Reasons Why Your Dog Might Be Vomiting And How To Treat It

When dogs get an upset stomach, it’s no fun for dog or owner.  There are many reasons why a dog might throw up, some are non-life threatening and some are a sign of a serious health problem. No matter the reason, cleaning up dog barf is gross.

Some causes of vomiting are obvious, such as the dog overeating or eating garbage.  However, there are also gastric causes of vomiting, which are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract.

There are also non-gastric causes, which are caused by diseases of other organs that result in an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain, which makes the dog throw up. 

Dogs also puke two different ways:  Vomiting and regurgitating. 

It’s good to know the difference between vomiting and regurgitating in case you ever have to describe the symptoms to your vet.  It will help them decide which tests to run and make it easier to determine what might be wrong.

Dog Vomiting Symptoms

When a dog vomits, they eject the contents of their stomach and upper intestines.  Their body tenses as they gag, retch, and heave before upchucking.  There may be digested or undigested food in the vomit that is often accompanied with liquid and/or yellow bile.

Dog Regurgitation Symptoms

Conversely, when a dog regurgitates, they don’t make a show of it.  They simply lower their head and expel the contents of their esophagus without making much noise.  The food is effortlessly coughed up, sometimes covered with mucus, without the muscle contractions and noise that happens when they vomit.

What You Can Do to Help Healthy Dogs If They Puke

Healthy dogs may occasionally vomit.  It can happen for many reasons. As long as the dog is bright and alert, and hasn’t got into anything, it’s probably nothing to be concerned about. However, it’s always a good idea to monitor pets after they vomit, in case their symptoms get worse.

In otherwise healthy pets, the vomiting or regurgitation is usually a single episode with no other symptoms.  In other words, the dog seems fine and is going about their day, business as usual.  Sometimes, owners will suspect or know the cause, which may include things like:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating poop or raiding the cat box
  • Food change without transition
  • Stress, anxiety
  • Drinking too fast
  • Eating people food that they’re not used to

When a healthy dog occasionally vomits, its best to allow their stomach to settle by withholding food for about 12 hours.  After that, feed a small meal of a bland diet, such as boiled chicken with the fat removed and rice.  If the dog holds down the food, slowly mix the bland diet in with their regular food for a few meals.  During this time, allow the dog to drink water.  Here is a list of additional foods that can also help a dog with an upset stomach.

When to See Your Vet For Vomiting

As mentioned above, there are some serious health conditions that may cause vomiting in dogs.  If the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms, such as repeated or uncontrolled vomiting, drooling, pale gums, panting, fever, lethargy, blood in the vomit or stool, whale eyes, pain, shaking, dehydration, or the pet seems off or ill, it’s time to get to the vet.

If the vomiting starts to happen more than rarely, or occurs at regular times (such as always after meals or in the morning), you should also consult with your vet to see if there’s a problem brewing. 

Some Serious Health Conditions Associated with Vomiting

  • Pancreatitis

Can occur after eating something high in fat or greasy, like fried food, cheese, butter, or garbage, etc. Symptoms usually come on very quickly and may not always be associated with diet indiscretion.

  • Kidney Damage/Failure

Kidney damage can occur when if the dog has kidney disease or ingests something toxic such as a poisonous plant, medication, antifreeze, foods dangerous to dogs, etc.  As toxins that are normally flushed out by the kidneys accumulate in the blood, the dog becomes sick and begins to throw up.

  • Liver Disease/Failure

There are many causes of liver failure in dogs.  It can be caused by heatstroke, cancer, infection, bacteria, viruses, diabetes, and copper storage disease, a condition the German shepherd breed can be prone to.

  • Bladder Obstruction/Rupture

An obstruction caused by stones or tumor, or a rupture caused by trauma can cause vomiting.

  • Addison’s Disease

The deficiency of hormones from the adrenal gland can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness.

  • Inner Ear Infection

An inner ear infection can cause vomiting and may be accompanied by walking in circles or tilting the head.

  • Gastritis/Ulcers

Painful irritation of the stomach lining caused by certain medications, dietary indiscretion, toxins, spoiled food, and much more can cause vomiting.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS causes inflammation in the lining of the bowels and results in stomach and intestinal upset. It's usually chronic and can lead to symptoms like nausea, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

  • Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth

Chronic diarrhea and weight loss is usually a symptom of SIBO but dogs suffering from this problem may also vomit.

  • Bowel Obstruction

A complete or partial blockage of the stomach can cause vomiting and other symptoms such as, diarrhea, lethargy, bloating, pain, and more.

  • Parvo

A dangerous virus primarily happens to puppies that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting.

  • Megaesophagus

A disorder that causes the esophagus (the tube that carries food and liquid between the mouth and stomach) to get larger and lose its ability to move food into the stomach.

  • Bloat/Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

Always a life-threatening emergency, the symptoms of bloat include unproductive vomiting, gagging, retching, pacing, drooling, restlessness, distended abdomen, pain, distress, and more.

Happily, most cases of vomiting pass and are not a sign of anything serious.  However, vomiting can be a sign of a serious health problem.  The list above certainly doesn’t contain all health conditions and it isn’t a comprehensive symptom checker or supplement for veterinary advice so if you have any concerns, its best to call your vet.

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