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Chronic Vomiting in Dogs

What Is Chronic Vomiting in Dogs?

Chronic vomiting is a common health issue among dogs, characterized by the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth. It typically progresses through three stages: nausea, retching, and vomiting. While vomiting can sometimes help rid the body of potential toxins, it generally indicates an underlying problem in your pet.

Chronic vomiting differs from acute vomiting, which is short-term and typically resolves quickly. Chronic vomiting persists for at least 7 days, occurring continuously or intermittently. Pet owners may find this condition frustrating due to the ongoing need to clean up messes and the concern for their pet’s well-being.

While a single instance of vomiting without accompanying lethargy or decreased appetite may resolve with a short fast and bland diet, chronic vomiting with lethargy and/or decreased appetite constitutes a medical emergency. In such cases, multiple bouts of vomiting indicate a serious issue that requires immediate attention from a veterinarian.


Chronic vomiting in dogs manifests as a clinical indication of an underlying problem or illness rather than a standalone disease. Identifying chronic vomiting involves recognizing vomiting episodes lasting 7 or more days and/or repeated instances of intermittent vomiting.

To differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation, a crucial initial step is necessary. While both can involve the expulsion of processed food, stomach acid, and water from the stomach, they are distinct conditions. Vomiting is accompanied by signs of nausea, such as increased drooling, decreased appetite, lethargy, and frequent swallowing. It is an active process requiring abdominal muscle contractions, often observable as the dog’s sides heave during the act. Retching, a component of vomiting, involves the dog making noise as they prepare to expel the vomit.

In contrast, regurgitation is a passive process where dogs simply open their mouths, allowing food and stomach contents to spill out. Unlike vomiting, regurgitation typically occurs immediately after a meal rather than hours later. Understanding these differences aids in accurately identifying and addressing chronic vomiting in dogs.


Identifying the potential causes of chronic vomiting in dogs requires collaboration with your veterinarian to pinpoint the underlying trigger. Various factors could be contributing to your dog’s chronic vomiting. Here are some of the common culprits:

  • Gastrointestinal sensitivity or intolerance, often termed as a “sensitive stomach”
  • Food allergies
  • Regular alterations in diet
  • Stress
  • Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
  • Dietary indiscretions, such as rummaging through garbage repeatedly
  • Presence of gastric foreign bodies
  • Parasitic infections
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Infectious diseases or underlying infections, such as uterine infections like Pyometra
  • Underlying systemic conditions like kidney, pancreatic, liver diseases, or cancer
  • Side effects from medication
  • Conditions like Addison’s disease or other endocrine disorders like diabetic ketosis
  • Stenotic pylorus
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Gastric ulcers

Younger dogs are more prone to gastrointestinal foreign bodies, parasites, and dietary indiscretions. Some genetic conditions, like a stenotic pylorus or food allergies, may manifest early in a dog’s life. However, it’s not unusual for food allergies or intolerance to develop over time rather than being present at birth. Senior dogs, on the other hand, are more susceptible to systemic diseases like kidney disease and cancer. Understanding these potential causes aids in formulating an effective treatment plan for your dog’s chronic vomiting.


When faced with a case of chronic vomiting in a dog, veterinarians begin by obtaining a comprehensive history. It’s crucial to document any patterns observed at home, such as the timing of vomiting episodes or whether they occur after meals. Owners should provide detailed information regarding the type and brand of food, the dog’s energy levels and appetite, the frequency and appearance of bowel movements, and any other relevant behaviors. Stool samples are typically requested for analysis.

During the physical examination, the veterinarian will carefully palpate the dog’s abdomen for any abnormalities and conduct a thorough assessment of the entire body to identify any associated issues. Following the examination, diagnostic tests such as fecal analysis, x-rays, or blood work are usually recommended. If these initial tests yield no definitive results, further diagnostic measures such as abdominal ultrasonography, endoscopy, CT scans, or exploratory surgery with biopsies may be advised to uncover the underlying cause of the chronic vomiting.


Treating chronic vomiting in dogs varies depending on the underlying issue. In some cases, dietary therapy alone proves effective. Specialized prescription diets, such as Hill’s Gastrointestinal Biome or Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Fiber diet, formulated with prebiotics and easily digestible fiber, can benefit dogs with sensitive GI tracts.

