered this morning (both are behind a baby gate which he has proven he can easily jump over).

    Tomorrow I should be receiving a box of Honest Kitchen Keen and a bottle of slippery elm powder. I will update again in a few weeks with my results, just in case others with this issue are following this thread. We will also be calling the vet again tomorrow to get their opinion on what tests we should be running.

    I should mention, he’s been on chicken soup canned this whole month, with NaturVet enzymes. About 3 weeks ago I started adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to each can of food as well. I had stuck with two meals a day, but will be in increasing to three once I start the Honest Kitchen.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by  Molzy.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by  Molzy.


    My dog has had bouts of this too… frantically trying to get outside to eat grass until he threw up… gulping, bobbing, licking. First I found that it was primarily due to his collar. I removed it entirely and only use a harness. I know you said that you use a harness or gentle leader for walking but he wears a collar outside. Why don’t you try switching to a harness all of the time and see if you have any improvement? We have a cord (2 connected actually– you can get at home depot) that we have around a tree and connect it to his chest harness. That had the symptoms improve tremendously. It can also occur when he eats certain harder treats. I only give him soft chew treats and bully sticks now. The bully sticks don’t bother him. When he has an episode (which is very rare now), I give him a Pepcid once or twice a day with his food (for acid which can also irritate his trachea). My dog is about 45 pds so one tablet is his dose. Some dogs have very sensitive tracheas. If he had any damage to that area (choke collars, mean owners who pull by collar) or any hereditary condition, that may add to the problem. There is actually a Facebook page for Gulping Dogs! Not that much information, but you are not alone! Good luck!



    Thanks cbgmom! I switched him to his harness as soon as I saw this post two days ago (on my phone, which is why I didn’t reply then, sorry!). What do you feed your dog for his normal food?

    It’s so hard to tell what sets Quincy off. We were doing great for a few weeks (only mine episodes), and then early this week he had a particularly bad attack, throwing up multiple times one night. The Pepcid seems like it might be helping, hard to tell. Hopefully the harness will make a difference too. Poor guy hasn’t gotten treats in months now because I live in fear of setting off an attack, but I have decided to try some freeze dried beef this weekend.

    My vet doesn’t take me seriously about it, since he has no other symptoms and has yet to gulp at the vets. I guess I’m thankful to not be spending my WHOLE paycheck at the vets (our other dog has had two surgeries in the past two weeks for entropion, and then again when he ripped his surgical site open), but it kills me to watch him when he starts panicking!

    I’ll try the harness for now, please share any other helpful hints! I joined the Facebook group a few months ago, but I couldn’t post to it? I sent a message and the went responded, but I would love to be able to contact all the members.



    Hi Molzy,

    Notice any changes with switching to a harness? May still be a little early — I hope it is helpful for Quincy. I don’t even have Casey wear a collar for his tags — they are all on his harness. The food I fed to him never irritated him, just the treats. Quincy seems to have more damage to either the trachea or esophagus (or whatever causes these unfortunate spasms). I fed him grain free kibble (alternated between Orijen, Taste of the Wild, etc) mixed with Kirkland’s premium wet. However, Casey has recently developed a series of other health concerns so I am transitioning him now to commercial raw. I am hoping to learn enough to go the homemade route but for now, that’s what I’ve been feeding. Honest Kitchen certainly seems like a very good food choice for Quincy especially considering you can make it pretty soupy if nec.

    I have not found a single person whose vet was able to diagnose this condition. Casey’s first attack was at 4 months and I ran over to the vet thinking he had something stuck in his throat. She insisted (even though my gut was telling me she was wrong and I told her as much) that frantic grass eating was nausea and he likely had something stuck in his stomach, even though it couldn’t be seen in an xray. $1,100 and an overnight stay for nothing. A few days later, I was walking him and my neighbor said, “I think that collar is bothering him” and I realized that may be the cause.

    I don’t have any other real hints except during vet appts., remind your vet and techs that he has some kind of real sensitivity around his trachea. Casey is feisty and they would restrain him around the head (as well as other areas), which is pretty common. One visit he was gulping for a month afterwards. Now I tell them not to hold him there.

    Anyway, keep me posted with how he is doing!




    I don’t think I can say yet, but I do think you’re on to something. My boyfriend has noticed that he’ll start gulping if he rests his head a certain way where his throat has pressure on it, I can’t believe I didn’t think to take the collar off sooner! I have him in the harness all the time now, no collar at all. Is there anything a vet can do for trachea damage? Quincy’s issues started after we adopted him and then had to board him, I know the humane society used a choke collar on him, and he is very afraid of the man we boarded him with (will NOT be going back there!), so who knows what happened at either of those places or in his previous home (where they claimed he wasn’t house trained because he’d go in the house if they didn’t let him out when he asked).

    I feel terrible, I just went to move him on the couch and didn’t think about it, and I think I caused a little attack by hitting his throat. I feel TERRIBLE, I have never noticed such a direct link before.

    Do you think there are long term more serious issues to consider with this? Sorry for all the questions!



    Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of any vet who has been able to diagnose this let alone treat it. I have heard of lots of people spending lots of $$ on testing only to show everything as normal. I’m sure there must be some vets out there who may be familiar with this — but I haven’t heard of one yet.

    I’m not even sure it is the trachea but it certainly seems to be something in that area and I know many dogs and specific breeds have sensitive tracheas. It isn’t collapsed trachea but I would sort of treat it as such.

    To start, maybe try to strengthen his body with supplements: an anti-inflammatory as well as a cartilage and connective tissue support (with glucosamine and chondroitin). That might be a start?

    I don’t know if there would be any long term consequences. You just took his collar off so he needs some time to heal. Hopefully, he hasn’t had any permanent injury but certainly time will tell. I do believe you are on the right track now!

    No apologies! I hope he is OK. It is very upsetting to watch… they do seem frantic and scared while they go through it. :(


    Molzy, you said he was adopted then was fine for the FIRST TWO WEEKS..Then boarded and then developed the issue? So he is probably confused with his home and family? Sounds like anxiety, the changing of homes and medicines confuse the dog…could be some nausea/stomach acid but I think it might be psychological…

    If all tests are passed and clear, the licking and swallowing can be for a variety of reasons; my golden does this before he sleeps, after he eats, when he wakes up, usually 3-4 swallows. Dogs do this to for some or all of the following 1.) calm down for sleep 2.) relieve nausea 3.)relieve stomach upsets/acid 4.)dry throat 5.) anxiety 6.)serious ailment or blockage. If its not a serious physical ailment then dogs are similar to humans once they pick up a habit that they can use to help cope with life they will continue it.

    If they problem is from stomach acid and is diet related then try boiled rice, potatoes, with shredded chicken breast. Yams, celery, carrots, bananas and oatmeal seem to help too.

    If the problem is psychological, meaning for example, my dog got carsick and threw up, and then within a couple of weeks was attacked by 2 dogs and had someone in the family get hospitalized as well. This left him with extremely high anxiety on what was going on. So perhaps, this type of licking, swallowing is way for him to cope. But taking him for long walks throughout the day has made the situation better; introducing him to new scents. Next, he is a retriever, so taking him to play fetch at the beach reminded him of who he is and it seems to have calmed his night issues as I have a feeling he is waking up with nightmares and does a lot of this gulping.

    In short, physical activity is extremely important, they need to be active for hours throughout the day as opposed to traditionally just being in the house; this will make them stronger and settle their issues! If you need to hire a dog walker to help, you need to do it for the pooch! Good luck!

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