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Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Dog vomiting is a familiar and distressing sound for pet owners. It’s essential to understand the reasons behind it and when it warrants concern or veterinary attention.

Dogs vomit for various reasons, ranging from benign to severe health issues. Differentiating between them is crucial for pet owners. Understanding the types of dog vomit and knowing when to seek veterinary care are vital aspects of responsible pet ownership.

Let’s explore the causes and types of dog vomiting:

Is It Dog Vomiting or Regurgitation?

Understanding whether your dog is vomiting or regurgitating is the first step in identifying the issue.

What Does Your Dog’s Vomit Look Like?

Dog vomit comes in various forms, each potentially indicating different underlying causes. Here are some common types:

  • Yellow Vomit
  • White, Foamy Vomit
  • Clear, Liquid Vomit
  • Mucus-Like, Slimy Vomit
  • Bloody Vomit (red or pink)
  • Brown Vomit
  • Green Vomit
  • Worms in Vomit
  • Grass in Vomit

Why Is My Dog Throwing Up?

Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s vomiting is crucial for appropriate care and treatment.

Do You Need to Go to the Vet if Your Dog Is Vomiting?

Knowing when to seek veterinary care is essential for your dog’s well-being. Certain instances of vomiting require immediate attention from a veterinarian.

What Can You Give a Dog to Stop Vomiting at Home?

While some home remedies may help alleviate mild cases of vomiting, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian before administering any treatments.

Dog Vomiting Treatment at the Vet’s Office

Veterinary treatment options for dog vomiting depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

How to Prevent Some Cases of Dog Vomiting

Implementing preventive measures can help reduce the risk of your dog experiencing vomiting episodes in the future.

Understanding the causes, types, and appropriate responses to dog vomiting is essential for maintaining your pet’s health and well-being. If in doubt, always consult your veterinarian for guidance and treatment.

Is It Dog Vomiting or Regurgitation?

It’s crucial to distinguish between dog vomiting and regurgitation as they are not the same. Dog vomiting is an active process, while regurgitation is more passive in nature.

Understanding this difference is essential because the causes and treatments for these conditions vary significantly. Vomiting is typically more concerning than regurgitation, making it important to identify correctly for proper care and treatment.

Dog Vomiting

Dog vomiting is the forceful ejection of stomach and upper intestine contents. It often contains partially digested dog food or yellow bile and emits a sour odor.

Vomiting can occur shortly after eating or at any time thereafter, typically accompanied by signs of nausea such as drooling, excessive licking of lips, and swallowing.

Some dogs may consume grass before or after vomiting, possibly to induce vomiting or protect the esophagus from sharp objects like bone shards. However, it’s advisable to prevent excessive grass consumption to avoid exacerbating the situation.

While dogs eating their own vomit may seem unappealing to humans, it’s a natural instinct for them and not a significant problem.

Vomiting can lead to dehydration, prompting dogs to drink large amounts of water afterward. However, excessive water intake may trigger further vomiting, so it’s best to limit water consumption to small amounts at a time.

Regurgitation in Dogs

Regurgitation in dogs is the gentle expulsion of undigested food from the esophagus, indicating that it hasn’t reached the stomach. Unlike vomiting, regurgitation doesn’t involve abdominal heaving.

This phenomenon typically occurs shortly after eating, often due to factors like overeating, eating too quickly, or experiencing excitement or stress.

What Does Your Dog’s Vomit Look Like?

After confirming that your dog is vomiting rather than regurgitating, you can assess the type of vomit by its appearance. The visual characteristics of the vomit can provide insights into the potential causes of vomiting in dogs.

Yellow Vomit

Yellow vomit is frequently observed in dogs with empty stomachs, and its color results from bile secretions. This occurrence is particularly common during late-night or early morning hours. Acid buildup, reflux, or systemic conditions inducing nausea on an empty stomach can contribute to its occurrence.

White, Foamy Vomit

White, foamy vomit can result from a buildup of stomach acid. Its foamy appearance may occur due to contact with air or agitation within the stomach before vomiting takes place.

Clear, Liquid Vomit

If your dog is vomiting clear liquid, it may be due to stomach secretions or pooled water in the stomach that is expelled during vomiting. This occurrence is common when a dog drinks water while feeling nauseous and struggles to retain it.

Mucus-Like, Slimy Vomit

Mucus-like, slimy vomit occurs when a dog experiences significant irritation, causing drool to pool in the stomach. Vomiting up the mucus helps alleviate the dog’s nausea.

Bloody Vomit (Red or Pink)

Bloody vomit in a dog, whether red or pink, warrants serious attention. Blood in the vomit may induce nausea and is typically expelled if it accumulates in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. While a pink tinge may not always signal an urgent situation, the presence of blood clots, fresh blood, or a coffee-ground appearance suggests potential bleeding into the stomach or upper small intestine.

Such bleeding could stem from conditions like ulcers, tumors, clotting deficiencies, or ingestion of rat poison. Immediate treatment at a veterinary hospital is imperative for these conditions.