For dogs with food allergies, diets featuring alternate protein sources like egg or kangaroo, or hydrolyzed protein, may be recommended. It’s crucial to strictly adhere to the prescribed diet for 8-12 weeks without offering unauthorized treats, which could skew the results of the dietary trial.

Oral medications may be necessary for managing chronic vomiting. Parasites and infectious diseases often respond to oral medications like dewormers or antibiotics. Ulcers may require oral medications to protect the GI tract lining. Bilious vomiting syndrome, characterized by morning vomiting, may be alleviated with over-the-counter antacids or lifestyle adjustments, such as offering a late-night snack to prevent prolonged empty stomach periods.

Chronic kidney disease, common in senior small breed dogs, can lead to chronic vomiting along with increased drinking, urination, and weight loss. Prescription diets designed to reduce kidney workload can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life and slow disease progression. Similarly, systemic conditions like pancreatitis, liver disease, and diabetes may benefit from specialized diets formulated to support the affected organ system and prevent flare-ups.

Certain conditions, such as gastric foreign bodies, may require surgical intervention. Gastric foreign bodies, such as balls, socks, or toy pieces, may necessitate exploration of the gastrointestinal tract to identify and address underlying issues causing chronic vomiting.

Exploratory surgery may reveal non-radiopaque items obstructing the stomach outflow tract, leading to vomiting episodes. Even if no foreign bodies are found during surgery, biopsies can be taken to assess for underlying gastric or intestinal diseases contributing to chronic vomiting. Collaboration with a veterinarian helps determine the most effective treatment approach tailored to the specific needs of the dog.

Living and Management

The recovery and management of chronic vomiting in dogs vary depending on the diagnosis. If nutrition proves sufficient for managing the issue, strict adherence to the prescribed diet is essential. Consult your veterinarian regarding acceptable treats, if any, to ensure compliance.

For vomiting related to parasites, treatment can be curative. Maintaining your dog on a quality monthly preventative product is crucial to prevent reinfection. Many heartworm prevention products also safeguard against common gastrointestinal parasites. Discuss with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable product for your dog.

Systemic diseases may necessitate chronic oral medications or lifestyle adjustments for management. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions diligently and attend recheck visits regularly to assess your dog’s response to treatment and make any necessary modifications.

In cases where surgery was necessary to address chronic vomiting due to a foreign body or stenotic pylorus, it’s important to ensure your pet remains calm and quiet during the postoperative two-week period to facilitate healing. Avoid activities like running, jumping, or stairs that may stress the healing incision. Your veterinarian may prescribe a bland diet and oral medications post-surgery. Administer all prescribed medications as instructed and closely monitor your dog’s intake and output during recovery. Leash walking is often recommended to monitor bowel movements after surgery. If your dog shows signs of lethargy, lack of appetite, or persistent vomiting after surgery, contact your veterinarian immediately for further guidance.


Preventing chronic vomiting in dogs involves proactive measures to address preventable causes such as parasites, toxins, and dietary indiscretions, while acknowledging that some underlying factors may be genetic and require ongoing management.

Ensure your dog receives recommended parasite prevention products regularly and minimize exposure to toxins and potential hazards. If your dog has a penchant for rummaging through trash, consider using a lidded trash can stored in a room with closed doors. Supervise your dog to prevent mouthing of non-food items or unsupervised chewing on bones or toys.

Maintain a consistent, balanced diet for your dog and avoid frequent changes that can upset their stomach. Consult your veterinarian for guidance on optimal nutrition, and they may recommend a consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist if a homemade diet is advised for a diet trial.

While a single episode of intermittent vomiting may not necessitate immediate attention, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care promptly if your dog struggles to retain food or water. In cases of gastrointestinal foreign bodies, timely intervention is critical, especially if they have migrated into the intestines.

For dogs experiencing occasional vomiting but otherwise displaying energy and appetite, scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian during office hours is appropriate. Remember, vomiting indicates an underlying issue that warrants investigation, and intermittent bouts should be thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian. By addressing potential triggers and promptly seeking veterinary care, you can help prevent and manage chronic vomiting in your dog.

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