Everything You Need to Know About Vomiting in Dogs
Unfortunately, vomit happens. And while it can be scary to see your dog throw up, it’s helpful to know what might be causing the problem, and if there’s anything you can do about it without taking your dog to the vet. Here we’ll discuss causes and types of vomiting, how to know when to take your dog to the vet, and how to care for your dog at home if the vomiting is mild.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Common Reasons Why Dogs Vomit
Let’s review the most common reasons why dogs vomit:
- Eating too quickly - If your dog is eating too fast, try giving smaller amounts more often. If you have more than one dog, they may be eating too quickly because of competition. Try feeding them in separate places.
- Sudden change in diet - including human food and/or new treats, rawhide treats, and more
- Food allergy or intolerance
- Motion sickness - If you notice that your dog vomits when riding in the car it may be due to motion sickness. Most puppies will grow out of this, but some dogs experience it every time they take a car ride. Talk to your vet about medications that can help prevent nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness.
- Medication such as antibiotics or pain medication - If your dog is taking any medications call your vet to find out if the medication may be causing your dogs’ upset stomach
- Parasites - worms in the intestinal tract such as roundworms, hookworms, coccidia, or Giardia
- Obstruction - from eating an object that cannot pass through the stomach/intestines such as a chew toy, children’s toys, socks, string, tennis ball, and more. If you know your pet has eaten a toy, sock, ball, or other foreign object, call your vet right away. These objects can lead to intestinal blockage and serious complications.
Drinking Too Fast/Eating Too Fast
The overzealous puppy may ingest their food or water so rapidly that they can vomit or regurgitate their meal back up immediately. This type of vomiting in dogs often produces completely undigested food. If otherwise acting normally, this likely indicates a need to slow down when taking in water or food.
A good tool for this is a slow feeder bowl, which requires the pet to pick up each kibble slowly before swallowing.
Abrupt Food Changes
One of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs is inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Inflammation makes the GI tract move too fast, so the bile and stomach acid can’t be properly absorbed.
This inflammation is often caused by something new being introduced to your dog’s GI tract that isn’t digesting properly. The “new” thing could be human food, treats, a change in diet that was introduced too quickly, or even something your dog found outside and decided to eat.
Since dogs can have very sensitive stomachs, and often will vomit if their diet is changed too quickly, any change in diet should be performed slowly over 1-2 weeks. Gradually add in the new diet until the old food has been completely replaced. Too abrupt of a change can also cause diarrhea in dogs.
Just like most children, puppies often are susceptible to many types of diseases, especially during the time frame when they aren’t yet considered protected from their vaccines. Diseases like parvovirus, and intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, giardia, and coccidia are very common in young puppies, and can all cause vomiting as well as diarrhea.
If your puppy is vomiting, your vet will likely recommend a fecal test, and often more specific testing for parvovirus or giardia. Depending on the root cause, this may be easily treatable with a dewormer, or could also be more serious and require hospitalization and supportive care for something like parvovirus. You can read more about parvovirus here!
Foreign Body Ingestion
The nature of puppies (and some older dogs) to put all sorts of things in their mouths can lead to more serious conditions like foreign body obstructions. Things like sticks, toys, stuffing, and hard chews can get stuck in their gastrointestinal tract, which most often causes vomiting as a symptom. Sometimes the object can be felt by a vet during an abdominal exam, but likely requires x-rays or an abdominal ultrasound to diagnose. In many cases, this may require surgical removal and can even be life-threatening if not treated quickly.
If your puppy has been throwing up and has likely eaten non-food items, seek out a vet to help you determine the next steps.
Similar to how puppies can swallow non-digestible items, young dogs are at an increased risk for eating things that may be toxic to them, including mushrooms, medications, toads, certain plants, and food like grapes, onions, and garlic. Depending on the item ingested, a variety of symptoms can be seen, including kidney failure causing vomiting with grapes, to the toxin from certain toad species causing profuse nausea.
If you know your pet has ingested something potentially toxic, contact the PET POISON CONTROL HOTLINE for assistance in evaluating safety and next recommended steps for treatment.
Although pups can vomit for many different reasons, it’s important to seek veterinary care if your pet is having more than one episode of vomiting in 24 hours, or throwing up consecutively for more than 1 day. As discussed above, the treatments for each cause vary greatly, so when in doubt, seek out your vet for advice on how to get your puppy feeling better!
Why does my dog throw up bile?
Bile vs. Stomach Acid
Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. It normally resides in the small intestine. Bile helps the body break down fats so that they can be absorbed.
Stomach acid is a digestive fluid formed in the stomach lining that aids in the digestion of proteins.
When your dog vomits but there isn’t any food in the stomach to bring up, bile from the small intestine refluxes into the stomach, resulting in a pile of slimy yellow vomit. Bile itself isn’t acidic, but it can mix with stomach acid when there is reflux. This bile-acid mix can be irritating to your dog’s throat. It isn’t necessary to differentiate between bile and stomach acid when your dog throws up that yellow substance because they both have similar causes and treatments.
A common cause of vomiting bile is going too long in between meals, especially in older dogs. This condition is often called Bilious Vomiting Syndrome (BVS). It’s easy to determine if this is the cause because your dog’s vomiting will occur at roughly the same time every day. Bile vomiting occurs most frequently in the morning because, when your dog’s stomach is empty for too long, the acid sitting in his stomach with no food to digest can cause inflammation. This inflammation leads to increased intestinal movement, which leads to vomiting bile.
