Causes of Dog Vomit and What It Means

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It's not unusual for dogs to throw up. In fact, there are many reasons why your dog might vomit, and some are more concerning than others. So how can you tell if the dog vomit on the grass is a sign of serious trouble? Are there different types of vomit? Read on to find out more.

Vomiting vs. Regurgitation

What causes a dog to vomit? First, you should understand the difference between vomiting and regurgitation. When a dog regurgitates, the coughed-up material typically consists of undigested food, water and saliva. It is often expelled in a cylindrical shape, since regurgitated material is usually the food or matter in the oesophagus. It comes out seemingly effortlessly, without muscle contraction. It's unlikely there will be any warning — either for you or your dog — that anything is coming up.

Vomiting, conversely, is much more active. It will cause muscles to contract and the whole body to tense. When a dog vomits, the food or object is typically coming from the stomach or upper small intestine. You will likely hear the dog retching and see food that is undigested or partially digested, along with clear liquid if it's from the stomach, or yellow or green liquid (bile) if it is from the small intestine. You might also have a little more warning that vomit is coming, such as drooling, pacing, whining or loud gurgling noises from your dog's stomach.

dog yawning

Common Causes of Vomiting

The UK Kennel Club says that common causes of vomiting in dogs include:

  • Eating rubbish, table scraps, or other things they shouldn’t eat.
  • Swallowing something hard like a stone, bone or toy, or something poisonous, like cleaning products, antifreeze, or pesticides.
  • Viruses, bacterial infections, or parasites.
  • Changes to their diet, like a new dog food.
  • Sensitivity to certain foods or ingredients.
  • Bloating or other gastrointestinal problems.
  • A bad reaction to a medication they’ve been given.
  • Heatstroke.
  • Health conditions that affect the gut, kidkeys, liver or pancreas.

The most common reasons for regurgitation are:

When to Be Concerned

Because vomiting is not that unusual in dogs, pet parents are typically not concerned if a dog throws up occasionally. But when should you worry?

The Kennel Club notes that there are a few dog vomit scenarios that should be cause for concern:

  • You think your dog has swallowed a foreign object or something poisonous.
  • Your dog has not only thrown up, but is also acting differently from usual — such as sleeping more than usual, refusing to eat, or having diarrhoea — you should call your veterinarian.
  • Your dog has a fever, appears dehydrated, or seems to be in pain.
  • If you see blood in the vomit or poo, or if your dog is throwing up something that looks like coffee grounds — digested blood — call the vet. The blood can be a sign of serious problems, such as gastric ulcers, or a sign that your dog has eaten a sharp foreign object, such as a bone or toy.
  • Your dog won't stop vomiting. While occasionally throwing up isn't unusual, if your dog throws up routinely or excessively, consult a vet to find out why. It may also be cause for concern if your dog appears to be trying to vomit but can’t.

If you're concerned at all about your dog’s health, don't hesitate to call your vet for advice.

What Your Vet Will Do

When your veterinarian evaluates your dog, they will likely first want a good history of anything your dog may have eaten or gotten into and information on how often they are vomiting or regurgitating. They may want to do bloodwork to look for causes of vomiting such as kidney disease or pancreatitis. They may also need to do X-rays and/or an ultrasound if they think your dog may have an obstruction in the GI tract or the oesophagus is not working properly. 

Once your vet is able to identify the problem, they can start treatment to get your dog feeling better quickly.

What You Can Do

If your vet determines what causes your dog to vomit and says that at-home care is sufficient for your dog, you'll want to know how to alleviate their symptoms. The PDSA has these care tips for your vomiting dog:

  • Withhold food for 6-8 hrs unless a longer period is recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Make sure your dog is still drinking water unless your vet has advised otherwise. With persistent vomiting, dehydration can be a real cause for concern, which is why fluids are so important.
  • Once vomiting stops, offer your dog small, bland, low-fat meals three to six times daily for a few days. If your vet asked you to withhold water, re-introduce it slowly in small amounts.
  • Gradually increase the amount of food and decrease the feedings as you transition back to your dog's normal food.

If you determine your dog is throwing up because he is eating too fast, one solution might be a "puzzle feeder," which forces dogs to eat slower as they work to obtain food. You can also try switching your dog's food to a higher-quality food or a special dietetic food, which offers your dog easy digestion and balanced nutrition. Switch to their new food slowly, rather than all at once, or you might exacerbate the problem.

A dog who throws up is not necessarily ill or in need of immediate veterinary attention. But if you see signs that make you believe something might seriously be wrong, call your vet to determine what the problem is and how to solve it. You'll soon be back to petting your pup rather than cleaning up his puke.

Contributor Bio

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy

Kara Murphy is a freelance writer and pet parent who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. She has a goldendoodle named Maddie.

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