Dog Vomiting: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
What should you do if your dog vomits? Don’t be caught off-guard! In this article, we’re going to learn all about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of dog vomiting to get your pup feeling better in no time!
If you’re like most pet parents, you love your dog unconditionally and hate the idea of him experiencing any pain or discomfort. So, when your pup starts vomiting, you may be tempted to turn to the internet for answers, asking yourself what the causes of dog vomiting are and how best to treat it. But be warned: the internet always seems to find a way of showing you the worst-case scenario.
It’s a situation we’ve all been through - we scour the internet for fever symptoms, and Google tells us that we’re suffering from a terrifying, rare disease! Then, we get an actual diagnosis from our doctor and realize we were overreacting. Most of the time, the internet is a beautiful place, but it’s hard not to think of worst-case scenarios when that’s all you see.
So, before you look up what to give a dog for upset stomach and vomiting, be warned that what you think is the issue may not always be the case.
Because of all the online chatter surrounding the many facets of this subject, we decided to create this complete guide on dog vomiting. Here, we aim to teach you all about vomiting in dogs, including the most common symptoms, causes, and treatments. By the end of this post, we hope you will feel relieved of the stress related to your dog’s health and digestive issues.
But to truly understand the various types of dog vomit and how best to treat it, let’s first take a closer look at two of the most misunderstood symptoms of digestive distress: vomiting and regurgitation.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitation
Learning to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation is essential to truly understand how serious the underlying problem in your dog may be. Though vomiting and regurgitation are not the same, both involve your dog expelling material (either liquid or solid) from the mouth. These two similar symptoms are commonly muddled, but fortunately, there are many ways to differentiate between the two.
How Does Vomiting Differ from Regurgitation?
The definition of vomiting is the forcible expulsion of the stomach contents through a dog’s mouth. Dog vomiting is often preceded by nausea and accompanied by violent abdominal contractions (retching).
Regurgitation is the effortless expulsion of undigested food through the mouth. It usually occurs soon after eating and is often seen in young puppies who eat too quickly.
How Can I Tell the Difference?
One well-known way to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation is to examine the specific contents of what your dog threw up. Everything from color to texture can be a helpful indicator. Bile (a yellow-tinged fluid), for instance, is usually associated with vomiting, whereas the expulsion of whole or undigested food usually relates to regurgitation.
Another helpful way to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation is to monitor your dog’s behavior when they are sick. If your dog is making noises when ejecting their stomach content, such as gagging, they are most likely vomiting. Regurgitation is generally a quiet action, unaccompanied by noise.
Additionally, you can differentiate between the two by paying close attention to the movement of your pup’s abdominal muscles. If the abdominal muscles contract and relax while retching, it is guaranteed to be an instance of vomiting. Regurgitation, on the other hand, does not usually involve any sort of abdominal muscle movements.
When Should I Be Concerned?
If your dog frequently vomits, he may become nauseous, anxious, or lose his appetite completely. If that is the case, it would be wise to involve your family veterinarian. However, a one-off instance of vomiting does not usually cause concern. In many cases, it is simply a reaction to something that didn’t sit well with the stomach and is not likely to be repeated.
We see the opposite when dogs regurgitate. Almost always, when dogs regurgitate, they expel material recently consumed. As we mentioned before, in some cases, there may be traces of bile in the thrown-up substance, though more often than not, it includes whatever the dog has just eaten (food).
As a rule of thumb, in both instances, if it is a one-time thing and happens infrequently, there is usually no need to worry. However, if either behavior occurs frequently and without apparent cause, it is important to take swift action. In the diagnosis and treatments section of this article, we will go over the different types of diagnostics and treatment options that your veterinarian might advise.
Causes of Vomiting in Dogs
There are numerous reasons that a dog may vomit, from chronic illness to dietary indiscretion. Some of the most common causes of dog vomiting may include the following:
- Consumption of garbage, fatty foods, and table scraps
- Ingestion of difficult-to-digest items, such as bones, toys, and other foreign objects
- Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms
- Viral infections
- Organ disease or failure
- Stomach ulcers
- Ingestion of chemicals or household poisons
- Motion sickness
- Excessive stress, anxiety, or excitement (or a combination of all three)
As you’ll notice, many of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs will vary in severity. But as comprehensive as this list may be, it is not an end-all-be-all list. Vomiting is perhaps one of the vaguest symptoms of illness in dogs; the potential causes are truly too many to list!
When determining the role of vomiting in your pup’s overall health, the most crucial piece of the puzzle is you. After all, you (the owner) know your pup best. When your dog is acting irregularly, you’ll be the first to know about any changes that may be problematic. So, if you suspect serious circumstances are affecting your dog’s well-being, it may be time to do something about it.
Acute Vomiting vs. Chronic Vomiting
As a pet parent, it’s essential to understand the various factors of dog vomiting so that you can know when to be concerned. One well-known way to determine the seriousness of your pup’s condition is to monitor the frequency of vomiting. There are two different terms used to describe the frequency of vomiting: acute and chronic.
In most cases, chronic vomiting is more serious than acute vomiting. However, both may hint at a deeper issue causing discomfort in your pup.
