A dog may throw up because he has eaten something that his digestive tract disagrees with or he may have gobbled down food, too fast. But there are instances when vomiting can be a red flag signaling a more serious condition, such as poisoning, gastrointestinal disorders, systemic problems, and other health issues that require prompt veterinary attention.
Throwing-up versus regurgitation
Throwing up and regurgitation are two distinct conditions, which means the way they are treated also varies significantly.
Throwing up or vomiting is an active process as it involves the forcing out of the contents of the stomach and upper part of the intestine. Dog vomit usually smells sour because of the hydrochloric acid from the stomach. A dog vomiting bile may throw up yellowish contents with
partially digested food. A dog may throw up directly after eating or at any time thereafter. Tell-tale signs that a dog is about to throw-up include drooling, licking of his lips, and swallowing excessively.
On the other hand, dog regurgitation is just a mild or passive backflow of contents from the esophagus through the mouth. Unlike vomiting, there is no abdominal heaving. Also, regurgitation usually happens after a meal.
Granular versus Chunky Vomiting
The contents of what a dog throws up can reveal a lot about what’s happening inside the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach and intestines. Chunky or granular vomiting is often associated with food intake or anything that the dog has ingested. It’s said to be chunky when the food parts can still be identified. This shows that the food that has been thrown up has been in the stomach for a short time only, thus it is not yet digested. This could be caused by a dog that ran around too soon after a meal. On the other hand, vomit appears granular when food has spent some time in the stomach and has already undergone digestion. Sometimes, there may be blood in the dog’s vomit and the granules may appear like coffee grounds, or there may be fresh blood.
Compared to semi-solid vomit (chunky or granular), a dog that throws up liquid can be suffering from a serious medical issue. It’s usually not something that the dog has ingested. Liquid vomit could indicate severe gastritis, or disease of the liver, pancreas, or kidneys. It could also be esophageal reflux.
A dog vomiting after drinking water or drools should be monitored closely but it’s not really a cause for concern if it resolves within a few minutes. It’s only considered as vomiting when the liquid is followed by stomach contents. There are also instances when a dog will cough long and hard and may throw up white foam from the mouth. This can be an important symptom of kennel cough.
Why do dogs throw up?
There are many reasons why dogs throw up. The most common causes include:
- Gastrointestinal infections caused by virus or bacteria
- Dietary causes -- such as a change in diet, ingestion of spoiled food or anything from the trash, food intolerance
- Ingestion of foreign bodies that get lodged in any part of the gastrointestinal tract
- Intestinal parasites -- roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms
- Inflammation of the gall bladder
- Viral infections
- Car sickness
- Post-operative nausea
- Ingestion of toxic substances
- Pyometra (infection in the uterus)
- Certain medications
- Reaction to anesthetic agents
- Eating too fast
- Engaging in physical activity after eating
Throwing up could be an important symptom of an underlying serious medical problem, such as:
- Extreme fear or anxiety
- Problem in the middle ear
- Brain tumor
- Acute kidney failure
- Acute liver failure
An inflammatory process in the stomach or intestines may be suspected if a dog vomits sporadically over a considerable length of time. It may also be caused by kidney dysfunction, severe constipation, liver disease, systemic illness, or even cancer!
What to do if your dog throws up?
Many cases of occasional vomiting may not be something to be worried about, however, it will be another story when throwing up is frequent or chronic. It can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, like intestinal obstruction, inflammation in the large intestine or colon (colitis), or canine parvovirus. Dog vomiting and diarrhea that is accompanied by other symptoms, like dehydration, weight loss, lethargy or depression, blood in vomit, change in appetite, weight, or an increase or decrease in water intake and/or urination should be brought to your vet’s attention ASAP. Your pet needs to undergo a complete medical examination and diagnostic testing so the underlying cause can be identified and appropriate treatment can be given immediately. This is also true when a dog vomits several times during a 24-hour period, or if vomiting persists for more than a day.
When should you be concerned about a dog throwing up?
As a general rule, the best indication of whether you need to seek veterinary attention or not is your pet’s behavior. If your dog is throwing up without manifesting other symptoms, you could adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. But do monitor your pet closely for the next few hours.
But you should take your pet dog to your veterinarian ASAP under the following conditions:
- Weakness -- this can be a result of dehydration or hypoglycemia when a dog is unable to keep the calories down.
- Senior pet
- Projectile vomiting -- an important sign of a potential obstruction
- Persistent or frequent vomiting
- Non-productive vomiting -- this could be a symptom of bloat, which can be serious and life-threatening
- There is blood, foreign objects, etc. In the blood
- Low urine output -- another important sign of dehydration
- The dog’s abdomen is tender or enlarged -- often seen during serious cases of vomiting
- Stops eating
- Unable to hold down even small quantities of water
- Has pre-existing illness
- There is diarrhea -- vomiting plus diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration
What happens when you don’t go to the veterinarian right away?
The biggest risk when you don’t seek immediate medical attention for your dog is dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause body systems to shut down, thus preventing normal physiological processes, resulting in more problems as the stomach becomes more irritated and there may be the formation of gastric ulcers. The dog may also suffer from malnutrition.
How vomiting In Dogs Is Diagnosed?
When you bring your pet in, the information that you can provide about the history of your pet’s condition can help veterinarians narrow down the potential cause.
In addition to a thorough examination, your veterinarian may choose to perform various diagnostic tests to pinpoint the ultimate cause. These tests include:
- Blood work
- Fecalysis or stool exam
- Abdominal ultrasound
Home remedy for throwing up in dogs
If vomiting is not accompanied by other symptoms, your veterinarian may recommend holding off food and water for about 12-24 hours. This will give enough time for the stomach to rest because each time a dog vomits, it irritates the stomach lining.
After fasting, gradually introduce water and a bland diet made of boiled potatoes, rice or porridge, small slices of boiled chicken or turkey (with the skin removed and no spices) and low-fat or non-fat cheese. If the dog can keep down what he has eaten, he can gradually return to his regular diet.
Don’t give any treats to your pet while he is recuperating.
In more serious cases, a veterinarian may see the need for the following:
- Fluid therapy to replace fluids and electrolytes in the dog’s body and prevent dehydration
- Antibiotics to combat an underlying infection
- A change in the dog’s diet
- Anti-emetics -- drugs that help control or stop vomiting
- Anti-nausea medications
- Surgery may be indicated in some cases
Tips to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs
There are many cases of vomiting that cannot be prevented, but the following tips can possibly protect your pet from throwing up:
- Avoid sudden switching of your pet’s diet. A new diet should always be introduced gradually to avoid digestive upsets.
- Don’t let your dog play with toys small enough to be swallowed or soft enough to be chewed into pieces.
- Bones are a no-no! Cooked bones can easily break and splinter. The sharp edges can cause injury to any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Also, bones could easily get stuck and obstruct the digestive passage. If you really like to give bones to your dog, stick to large, uncooked bones.
- Avoid giving your dog table scraps because some human foods are dangerous to dogs. Even when your meal does not contain anything that’s potentially toxic to dogs, your pet may have a sensitive stomach that may easily react to any food that is not part of their usual diet.
- Dispose of waste properly. Garbage bins should be off-limits to your pet. Scavenging can increase your pet’s risk of suffering gastroenteritis, being exposed to toxins, or ingestion of a foreign body.
- If you have an overly inquisitive dog, you should consider using a muzzle to keep your pet from eating anything during your outdoor excursions.