Anyone who has a dog has likely experienced them throwing up at least once or twice.
When your dog vomits, it can be worrisome and confusing, as well as cause a great deal of stress for pet parents and dogs alike.
Nevertheless, before you panic, you should be aware that it’s a relatively common occurrence. The reasons why your dog is throwing up can be quite varied. Therefore, you should take some time to look into what exactly is leading your dog to vomit.
There are many causes that cause nausea in pets, so if you're worried about their safety, it's important to talk to a vet. Not only will this provide you with a lot of peace of mind, but it can also help you figure out what exactly is causing your pet’s episodes of sickness. From there, you can begin to take steps that can help them get better.
Read on to learn more about what situations are often tied to cases of vomiting in dogs.
The first step to treating vomiting is to recognize when your pet is actually vomiting versus merely throwing up undigested food—also referred to as regurgitation. 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.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell the difference. Take the time to observe the way that your dog is behaving, and you will notice that these two experiences are certainly not the same.
Throwing up undigested food occurs when food is ejected from the esophagus, whereas dog vomiting occurs when food is ejected from the stomach. An easy way to tell when your dog is regurgitating is if the food looks relatively similar to how it did when your dog ate it; it hasn't gone through the digestive tract, leaving it identifiable and largely intact.
Regurgitating has different instigators than vomiting, and being able to differentiate between the two will allow you to more accurately describe your dog's symptoms to a vet.
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The reality is that many things can cause vomiting in your dog. And while the majority of these are very treatable and relatively harmless (if treated correctly), some may be a symptom of a more serious ailment.
It's important to work with a vet to help narrow down what may be causing your dog to throw up.
Here are are some of the major causes of vomiting in dogs:
Some dogs, like humans, have sensitive stomachs; any sudden diet change (including changing their dog food suddenly instead of gradually) can cause them to vomit. Dogs can also vomit from food allergies or simply because they ate too fast.
When you talk to your vet, be sure to mention if you recently changed your pet’s diet—or if you gave them something different than you normally would. Another possible reason is a change in medication. This can be key to understanding why your dog is vomiting.
Dogs can also vomit if they’ve eaten something that is toxic to their system. Has your dog accidentally consumed any garbage lately? Eaten a foreign object that you didn’t think was edible, like the squeaker from a toy?
This is important to take note of and to call a vet immediately, especially in the case of a possible obstruction/intestinal blockage. How fast you reach out to the vet is important, as it’s always better to act sooner than later when involving possible toxins or poisons.
Not all dogs love car rides. Some dogs are prone to throwing up, even in a short and easy car ride. Your dog may have a case of motion sickness. This is nothing major to worry about, but if it happens repeatedly, you should reach out to your vet to get their insight on ways you can reduce the chances of this occurring again.
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 (like blood tests, ultrasounds, or x-rays) to determine the underlying cause.
Pancreatitis is another serious condition that will require treatment by your vet. In this case, your dog has inflammation of the pancreas. 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 can be a medical emergency. In addition to vomiting, other symptoms of bloat include restlessness, an enlargement of the dog’s abdomen, and salivation. If your dog doesn’t receive treatment immediately (as in an hour or two), the condition can become fatal. Again, it’s better to seek professional help sooner rather than later.
In addition to providing any context about lifestyle changes your dog has undergone, the appearance texture of the vomit is also an important thing to note and share with your vet.
Bile, for example, looks quite different from regurgitated kibble. If you are speaking with a veterinarian through telehealth, it will be easy to share photographs of your dog’s vomit.
If your dog is throwing up yellow vomit, this is likely bile secretions from an empty stomach. This most commonly occurs in the middle of the night or early morning, and can be due to reflux, acid buildup, or any other condition that causes nausea.
Foamy, white vomit is indicative of a buildup of acid in the stomach. Contact with air and wallowing around in the stomach can cause the foamy appearance.
We touched on this one earlier, but this happens when food is ejected from the esophagus and likely occurs shortly after eating or drinking.
If your dog is throwing up clear liquid, this can be caused by stomach secretions or drinking water when feeling nauseous. The water can pool in the stomach and come up on its own when they vomit.
If your dog is throwing up blood, this could indicate a few different things depending on the color and texture. Clots of blood, fresh red blood, or blood that looks like coffee grounds could mean that there's bleeding in the upper small intestine or stomach. This should be taken very seriously and we recommend contacting a vet immediately.
If there's a slightly pink tinge to your dog's vomit and the vomiting does not last long, this situation might not be as urgent, but should still be brought to the attention of a vet.
If throwing up is also accompanied by other symptoms described above, it’s time to call a veterinarian immediately, as it may be a sign of one of the more serious conditions where vomiting is a symptom.
That being said, it is very anxiety-inducing when your dog doesn’t feel well. Therefore, even if your dog’s symptoms do not seem to be severe, you can’t go wrong by reaching out to the vet and hearing what they have to say.
Some symptoms that may suggest severe illness include lethargy, pale gums, or a loss of appetite.
Even if your dog just seems to have a minor upset stomach, a vet appointment is still likely warranted. While there might not be a cause for concern, make sure to check in with your dog’s healthcare provider.
If your vet rules out the more serious conditions, they will likely offer a non-specific treatment for vomiting, which could involve withholding food for a short period of time or another approved treatment. You should never decide to do this on your own, however. You should only take such steps if your vet advises that they are necessary.
Don't leave it to chance. Get a vet's opinion.
If the vomiting stops during that time, your vet will likely have you give your pet a bland diet like steamed chicken and white rice in small amounts for a few days until gradually introducing their normal diet again.
It is incredibly important to fight dehydration. Encourage your dog to drink water.
If your dog becomes sick, be sure to empathize with them and give them the love, care, and treatment that they need. Chances are, they’ll feel better soon and go back to playing and snuggling. If your dog is feeling under the weather, they might want to rest. Let them dictate what they need from you and how you can best support them.
Ultimately, if your pet is not feeling well, the best thing that you can do is get a vet to check them out. That being said, sometimes it's not possible for your dog to see their local vet. Perhaps, the vomiting happens over the weekend or overnight, the vet isn’t open for a holiday, or there is no availability.
If you want to get your dog seen by a vet, this is where Pawp can help. When you join Pawp as a member, you get unlimited, 24/7 access to vets. Think of Pawp as telehealth for pets—you and your animal see the vet virtually, and they can give you insight as to what's happening with your dog.
You’ll also be happy to learn that there’s no wait time or appointment necessary, and you’ll be chatting with experienced vets. Every Pawp vet has over five years of experience, and most have more than ten.
Pet emergencies can be incredibly stressful, and immediate reassurance is invaluable. When you join Pawp, you’re getting access to the best vets in the business. Whether your dog is vomiting, not eating, or anything in between, the Pawp vets can help you find an answer: anytime, anywhere.