Acute vomiting is defined as a single episode or isolated bouts of vomiting. The most common causes of acute vomiting are ingestion of toxins or foreign objects, viral infections, bacterial infections, and motion sickness, though other causes may include:
- Kidney Failure
- Liver Failure
- Dietary Indiscretion
- Intestinal Parasites
- Ingestion of Irritating Substances
- Medication Reaction
- Bloat (GDV)
- Heat Stroke
Chronic vomiting, on the other hand, is defined as repeated episodes of vomiting over a period of time (usually more than two weeks). Although chronic vomiting can be caused by several different things, such as liver disease, cancer, or even psychological factors, the most common cause is gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining).
Other common health problems associated with the symptom of chronic vomiting may include the following:
- Intestinal Issues
- Kidney or Liver Failure
- Uterine Infection
If you’re not sure how to categorize the frequency of your dog’s vomiting, it is best to talk with your family veterinarian to narrow down the root cause. Often, this determination will be made based on your description of your pup’s behavior.
For instance, if your dog vomits immediately after trying out a new dog treat or food, you can be confident that that new food item is the prime suspect or cause. However, if your dog begins to vomit frequently without any apparent change in diet or routine, it may be indicative of a more serious problem.
Diagnosing Vomiting in Dogs
There are several factors that will help determine what exactly is causing your pup’s upset tummy. To determine the cause, you may be asked what the frequency of vomiting is, the color of the substance produced, and whether your dog has access to garbage, toxins, and other harmful elements.
Many owners have anxiety about taking their pup to the vet clinic - but don’t worry! Veterinarians are trained professionals and are here to make our lives (and the lives of our pets) much easier. During a visit with your veterinarian, they may conduct the following routine diagnostic tests, along with a physical exam:
- Bloodwork and Urinalysis (to ensure your pup’s organs are functioning properly)
- Radiographs (to rule out blockages or foreign body ingestion)
- Ultrasound (to scan the digestive system for inflammation or other abnormalities)
Secondary diagnostics may be warranted if your veterinarian finds something concerning. More intensive recommendations may include:
- Biopsy or Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) of suspicious growths, tumors, or masses
- Exploratory Surgery (a procedure during which an incision is made in a dog’s abdomen to examine the content of their digestive tract and other such systems)
- Endoscopy (a minimally invasive procedure that allows your veterinarian to examine the gastrointestinal tract with a microscopic camera)
Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of your dog’s vomiting, it’s time to develop a treatment plan. The best treatment plan for your pup may vary based on the diagnosis, but it will usually consist of switching your dog to a bland diet, giving your pup a bit of medication, and watching them go back to normal in no time! In the following section, we will discuss the different elements of a successful treatment plan in greater detail.
Serious issues, such as a mass or intestinal blockage, will obviously be more concerning, but most health problems involving dog vomiting are manageable with a proper diagnosis.
Treating Vomiting in Dogs
If your dog is vomiting, it’s important to act quickly to treat the problem and prevent further complications (such as dehydration). Fortunately, there are a variety of home treatments for dog vomiting available, most of which can be used in conjunction with prescription medication or food.
Home Remedies for Dog Vomiting
If you are certain that your dog’s vomiting is due to a minor case of digestive upset, you can’t go wrong with a tried-and-true home remedy. Some of the most popular methods for dog vomiting treatment at home include the use of easily accessible herbs and food items, such as:
- Milk Thistle
While it’s not generally recommended to use all these items at once, they have each proven successful in smaller doses. Simply use whatever is available, dosing as advised by your veterinarian, and discontinue after one-to-two days of use. Please keep in mind that while each of these substances is natural and safe in theory, their tolerance has not (yet) been proven in puppies.
Other available solutions for home remedies include the use of Imodium or Pepto-Bismol. In small doses, Imodium or Pepto-Bismol can help soothe an upset stomach and resolve vomiting or diarrhea in dogs. Give your veterinarian a call to determine the correct dosage, as your dog’s weight will determine the proper amount of medicine for both over-the-counter medications.
Veterinary-Prescribed Solutions for Dog Vomiting
There are a variety of prescription-strength treatment options available for dog vomiting, including the use of antiemetic medications such as Cerenia or Metoclopramide. In some cases, your vet may also recommend a prescription food that is easier on your dog’s stomach. Let’s look at each element in more detail.
Cerenia is a potent antiemetic that can be given either via injection or by mouth to prevent nausea and vomiting. Oftentimes, even a short course (five days or less) of Cerenia is enough to interrupt the cycle of vomiting and restore appetite. This medication was created to prevent your dog from vomiting. While this is a positive thing, in theory, it does have the potential to mask the problem if used without a clear diagnosis.
Metoclopramide is a similar medication that is typically administered as an injection or by mouth (in tablet or pill form). It is designed to help alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting with very few side effects. When used correctly, Metoclopramide is known to be a safe, quick, and effective way to reduce or resolve dog vomiting and diarrhea.
