Puppy Vomiting: Identifying the Causes

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When a puppy vomits, it is not uncommon in and of itself. Pups may often vomit for a variety of reasons. Nine times out of ten, those reasons will be completely benign with no cause for worry. 

However, sometimes vomiting can be a sign that something more serious is going on, and in those cases, an evaluation for possible treatment by your vet is certainly recommended. 

Before calling in the vet though, keep in mind that puppies tend to be curious little explorers, and they often use their mouth to do it. So pretty much anything and everything they run across, they will lick, chew, and possibly even consume. 

Unfortunately, when a pup ingests something foreign, because of the impact on the puppy’s intestinal tract and the possible blockages that it can cause, all kinds of health problems can ensue, including vomiting.

Puppies might even try to eat their vomit, which seems gross for us, but can seem normal for them. This is because sometimes their mother may regurgitate food for them, plus, it’s thought that because they have a keener sense of smell, they can pick up the scent of food in their vomit. 

Is It Vomit? Or Regurgitation?

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When a puppy vomits, it is much different than regurgitating his food. A puppy that is about to throw up will show clear physical signs of what is about to happen. Your pup may swallow several times (sometimes audibly), as well as salivate. You will notice his tummy muscles contract forcefully and repeatedly in their efforts to move the stomach contents up to expel them.

In conjunction with the abdominal contractions, the esophagus of your pup will relax in preparation for what is coming. Then your pup may make a choking or gagging sound while extending his neck and opening his mouth to expel the vomit.

When a pup regurgitates however, the process is much more relaxed and passive, and you will most likely not notice his tummy muscles contracting. Regurgitation can occur any time after a puppy eats, happening within mere minutes of consumption, to hours later. 

The stuff that comes up during regurgitation is usually not fully digested, and it may even be expelled in a tube-like shape that matches the shape of the throat. Fortunately, regurgitation is not something you need to be overly concerned with, as it’s usually not a sign of anything major. However, depending on the underlying cause, dog vomiting can be much more serious.

Causes of Vomiting in Puppies

There are a variety of causes of vomiting when it comes to puppies, ranging from relatively benign to more serious health conditions. Though vomiting is common, it is not normal, and if your puppy is vomiting frequently there may be a definite cause for concern.

If you suspect something serious is behind your pup’s tummy upset, you should see your vet as soon as possible. Puppies can become dehydrated very quickly and collapse if they are vomiting a lot, and your vet may be able to provide treatment to help control the vomiting, as well as administer IV fluids to keep your pup hydrated.

That said, here are some of the more common causes of vomiting in puppies:

Gluttony

Sometimes puppies vomit due to downright gluttony. This is because they get greedy and eat their food too fast, gorging themselves until they are overstuffed. Then, when they run around and play, they lose their all their food just as quickly as they consumed it. While it’s true that vomiting for this reason can be highly annoying, it is not overly worrisome when it comes to underlying health concerns.

You can help combat this tendency to gorge himself by placing a ball that is large enough for him not to swallow it, inside his food bowl. The ball will force your pup to eat around it, and because of that he will have to eat slower, giving him more time to digest the food he is consuming. This can be useful if you have one pup or several pups. If you have more than one puppy, you can also feed him separately to avoid competition eating. 

Too Much Water

Sometimes puppies who are eating a lot may get thirsty and slurp and slurp until they make themselves sick and vomit all that water right back up. You can help control these behaviors by keeping your puppy’s food bowl out of reach when he isn’t using it so he isn’t eating constantly.

You can also drip feed him water in a syringe every twenty minutes or so, so that he is consuming water in much smaller amounts. You might even give your pup an ice cube to lick on, and that will help slow down his water consumption considerably, and help him avoid throwing it back up. 

Food Changes

Sometimes puppies vomit due to food changes. Though pups like to put their mouths on pretty much everything, and will eat almost anything you give them, it doesn’t mean their tummies will agree with those choices.

Especially with pups, their tummies can be delicate and sensitive. Changing their food can mess with their fledgling digestive tracts and throw things all out of whack.

Sometimes, if you plan on changing foods it might be better to blend the two brands and transition your pup to the new one slowly, rather than changing it quickly and risking a tummy upset. Pups can also get sick if they get into foods they shouldn’t, such as family leftovers.

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Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity

Sometimes puppies can have food allergies and food sensitivities. When they develop an allergy to something in their food, it can trigger an upset stomach coupled with vomiting.

If your puppy also develops secondary symptoms like diarrhea, sneezing, itchiness, and/or a skin rash, then it is wise to suspect canine allergies as the source of your pup’s urge to vomit.

