Welcome! I am Dr. Altman, a licensed veterinarian and happy to answer your questions today.
I am so sorry to hear Doodles does this with water ingestion. Unfortunately it is a very common problem with little dogs, I have had Chihuahua
's for years and about 90% of the time they do the same thing with water ingestion. Not with food but just water.
I think it is great you are already elevating the water bowl and preventing drinking large quantities at once. My suggestion that works for my little dogs is minimizing their water intake by adding water to the dry food right before I feed so it is soupy. For some reason this minimizes the gagging/ coughing episodes significantly because they are not drinking as frequently but simply eating their food with water. I am not entirely sure why this works but it is a routine I have begun with my last Chi and have continued with my two current ones. They drink much less frequently from a water bowl and now primarily with their meals
An alternative is trying a rabbit water where he has to lick the little area to push the ball in and the water comes out in limited quantities at once and his head is truly elevated. The problem with this is literally teaching an old dog a new trick and trying to get him to use the new technique!
Lastly, using ice cubes in a bowel so he has to lick those and will get moisture but also in a limited quantity.
If there is no change then I would advise having neck and chest x-rays done to rule out a tracheal collapse exacerbating his ability to swallow but in most situations it is due to an elongated soft palate that they can push back when eating due to the pressure but have more difficulties with water.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions or anything else I can do for you both today
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