Although it can be messy and unpleasant, it's fortunate that vomiting in dogs is usually not a dire emergency. Even so, you should never 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 (if a chewed toy is in the vomit) and other times it's much harder. While not pleasant, do examine the vomit before you clean it up.
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.
A Health Concern
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. It 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.
One or two episodes of vomiting are not usually serious. Do you call your doctor every time you get sick to your stomach? Of course not. It's important for you to take extra precautions when your dog is sick, though, because dogs can't tell us how they really feel. In fact, dogs often instinctively hide illness as long as possible, acting as if they feel fine when they really don't.
Examine 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 foamy white stuff, 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 and water for several hours and observe. 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 by the next day.
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. If any of these circumstances apply, 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.
IMPORTANT: If your dog vomits every time it eats or drinks for longer than one day, take it to the vet immediately. This may be a sign of a gastrointestinal obstruction (like a foreign body) or other serious illness. As always, communication with your veterinarian is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy.
Food and Water
If your dog vomits again at its next meal, but the vomiting stops after a few hours, try offering your dog a small amount of water first. If the dog keeps this down, offer a small amount of bland food such as plain white rice with boiled chicken or lean ground meat. Drain off any fat and don't add salt or seasonings. Offer a couple of tablespoons of this 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.
It's not entirely possible to prevent your dog from ever vomiting. But you can take common-sense precautions to limit its exposure to risks that may cause nausea, for example:
- Keep trash and table scraps, cleaning solutions or solvents, lawn and garden chemicals, and any other toxic materials away from your dog.
- Remove broken chew toys and keep an eye out for other chewed items that your dog may have eaten or swallowed.
- Serve your dog fresh, high-quality food and remove its access to any toxic foods such as avocados, chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, and others.