As a dog parent, it’s always a cause for concern when you see your dog vomiting. Since vomiting can be caused by so many different things, it’s natural to feel a sense of panic, especially when you start thinking that it may be due to a serious underlying condition.
Stay calm. It’s best not to let your concern get the best of you and immediately start thinking about the worse case scenario. Vomiting can be caused by something serious, but just as often it’s something very manageable. Learning about why dogs vomit will help identify a potential cause, and hopefully give you some peace of mind.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitation
First and foremost, it’s important to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation. Usually your vet won’t witness your dog vomiting or regurgitating, so knowing the difference will help them narrow down the cause.
Vomiting is characterized by the forceful rejection of stomach contents and intestines. Right before it occurs you will typically see signs of nausea, drooling, abdominal contractions, hunching up, and retching. Vomit usually includes partially digested foods, bile, and stomach acids.
Regurgitation is an uncontrolled reaction (not forceful) to the stomach ridding itself of undigested foods. You may notice your dog laboring prior to regurgitation (i.e., heavy breathing, coughing). You should notice the food is mostly undigested and in the shape of a sausage-like tube. Regurgitation is usually a sign of esophageal disorders.
Causes of Vomiting in Dogs
There are several common benign reasons for dog vomiting. It’s oftentimes just a natural process — it’s the stomach’s way of protecting itself. Here are some harmless reasons:
- Eating a foreign substances, such as grass, plants or household items.
- Eating too quickly
- Vigorously playing right after a full meal
- Motion sickness
- Bilious vomiting syndrome
Vomiting can also be serious, and can be a result of the following:
- Ingestion of toxins
- IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Bacterial, viral or fungal infections
- Addison’s disease
- Diet change
- Certain forms of cancer in dogs
- Pancreatic disease
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Heat stroke
- Medication side effects
When is Dog Vomiting Serious?
There are some fundamental things to look out for when determining whether or not your dog’s vomiting is an emergency. Contact a vet immediately if you notice any of the following things happen concurrently with vomiting:
- Retching without vomiting – Dry heaving is often a sign of a life-threatening ailment called “bloat” in dogs.
- Collapsing afterwards
- Distended abdomen
- Pale gums
- Tachycardia (heart beating rapidly)
- Unable to hold down water for more than 12 hours
- Vomiting multiple times a day
- Projectile vomiting – may indicate obstruction in the intestinal tract
- Decreased urination
- Diarrhea – May lead to severe dehydration when occurring with vomiting
- Lethargy – indicates the condition is affecting the entire body
- Enlarged or sore abdomen
- Blood in the dog’s vomit
- Bright green vomit – may be a sign of ingesting rat poison
Vomiting in puppies should always be treated as an emergency, no matter the symptoms. Their underdeveloped immune systems are especially at risk for parasites, viruses and bacterial infections.
Treating Vomiting in Dogs
The first thing to do after witnessing your dog vomit is search the house for any signs of foul play. Look for things your dog may have ingested, such as a tipped over garbage can, or chewed up remnants. Check your dog’s gums. If they are pale, its means things are not improving. Do not provide him with a lot of water, as it may result in vomiting again.
Do not feed them for roughly 24 hours unless they are on a strict diet based on an existing condition. If they appear to be improving, do not rush back into regular portions — start with small, easy-to-digest meals and gradually grow your way back.
Since there is such a wide array of causes that may lead to your pup vomiting, it’s important to provide a detailed history of your dog’s recent behaviors and habits. This will give your doctor the best chance in reaching an accurate diagnosis. It’s good to pay close attention to your little furry friend, even when they’re not ill, that way you’ll be well equipped to handle any future issues.
Regardless of the underlying cause, vomiting itself can lead to dehydration, acidic irritations, and electrolyte imbalances. If that’s the case, your vet will typically prescribe fluid therapy, a specialized meal plan, and anti-nausea medications. Other common treatments include antibiotics for bacterial infections, H2 blockers for stomach acid regulation, and steroids for IBD.