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Hello, thank you for using this site to help you with your problem. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years and am trained in pet first aid for aiding animals in disasters. It will be my pleasure to help you today.
There are a couple of possibilities that you may be looking at.
The first thing would be a reverse sneeze. This can come on at any time of day or night and it sounds and looks like the dog is choking on something. Usually the body tenses up and the episodes stops on its own just as quickly as it came. It is harmless and is usually associated with an allergy to something.
The second thing , when it comes to coughing is a problem with the heart. This is usually seen as a dry cough, and more likely to happen when the dog is active, but not always.
You did not mention what breed of dog you have but with smaller dogs they can actually get a collapsed trachea which would cause coughing or gagging.
Here is a video of a reverse sneeze https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3L4v0W2_Sw
What I would suggest if possible, is to capture the next episode on your cell phone and bring that to the Vet office to show them what is going on. The Vet will likely push on the throat area to duplicate the cough, but it does not always work, especially with a heart problem or a reverse sneeze
Here is a little bit more on reverse sneezing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puFXxq2Z7Bs