Vomiting in Dogs

Droopy jowled English Bulldog with bloodshoot eyes rests his head on the floor.

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Is your dog vomiting? Although dog puke can be messy and unpleasant, the good news is that vomiting in dogs is usually not a dire emergency. However, you should not ignore it. It's important to address your dog's vomiting so you can help your pet feel better soon and make sure it's not the sign of something more serious.

Why Do Dogs Vomit?

Dogs vomit for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others. Sometimes it's easy to determine the cause--like when you see a chewed-up toy in the vomit or you know your dog ate something inappropriate, like unhealthy human food. Other times it's much harder to determine the reason for vomiting. It may seem very gross, but you should examine the vomit before you clean it up.

Dietary Reasons

Dietary indiscretion is a very common reason for vomiting in dogs. This often happens after a dog gets into the trash or eats table scraps. Examining the vomit and your dog's behavior after the vomiting has stopped can give you clues to the cause. If the dog seems better after the vomiting, it was likely a dietary issue and may be resolved. Keep a close eye on your dog for the next day or two, watching for more vomiting or other signs of illness.

Health Problems

Vomiting may also be caused by something more serious, such as toxin ingestion, gastrointestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, and more. Vomiting is one of the most common signs of illness reported by dog owners. Vomiting may be accompanied by diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lethargy. Not only is it important to understand why dogs vomit; you should also know how to respond when your dog is throwing up.

Treatment of Vomiting in Dogs

It's not usually serious if your dog only has one or two episodes of vomiting. You probably don't call your doctor every time you get sick to your stomach. However, it's important for you to take extra precautions when your dog is sick because dogs can't tell us how they really feel. In fact, dogs may instinctively hide illness as long as possible as a survival instinct. Some sick dogs act as if they feel fine when they really don't.

Examining the Vomit

If your dog vomits, first have a look at the substance that was vomited up.

  • Is it food?
  • Is it mostly bile or mucus?
  • Does the vomit contain white foam, water, or blood?
  • Are there pieces of toys, clothing or other inedible material mixed in?

It's a good idea to drop any foreign objects you find into a baggie in case your vet needs to see them later. Make a note describing the vomit in case you need to remember when you talk with the vet and take a photo if you can. If lethargy, diarrhea, or other signs of illness accompany the vomiting, make a note of this too.

Wait and Observe

After a dog vomits, it's generally best to withhold food for several hours and observe, but don't withhold water. If your dog vomits one time and then acts completely normal, you can probably resume your normal feeding routine within six to 12 hours or when the next meal is due. Just keep watching your pet for vomiting and other signs of illness.

When to Call the Vet

Never give over-the-counter or prescription medications without your vet's advice. If vomiting occurs a few times throughout the first day and is still happening the next day, contact your vet. If your dog won't eat for two days in a row, you should contact your vet even if the vomiting has stopped. Diarrhea sometimes occurs during or after vomiting episodes. Call your vet if your dog's diarrhea doesn't begin to improve within a day or two.

Chronic intermittent vomiting (ongoing but less than once a day) is not considered normal either. If your dog vomits "off and on" for more than a week or two, you should schedule an appointment with your vet for a physical examination. Additional testing may be recommended.

In some circumstances, you should contact your vet immediately:

  • Vomiting is frequently repeated for several hours in a row.
  • Your dog is on medication that may cause vomiting (stop giving the medication and call your vet).
  • You suspect your dog ingested a foreign body, such as a toy or clothing.
  • Your dog shows extreme lethargy or unresponsiveness.
  • You suspect your dog ingested a toxin.
  • You see excessive amounts of blood in the vomited material (mild blood spotting is not an emergency, but call the vet if it continues).
  • Your dog's abdomen has a bloated appearance (it could be GDV aka "bloat" or something else serious).
  • Your dog's abdomen seems to be painful.
  • Your dog's gums are pale, white, bluish, or gray in color.
  • Your dog is having trouble breathing.
  • You're in doubt about whether your dog's condition is serious.

Warning

If your dog vomits after eating or drinking for more than one day, go to the vet immediately. This may be a sign of a gastrointestinal obstruction (like a foreign body) or another serious illness. As always, communication with your veterinarian is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy.

Food and Water for Vomiting Dogs

If your dog vomits again at the next meal, but the vomiting stops after a few hours, try offering your dog a small amount of water first. If your dog keeps it down, offer a small amount of bland food like plain white rice with boiled chicken or lean meat. After boiling bland food for your dog, drain off as much fat as possible. Do not add any salt or other seasonings.

Offer your dog a couple of tablespoons of the bland food mixture. If your dog won't eat, don't push the issue. Try again in a few hours. If your dog eats and keeps the food down for an hour, try feeding a little more food. Repeat this until the next day. If vomiting doesn't recur and your dog's appetite is good, you can start to gradually add back your dog's normal food to the bland diet mixture.

How to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs

It's not really possible to prevent your dog from ever vomiting. But you can take the following common-sense precautions to limit exposure to risks that may cause nausea and vomiting:

  • Keep trash and table scraps, cleaning solutions or solvents, lawn and garden chemicals, and any other toxic materials away from your dog.
  • Discard broken or damaged chew toys. Keep an eye out for other chewed items that your dog may have eaten or swallowed.
  • Serve your dog fresh, high-quality food. Prevent access to toxic foods like avocados, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, and alcohol.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.