Food for Dog Vomiting
To reduce vomiting and stimulate appetite, your veterinarian may also recommend that you temporarily adjust your dog’s diet to incorporate blander, easily digestible food. Some of the most effective, dog-safe food items for an upset tummy include:
- Boiled White-Meat Chicken (no bones, skin, or seasoning)
- Plain White Rice
- Cottage Cheese
- Bone Broth
- Baby Food
If these food items alone are not sufficient, your veterinarian may also recommend temporarily giving your dog prescription-strength food. Some of the most well-known prescription diets for dog vomiting include:
- Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low-Fat
- Hills Gastrointestinal Biome
- Hills I/D Diet (Digestive Care)
- Purina Pro Plan EN Diet (Gastroenteric)
Most prescription diets are available in both dry (kibble) and wet (canned) form and can be used on an as-needed basis each time your pup experiences symptoms of an upset tummy. In fact, all the aforementioned diets are safe for long-term use!
FAQs About Dog Vomiting
"How serious is vomiting in dogs?"
Vomiting is a common problem in dogs and can have a variety of causes. In most cases, it is not serious and will resolve on its own. However, there are some instances where vomiting can indicate a more serious condition. For example, if your dog is vomiting blood or appears to be in pain, this could be a sign of an infection or gastrointestinal blockage. If your dog has been vomiting for more than 24 hours or shows signs of dehydration, this is a medical emergency, and you should take them to the vet immediately. In general, though, vomiting is not a cause for alarm and will often clear up on its own.
"What can I feed my dog after they have vomited?"
After your dog has vomited, it’s important to wait a few hours before feeding them anything. This gives their stomach time to settle and makes them less likely to vomit again. When you do start feeding your dog again, stick to small, easily digestible meals. Good options include boiled chicken, rice, and cottage cheese. Avoid fatty or spicy foods, as well as bones, which can cause additional stomach upset. It’s also important to keep your dog hydrated, so be sure to offer them plenty of fresh water throughout the day. If your dog continues to vomit or has other symptoms, such as diarrhea or loss of appetite, contact your veterinarian for further guidance.
"Why do dogs eat their vomit?"
Believe it or not, there are a few different reasons why your dog might decide to eat their own vomit. The first is simply that they’re curious. Just like a baby who puts everything in their mouth, dogs explore the world with their mouths, and sometimes that means tasting things they probably shouldn’t. Another reason might be that they’re feeling nauseous and are trying to settle their stomach by eating something that smells familiar. Lastly, some experts believe that dogs may eat vomit to clean up after themselves. Whether this is an instinctual behavior, or something learned is a topic still up for debate.
"Why do dogs eat grass and vomit?"
Many experts believe that eating grass is a dog’s way of self-medicating when they have an upset stomach. The grass may help to settle their stomach, or it may make them feel nauseous enough to vomit and get rid of whatever is causing the upset. Regardless of the reason, it’s best to discourage your dog from eating grass, as too much can lead to increased vomiting and other digestive problems.
"What does it mean if my dog vomits white foam? What about yellow bile or green?"
Dog vomit comes in all sorts of colors, from white to yellow to green. And while it might not be the most pleasant topic to think about, it can actually tell you a lot about your dog’s health. When your dog is vomiting, it’s important to pay close attention to the color of the substance produced and educate yourself about what those different colors might mean.
To help you understand the meanings and associations of each colored substance that your dog may vomit, check out the following dog vomit color guide:
White: Oftentimes, dog vomit will consist of a white, foamy substance. White foam is usually a sign of acid reflux and is not cause for concern.
Yellow: Vomitus consisting of yellow bile is not a major concern either. If you notice yellow dog vomit, it usually indicates that their stomach is empty.
Green: If your dog’s vomit is green, it could indicate that your dog has recently eaten grass or another type of vegetation. However, green-colored vomit can also be a sign of infection.
Red: Red vomit may indicate the presence of blood, which could be caused by anything from ingestion of an intolerable substance to the presence of more serious conditions like gastrointestinal ulcers or cancer. If your dog vomits red fluid, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
"How to induce vomiting in dogs?"
If your dog has ingested something toxic, it is important to act quickly to induce vomiting and remove the substance from their system. The most effective way to induce vomiting in dogs is through an injection of Apomorphine (or another dopamine promoter). Apomorphine is a safe and affordable medication used to induce emesis and should only be administered by a veterinarian.
Another alternative for inducing vomiting in dogs is the use of hydrogen peroxide. This method has become a popular home remedy in recent years and can be effective when done correctly. However, extreme caution should be used when making any attempt to induce vomiting at home. Improper administration or dosing can cause irritation and inflammation of the stomach and esophagus, making your dog more ill than he was before.
We hope this guide has diminished your anxiety or insecurity about your dog’s health issues (even vomiting). Throughout this guide, we have learned about dogs’ different types of vomiting, their causes, ways to diagnose, and treatment options. We’ve also answered the internet’s most frequently asked questions about dog vomiting.
Armed with expert knowledge about all things dog vomit, you no longer need to be afraid of this otherwise intimidating condition. Oftentimes, vomiting is simply your dog’s way of letting you know they need extra care and attention to get better. Using the information from this post, we hope your pup will start feeling better in no time!
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