If you think dogs vomit a lot, you’re right. That’s because dogs have a well-developed vomiting center in their brains, which allows them to throw up much easier than most other animals.
It’s partially a defense mechanism to the dog’s scavenger nature. They see something and eat it to find out if it’s edible. If it’s not, their body throws it back out the same way it came in.
But vomiting can also be a sign of a serious and even life-threatening illness in our pets. Here are facts you need to know about dogs’ vomiting.
Vomit or Regurgitation?
There are two ways that dogs throw up.
When food stays in the esophagus because it is blocked or won’t go down, it accumulates until it is overloaded and the dog regurgitates the food. Although this process may appear similar to vomiting, it is actually called regurgitation. This food often appears tubular in shape and undigested because it has not actually made it to the stomach.
But when the food reaches the stomach, it has to be forcefully expelled through vomiting. Dogs that are about to vomit usually become anxious and may seek attention or reassurance and exhibit signs of excessive drooling and swallowing.
Why Dogs Vomit
Common causes of vomiting are eating indigestible substances, overeating or eating too fast, exercising immediately after eating, motion sickness, stress, and worms.
But vomiting also can be a sign of serious illnesses, such as ulcers, kidney or liver failure, enterocolitis, parvovirus, distemper, pancreatitis, cancer, peritonitis, diabetes, acute gastritis, intestinal obstruction, food allergies, poisoning, or other illnesses.
If a dog vomits only a frothy, clear or yellowish fluid, it probably has a stomach problem, such as acute gastritis, but it also could have pancreatitis, peritonitis, or an intestinal obstruction.
And going through the motions of vomiting, but not bringing up any vomitus could be a sign of bloat (also called gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV), a very dangerous and often fatal condition in which the stomach twists inside a dog.
When Is Vomiting a Serious Problem?
If an otherwise healthy dog throws up occasionally, it probably isn’t a problem. But if you see any of the following signs, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately:
- Vomiting more than once per day, or continuing to vomit the following day
- Projectile vomiting
- Vomit containing bright red blood or what looks like coffee grounds (this is partially digested blood)
- Vomiting despite not eating for several hours
- Abdominal bloating
Vomiting also can be more dangerous in older dogs, dogs that already have health issues, and puppies. So keep a closer eye on those dogs and take them to your vet if they continue to throw up, because vomiting can severely dehydrate dogs.
Help your vet diagnose your dog’s problem by paying close attention to when and how often your pet has vomited. Also mention anything else you noticed, such as blood in their vomit, diarrhea, weight loss, a change in appetite, and lethargy.
Your veterinarian may do diagnostic tests — which could range from blood work and X-rays to exploratory surgery — to find the cause of the problem.
If your dog is healthy and has vomited only once, you should withhold food and water for about 12 hours to give your dog’s stomach time to rest.
After that, give your dog a few ice chips or a small amount of water (a quarter to half a cup, depending on your dog’s size) to see if they can tolerate it. You also can give them a small amount of pediatric electrolyte solution with the water.
If your pet seems fine with the water, offer a couple of tablespoons of bland food, such as boiled chicken breast and rice, every few hours. If he keeps it down, you can slowly reintroduce his regular diet. If he throws up again, see your veterinarian.
Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, a diet change, antiemetics (drugs that help control vomiting) or other medications. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on what is best for your pet.