Anyone who has a dog has likely experienced them throwing up at least once or twice (or more… usually more) in their lifetimes. It’s a relatively common occurrence, unfortunately, and the reasons why your dog is throwing up can be quite varied. There are quite a few reasons you dog could be throwing up, so if you're worried about their safety, it's important to talk to a vet. Read on to understand what may cause your dog to vomit, and what you should do in each situation.
The first step to treating vomiting is to recognize when your pet is actually vomiting versus merely regurgitating up their food. According to Dr. Krista Williams and Dr. Ernest Ward of VCA Hospital, regurgitation is more of a passive process that occurs quickly, and often right after eating or drinking. Vomiting, however, is often more distressing for your dog; they may pace and lick their lips before actively using their abdominal muscles to bring up the contents of their stomach.
If you're worried, talk to a vet about it.
Once it’s clear your dog is throwing up, the next step (other than giving them cuddles and cleaning up the carpet) is to consider the context of your dog’s life as well as the contents of your pup’s puke in order to help your vet narrow down the cause of the vomiting.
Was the throwing up a one-time thing, for example, where your pet pukes once and seems fine otherwise? Or is it an ongoing thing where your poor doggie can’t even keep down water? What kind of puke your dog has is also an important thing to note (check out this infographic from PetMD that describes the different kinds, in exquisite detail) and share with your vet.
Now that you have some basic information, your vet can help narrow down what may be causing these symptoms. It’s important to note, however, that many things can cause vomiting in your dog. And while many of these are very treatable and relatively harmless (again, if treated), some may be a symptom of a more serious ailment. Here are some of the major causes of vomiting in dogs:
Some dogs, like humans, have sensitive stomachs; any sudden change in their diet (including changing their dog food suddenly instead of gradually) can cause them to vomit. Dogs can also vomit (again, like humans) from food allergies or simply because they ate too fast.
Dogs can also vomit if they’ve eaten something that is toxic to their system. Have they gotten into the trash lately? Eaten something that you didn’t think was edible? This is important to take note of and to call your doctor immediately.
Go on a long (or short) car ride with your pup that ended in vomit? Your dog probably had motion sickness.
If your dog is vomiting regularly (i.e., greater than once every one to two weeks) they may have a chronic condition called gastritis. This ailment is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as diarrhea, black or tarry stools, and flecks of blood in their vomit. These symptoms are often caused by an inflammation of the stomach lining, and can be brought on by a variety of causes. A vet appointment is warranted here, and your pup’s doctor will likely run a series of tests to determine the underlying cause.
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Pancreatitis is another serious condition that will require treatment by your vet. In this case, your pup’s pancreas is inflamed. In addition to vomiting, other symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and pain in the abdomen. Head to the vet immediately if your dog has these symptoms.
Bloat often occurs after a dog has eaten too quickly and is a major medical emergency that requires an immediate visit to the vet ER. In addition to vomiting, other symptoms include restlessness, an enlargement of the dog’s abdomen and salvation. If your dog doesn’t receive treatment immediately (as in an hour or two), the condition can become fatal.
If throwing up is also accompanied by other symptoms described above, it’s time to call the doctor immediately, as it may be a sign of one of the more serious conditions where vomiting is a symptom.
Even if your dog is just throwing up, however, a vet appointment is still likely warranted. The simple matter, however, that sometimes dogs just vomit.
If your vet rules out the more serious conditions, They will likely offer a non-specific treatment for vomiting, which involves not giving your dog food for 24-48 hours and water for 24 hours (assuming your dog’s fluid levels are okay).
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If the vomiting stops during that time, your vet will likely have you give your pet bland food like steamed chicken and white rice in small amounts for a few days until gradually introducing their normal diet again.
So if your dog becomes sick, be sure to empathize with them (we’ve all been there ourselves, most likely) and give them the love, care and treatment that they need. Chances are, they’ll feel better soon. And so will you.