Brown Vomit

Brown vomit in dogs may result from regurgitated food from the esophagus, indicating food that didn’t reach the stomach for digestion. It could also suggest rapid ingestion without proper chewing or excessive air swallowing.

While brown vomit may appear as regurgitated kibbles, it’s essential to inspect its contents for further insights. Occasionally, traces of blood may give it a brownish hue without being heavily bloody. Additionally, brown vomit could indicate coprophagia, or the consumption of feces.

Green Vomit

Green vomit in dogs can occur for several reasons. It may result from ingesting grass or from a gallbladder contraction, which releases bile into the stomach before vomiting, typically when the stomach is empty.

Worms in Vomit

Worms and other infectious organisms can induce vomiting in dogs. In cases of live worms or significant infestations, such as with roundworms, dogs may expel them through vomiting. However, roundworm infestations are more commonly diagnosed through the detection of eggs in the feces.

Grass in Vomit

Grass is frequently found in dog vomit. Dogs may consume grass when they have an upset stomach, which can occasionally lead to vomiting. However, if they regularly eat grass, there’s a possibility they could be ingesting more pesticides and parasites.

Why Is My Dog Throwing Up?

Understanding why a dog is vomiting is complex and doesn’t have a single answer. Various factors such as age, breed, and behavior can influence a dog’s susceptibility to vomiting. Both external and internal factors can contribute to vomiting episodes, and several considerations like duration, color, and severity can affect how to address the issue.

Here’s a list of potential causes of vomiting in dogs, whether it’s a one-time occurrence (acute) or happens frequently over time (chronic):

  • Sudden changes in diet
  • Addison’s disease
  • Bloat
  • Brain tumor
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Eating grass (potentially caused by other factors)
  • Coprophagia (eating poop)
  • Eating too quickly
  • Exercising after eating
  • Food allergies or intolerance
  • Gastritis or upset stomach from consuming garbage or spoiled food
  • Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract)
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Head trauma or drug side effects
  • Heat stroke
  • Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • Infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ingestion of toxic plants or other toxins
  • Intestinal obstruction from a foreign body
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Megaesophagus
  • Meningitis
  • Middle ear problems
  • Motion sickness from car rides
  • Pancreatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Reaction to medication

Acute Dog Vomiting

Acute vomiting occurs suddenly and hasn’t been ongoing for an extended period. Here are some potential reasons why a dog may experience acute vomiting:

Eating Something Bad

Consuming something inappropriate is a common occurrence, especially among younger dogs. Whether it’s rummaging through the trash or ingesting a toxic outdoor plant, the signs of sickness in your dog typically become evident swiftly.

If a dog ingests an object that moves around in their stomach without causing obstruction, it could potentially develop into a chronic issue if left undetected. Moreover, consuming excessively fatty food can lead to a severe stomach condition known as pancreatitis.

Contagious Diseases

Contagious diseases can also lead to dog vomiting, particularly among younger dogs. Parvovirus is one such contagious disease that can cause severe illness. It primarily affects puppies, especially those in group settings with other dogs.

Certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and sled dogs, may be more susceptible to parvovirus.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are another potential cause of vomiting in dogs. Frequently, dogs may carry the parasite without showing any symptoms until vomiting suddenly occurs.

In some cases, the dog may vomit up the actual worm, while in others, we may only detect the eggs of the parasite in stool samples.

Contaminated Water

Drinking from puddles and communal drinking bowls can lead to bacterial imbalances that cause stomach upset in dogs. Drinking from lakes containing cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) can be fatal. Initially, the dog may experience vomiting, but severe cases can progress to neurological symptoms and even death.

Bloat

Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, can lead to vomiting. This condition is acute and life-threatening, necessitating hospitalization and aggressive treatment.

When the stomach fills with air and then twists on itself, it can obstruct circulation and induce shock in the dog. Bloat is most prevalent in large-breed and deep-chested dogs, including German Shepherds, Great Danes, Standard Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. Excessive or rapid eating or drinking can contribute to the development of bloat.

Chronic Dog Vomiting

Chronic dog vomiting persists over an extended period, occurring either consistently or intermittently. It can be particularly frustrating without knowing the underlying cause. Certain dogs are prone to vomiting regularly, especially young ones, which could be due to parasites or food sensitivities. Chronic vomiting may also stem from specific diseases or health conditions.

To diagnose the issue, bloodwork, X-rays, ultrasounds, or biopsies are often necessary. Here are some common causes of chronic vomiting in dogs.

Megaesophagus

Megaesophagus, characterized by a generalized enlargement of the esophagus, can result from various conditions affecting dogs of all ages. Some dogs are born with the condition due to the natural formation of their esophagus. Others develop it over time due to conditions like Addison’s disease, myasthenia gravis, or hypothyroidism.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can also lead to chronic vomiting. Despite its name suggesting lower gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting can be the primary symptom in some cases of IBD.