BVS can often be resolved by changing to more frequent meal feedings. Divide the amount of daily food into 3 or 4 meals and try not to go more than 8 hours between feedings.
Should you take your dog to the vet if she’s vomiting bile?
If your dog’s vomiting lasts for more than 48 hours, you should seek veterinary help. Additionally, if your dog will not eat the bland diet or vomits while on the bland diet, go immediately to your vet because this could be an indication of a more serious problem.
Why is my dog throwing up white foam?
All dogs vomit white foam occasionally. Fortunately, this typically resolves within a short time. Dogs of all ages investigate using their sense of smell and taste. They use their noses to detect odors and often taste what they find. Your dog may vomit because of eating something that upsets their stomach, motion sickness, or nausea from medication.
If your pet experiences mild vomiting but otherwise appears normal you can try supportive care at home. If your dog continues vomiting for over 24 hours, behaves abnormally, or has any other symptoms, your pet needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
Other causes of vomiting white foam include:
- Kennel Cough
- Bloat or GDV (this is a medical emergency - if you think your dog has GDV contact a vet or emergency clinic immediately!)
- Rabies (rare)
Why does my dog throw up undigested food?
There are several causes of a dog vomiting undigested food. The medical term for this is called “regurgitation.” Regurgitation can oftentimes occur as a result of eating too fast and the food just comes right back up soon after or while eating. A quick remedy for this, as discussed above, is a food puzzle. There are many you can purchase at pet supply stores or online, or you can also search for “DIY dog food puzzles” on YouTube for some great inexpensive ideas.
When a puppy begins regurgitating, there could actually be an issue with the esophagus. This warrants an appointment with your vet for an exam and possibly further testing such as x-rays or bloodwork. Left untreated, this type of regurgitating could lead to an infection in the lungs if the puppy aspirates or inhales some of the food.
Vomiting undigested food while not passing any stool can indicate a possible blockage somewhere in the intestinal tract. This can be a life threatening situation which may be treated medically but more often than not, surgery will be needed.
Why does my dog keep throwing up?
Chronic vomiting refers to a condition that causes your dog to vomit frequently, several times per week or even several times per month. There are many causes of chronic vomiting in dogs.
Probably the most common cause is that they are eating something they shouldn’t. The medical term for this is “dietary indiscretion.” Eating table scraps, getting into the trash, or eating something outside in the yard are usual culprits.
Another common cause of chronic vomiting is that the dog simply isn’t tolerating the diet he’s on. It may have to do with the amount of fat in the diet, or even a food allergy or intolerance to one of the ingredients. The protein source is usually the cause of a food allergy and fortunately there are many good choices of dog foods with different proteins. Lamb, venison, fish, and duck are just a few of the various protein choices out there. A more easily-digestible diet or low-fat diet may resolve the vomiting.
Many diseases or conditions can cause chronic vomiting and a good exam along with some testing should help to diagnose what exactly is going on.
Home Remedies for Vomiting in Dogs
If your dog has vomited but otherwise seems healthy, happy, and active you can generally start with these steps:
1. Take away food for several hours to give the stomach and intestines a rest (not more than 12 hours for adult dogs and not more than 6 hours for puppies). If, after 12 hours, your dog hasn’t vomited, begin the following supportive care:
2. Offer a small amount of balanced electrolyte oral rehydration solution. Small dogs (weighing less than 30 lb.’s) can be given 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of liquid, and large dogs (weighing over 30 lb.’s) can have 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of liquid.
If your dog keeps that amount of liquid down for 15-30 minutes, offer the same amount again. If your dog vomits, discontinue offering fluids and call your vet.
Please note: Electrolyte solutions are helpful to encourage your dog to drink, but if the vomiting is severe enough to cause electrolyte imbalances, it's time to see the vet!
3. If your dog doesn’t vomit, increase the amount of liquid by ½ or 50% every hour. (i.e. 1 teaspoon increased to 1.5 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon increased to 1.5 tablespoons)
4. If your dog doesn’t vomit for 12 hours after drinking the fluids you offered, try giving a small amount of a bland diet:
A bland diet consists of boiled meat and rice, with ground beef or chicken being the most common. The meat should be boiled, and then rinsed/strained to remove any excess oils and fats.
The boiled meat should then be mixed with cooked white rice in a ratio of 1-part meat to 3-parts rice. Feed this bland diet in small frequent meals over 24-48 hours. The entire 48-hour amount can be cooked at one time, and then refrigerated and reheated as needed.
Continue reading here for recipes and feeding instructions:
5. If your dog keeps the food down, you can offer them twice the amount every 1 to 2 hours as long as they continue to eat and not vomit.
Continue this bland diet for up to 4 days before introducing your dog’s normal food.
6. If your dog vomits at any time during the supportive care or has started to refuse the food, call your vet right away. This may suggest a more serious illness requiring examination, testing, and treatment in the hospital.
Please note: Practice good hygiene by washing your hands well after cleaning up your dogs’ vomit to prevent transmission of any parasites or other infectious diseases.
See your veterinarian if:
- Your dog’s vomit is a different color, especially red or black
- Your dog’s vomiting persists for more than 48 hours
- Your dog will not eat the bland diet
- Your dog vomits while on the bland diet
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