At other times, your puppy may get into foods that are considered unsafe for him to eat, such as avocados, chocolate, grapes and raisins, mushrooms, fruit pits, and potato peels. Unfortunately, if he eats any of these foods, vomiting could be the result.

Swallowing Something Foreign

Sometimes puppies swallow something they shouldn’t, especially when they’ve been gnawing and chewing on anything and everything they can find. Pups could accidentally swallow a piece of wood or mulch, a piece of cloth, a piece of bone, bits of a toy with removable pieces, and just about anything else you might think of.

Rubber bands, strings, chewing gum, paper clips, even dental floss can be swallowed! However, when a pup swallows a foreign item like one of these things, it can get into his GI tract and cause damage or create a blockage. GI tract obstructions will trigger vomiting.

Parasites

Sometimes a pup may have an upset tummy due to intestinal parasites. Especially when pups get a nasty infestation with worms and were never given any worming medication as a preventative. An infestation of worms can and will make your pup vomit.

Infections (Bacterial, Viral, Fungal)

Sometimes puppies can get bacterial, fungal, or viral infections like parvovirus. These infections can be serious, and will cause vomiting in young dogs.

Eating Grass

Sometimes pups may eat grass, but no one knows for sure why they do this. Unfortunately (especially if they eat too much grass), inevitably, what goes in must come out.

Toxin Exposure

Sometimes dogs get into materials that may be toxic for them. If a puppy has been exposed to something that is toxic, he may vomit frequently as well as experience a myriad of other related symptoms.

Some common household toxins pups can get into include:

  • Cleaning products of any kind, almost all are all toxic for dogs
  • Plant and gardening chemicals
  • Car oil
  • Anti-freeze
  • Certain household plants

Medications

Sometimes puppies do not respond well to certain medications they are given, such as antibiotics. When the medication doesn’t agree with their delicate constitutions, they will vomit. Discontinue the medication if it continues to adversely affect your four-legged family member.

Not Eating Regularly

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Sometimes puppies that are not eating on a regular basis and that are going hungry between meals may vomit a bright yellow substance called bile. This isn’t healthy and should be avoided at all costs. Try to keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule to keep him as healthy as possible.

Car Sick

Sometimes puppies can get car sick, especially when it comes to pups that find car rides stressful. And if you have just fed your dog, then it is double the whammy. Not only is he stressed about the car ride, he also has a full belly, and the motion of the car makes him ill. You do the math.

Heat Stroke

Sometimes puppies may vomit due to heat stroke. If you live in an area where heat stroke is not only possible, but probable, you need to make sure that your pup is drinking plenty of water and has ways and places to cool down. Otherwise heat stroke is a very real threat, and can become serious, especially in young dogs.

Other things that can make puppies (or dogs of any age) vomit include:

Head Trauma

Sometimes, if a dog has experienced some sort of head trauma, it can trigger vomiting.

Cancer and Chemo Meds

Sadly, dogs that have been diagnosed with cancer and undergo treatments with chemotherapy drugs, could vomit frequently.

Plus, there are several other diseases that may cause vomiting, like:

My Puppy Vomited: Now What Do I Do?

Don’t panic, and try not to get too grossed out. The first thing you want to do is make sure that your puppy’s throat isn’t obstructed by anything. You can do this by checking his mouth and feeling at the top of his throat gently.

If your pup seems to be having trouble breathing, or if he is wheezing or gasping for air, it’s possible there is an obstruction further down than what you can see or feel, and if that’s the case, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

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If you’re satisfied there is no obstruction, it’s important to make sure your pup stays hydrated. Give him fluids with electrolytes, and reassure him that he is okay and that he hasn’t done anything wrong.

You can also make sure you give him plenty of hugs and affection, and keep him warm. When it’s time for you to feed him again, make sure you’re feeding him bland foods that are gentle on the tummy, such as white rice with unseasoned chicken.

If you think that your pup’s tummy upset is due to food or illness, you might be inclined to let it run its course. That’s fine, your only job is to keep him hydrated.

However, if you are worried and believe your puppy is vomiting due to some other more serious health concern, or if you notice other symptoms such as:

  • Chills and shaking
  • Staggering or drooling
  • Seizures
  • Problems with breathing
  • Blood or bile in the vomit

See your vet just in case, as it is always better to be safe than sorry. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions when something worries you. It’s always better to ask your vet questions if you’re unsure of something, than to go on wondering and feeling unsure of their care for your furry friend.

Sometimes, administering Pepto-Bismol to your pup can help with vomiting. Pepto Bismol works by coating the inside wall of the stomach. This coating helps soothe upsets and absorbs any toxins found there that may be contributing to your pup’s malaise.

As you can see, puppy vomiting is common, with many causes for it. Once you narrow down the root problem, it becomes easy to decide on the best options for treatment.

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