Pancreatitis

We highlighted pancreatitis as a frequent acute cause of vomiting in dogs. However, some dogs experience chronic pancreatitis, making them susceptible to ongoing vomiting episodes. These dogs require a strictly low-fat diet without any exceptions. Breeds such as Schnauzers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, and Bichon Frisés are genetically predisposed to chronic pancreatitis, which can also increase the risk of diabetes.

Do You Need to Go to the Vet if Your Dog Is Vomiting?

Determining whether to take your dog to the vet when it’s vomiting is crucial. It’s important to discern when to seek professional help versus trying home remedies or monitoring the situation.

If your dog has been vomiting for less than 12 hours, appears alert, and can keep down food and water, it may be suitable to wait and observe. Dehydration is a significant concern with vomiting, as it can lead to the breakdown of essential body functions.

However, you should contact and visit your vet if your dog:

  • Is a puppy (at risk of dehydration or hypoglycemia)
  • Is geriatric
  • Is projectile vomiting (possible sign of obstruction)
  • Attempts to vomit or dry heaves without producing anything (symptom of bloat, a life-threatening condition)
  • Vomits blood
  • Vomits pieces of a foreign object or a whole object
  • Appears lethargic (indicating systemic effects)
  • Urinates less (indicative of dehydration)
  • Has a tender or swollen abdomen (suggesting serious causes of vomiting)
  • Refuses food
  • Cannot retain small amounts of water
  • Shows signs of dehydration (slow skin elasticity recovery, dry gums)
  • Experiences diarrhea alongside vomiting (increasing dehydration risk)
  • Has pre-existing medical conditions
  • Consumed human food (to evaluate potential concern)
  • Vomits frequently (chronic vomiting)
  • Loses weight due to frequent vomiting (chronic vomiting)
  • Demonstrates declining appearance and overall demeanor (including weight loss and muscle deterioration)

Emergency Situations

Signs indicating urgent veterinary attention or a visit to the emergency clinic include:

  • Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea, especially if it becomes bloody. This suggests a potential rapid progression to severe dehydration necessitating hospitalization.
  • Lethargy following vomiting, or vomiting accompanied by shaking. These symptoms may indicate severe abdominal pain or electrolyte imbalances, requiring prompt veterinary attention.
  • Consumption of a foreign object, a known toxin, or something suspected to be toxic. Projectile vomiting could indicate ingestion of a foreign object. If unable to prevent ingestion, promptly inform the vet or poison hotline regarding the substance to determine necessary actions.

What Can You Give a Dog to Stop Vomiting at Home?

If your dog is experiencing mild vomiting and none of the serious symptoms mentioned earlier, there are some home remedies you can try. However, it’s important to note that Pepto Bismol is not a preferred treatment for dogs due to its salicylic acid content, which is also found in aspirin. This ingredient should be used cautiously, especially in dogs taking anti-inflammatories or steroids, as it could lead to gastrointestinal bleeding.

Safer options to help reduce acid production and acid reflux include Pepcid AC (famotidine) and Prilosec (omeprazole). These medications often help settle the stomach and can be considered for use in dogs.

Dog Vomiting Treatment at the Vet’s Office

In many instances of vomiting, treatment through injection is the most effective method. It ensures that the medication enters the dog’s system reliably and helps prevent further vomiting. Sometimes, a dog may vomit up a pill, rendering it ineffective if they cannot keep it down.

Medications to Stop Nausea and Vomiting

Cerenia (maropitant citrate) has become the go-to antiemetic medication for dogs in recent years. It targets a specific trigger zone in the brain to alleviate nausea and also affects receptors in the stomach. Typically, veterinarians administer an injection of Cerenia initially and then prescribe pills for the dog to take every 24 hours for a few days to ensure vomiting cessation.

Reglan (metoclopramide) is less commonly used but remains beneficial for motility disorders in dogs, including megaesophagus.

Zofran (ondansetron) serves as another antiemetic option primarily used in hospital settings.

In addition to medication, the veterinarian may suggest feeding your dog a bland or easily digestible diet.

How to Prevent Some Cases of Dog Vomiting

Preventing some cases of dog vomiting can be achieved by adhering to these guidelines:

  1. Avoid sudden changes in your dog’s diet. Always opt for a gradual transition, as abrupt dietary shifts commonly lead to intestinal upset in dogs.
  2. Refrain from providing your dog with toys that can be easily swallowed or chewed into pieces, potentially causing gastrointestinal irritation or blockage.
  3. Do not give your dog bones, as they are frequently associated with episodes of vomiting.
  4. Steer clear of feeding your dog table scraps. Some human foods, such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, xylitol, onions, garlic, chives, macadamia nuts, and high-fat items, pose serious health risks to dogs. Additionally, dogs with sensitive stomachs may not tolerate even “safe” human foods without experiencing vomiting.
  5. Prevent your dog from scavenging for food during walks or accessing garbage cans. Veterinarians often refer to the gastroenteritis caused by consuming scavenged items as “garbage gut.” Scavenging also heightens the risk of foreign object ingestion and exposure to toxins.
  6. Supervise overly curious dogs closely, and consider using a muzzle to prevent them from ingesting potentially harmful items they may encounter during walks.
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