What to do if your dog is vomiting

What to Do if Your Dog is Vomiting

A vomiting dog can be an alarming sight for many pet parents. Many end up scouring Dr. Google for possible causes. If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, you know that you usually end up with more questions than when you started. Fortunately, this article is jam-packed with helpful information and tips about vomiting in dogs, how to help your sick pet, and when to head to the vet.

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Do you know how to recognize vomiting vs. regurgitation in dogs?

Before you do anything to help your dog, you should understand what vomiting is. First, it’s not a disease; vomiting is often a symptom of an underlying issue which could be medical, physiological, or physical. A dog can be perfectly healthy and still vomit.

Vomiting is not always serious. Some cases resolve on their own without any intervention. Other times, you need to monitor your pet to see if it worsens over time or if other symptoms develop. Other instances of vomiting require an urgent trip to see your vet.

Identifying the underlying cause can help address your dog’s vomiting and determine if there is a need to seek prompt veterinary intervention.

Vomiting vs. Regurgitation in Dogs

Vomiting is a reflex. It can be triggered by anything from a mild case of overeating to serious medical issues. Vomiting in dogs is often associated with mild, self-limiting diseases that resolve with minimal diagnostic tests and therapy. However, it can be related to debilitating conditions that have life-threatening consequences.

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach and upper intestine contents through the mouth. On the other hand, regurgitation is mostly a passive process. A dog may regurgitate its food soon after eating; there are no active contractions of the abdomen during this process. Regurgitated food is usually undigested and does not contain bile, thus your dog will almost always try to eat the food that he has regurgitated. Since vomit comes from the stomach and upper intestinal tract, it is already partially digested and often has some bile.

How can I tell if my dog is about to vomit?

A dog that is about to vomit goes through three phases - nausea, retching, and expulsion of contents from the stomach and small intestine. During the stage of nausea, your pet appears restless and anxious. There may be drooling, licking of the lips, and swallowing repeatedly. Retching or dry heaving follows before the actual act of vomiting. Forceful abdominal muscle contractions eventually cause expulsion of fluid, saliva, and/or food.

What causes a dog to vomit?

Sometimes, healthy dogs vomit for no apparent reason and then go on with their usual daily activities as if nothing happened. Perhaps it could be that your pet has eaten too quickly, munched on too much grass, or ingested something that disagrees with his stomach. In these cases, vomiting is not something to be anxious about. So, when is vomiting in dogs a cause for concern?

When should I be concerned about my dog’s vomiting?

If your dog experiences more than one vomiting episode or has recurrent bouts of vomiting, you should call your vet immediately. Ignoring your pet’s vomiting and any accompanying symptoms may have serious or even fatal consequences.

You should seek prompt veterinary attention if your pet is showing any of the following:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Chronic (long-term) vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Vomiting is accompanied by fever, weight loss, lethargy, etc.
  • Unproductive vomiting (gagging and retching without bringing anything up)
  • Vomiting a lot at a single episode
  • Vomiting is accompanied by blood or diarrhea
  • Ingestion of a foreign body
  • Vomiting dog is also experiencing seizures

Chronic vs. Acute Vomiting

Acute vomiting refers to vomiting which is sudden in onset or severe episodes of vomiting. It can be a red flag signifying several important health issues such as:

On the other hand, chronic vomiting refers to long-term or frequent vomiting. It’s an important cause for concern especially if it’s accompanied by abdominal pain, blood in the vomit, dehydration, weakness, fever, depression, loss of appetite, weight loss, etc. Some common underlying conditions in which chronic vomiting is one of the symptoms include:

Diagnosing Vomiting in Dogs

In addition to a thorough medical exam, your dog’s history is an important factor to take into consideration when making a diagnosis. Your vet may feel it necessary to run certain laboratory tests and procedures (blood tests, ultrasound, x-rays, urinalysis, biopsy, etc.) to confirm the initial diagnosis.

Most of the underlying causes are treatable, especially if early medical attention and treatment are given. Many causes of chronic vomiting won’t resolve on their own and will require veterinary intervention.

How Vomiting in Dogs is Treated

The treatment plan that will be created by your vet will depend to a large extent on the cause of your dog’s vomiting and his present condition.

Medications are given to address specific symptoms. Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy may be necessary to correct issues like fluid and electrolyte imbalance. In some cases, anti-nausea medications may be needed.

What to Feed a Dog After Vomiting

In cases when an adult dog has only vomited once or twice with no accompanying symptoms and appears to be active and healthy, home treatment can be given. However, it’s still a good idea to call your vet so you can be instructed on what to do.

Food and water are usually withheld for 12-24 hours. If no vomiting occurs during this period, offer some ice cubes or place a small amount of water in your pet’s bowl. If vomiting does not recur, gradually offer larger amounts of water. If your dog has not vomited for 12 hours after reintroducing water, offer a bland diet of white rice and white meat (remove the bones and skin). If there are no problems, continue giving the bland diet for a day or two before gradually mixing in his regular pet food.

But if vomiting recurs at any time while you’re reintroducing water and food, take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

Vomiting in Puppies - Why Immediate Veterinary Care is Very Important

With their small size and still developing immune systems, puppies are extremely vulnerable to the effects of vomiting. Dehydration can quickly set in and puppies can become weak and die from even the most minor causes if they don’t receive immediate medical attention.

Tips to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs

While there are causes of vomiting that cannot be prevented, there are also those that can be prevented with these simple tips:

When introducing a new diet, do it gradually within a span of 7-10 days. The transition period involves reducing the old pet food by at least 10% each day and mixing in the new pet food in increasing amounts until such time that your pet’s meal is 100% composed of the new pet food. Observing the proper transition period will give time for your dog’s system to get used to the new diet, without which, digestive upsets can occur.

Don’t offer toys that can easily be swallowed or chewed by your dog. Any non-food item that is swallowed can irritate the gastrointestinal tract or get lodged in any part of the digestive tract and cause an obstruction.

Avoid giving bones that can be swallowed whole or broken into sharp shards.

Table scraps are a no-no. Some human foods contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Some may be too high in fat or sugar, both of which can lead to health issues in dogs.

Measures should be taken to prevent your dog’s access to garbage bins. Dogs are known for their indiscriminate eating habits. Scavenging exposes them to rotten food, toxins, and items that could be harmful when ingested.

Read more:

Parvovirus in Puppies: A Treatment and Prevention Q&A
Everything You Need to Know About Diarrhea in Dogs

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