Why Puppies Vomit

Find out the proper treatment for vomiting

why puppies vomit
Illustration: Joshua Seong. © The Spruce, 2018

Puppy vomiting and the reasons why puppies vomit can be very dangerous to your new baby. Vomiting is the forcible expulsion of the stomach's contents up the dog's throat and out of the mouth. Dogs tend to vomit more readily than almost all other animals.​

Differences Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

When the "vomit center" of the brain is stimulated, the puppy begins to salivate and swallow repeatedly. Your puppy may seek attention or look anxious. Then, the stomach and abdominal muscles forcibly and repeatedly contract, while at the same time the esophagus relaxes. The puppy extends her neck, opens her mouth, and makes a strained gagging sound as the stomach empties.

Vomiting is different than regurgitation, which is a passive process without strong muscle contractions. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your puppy eats his food, and the expelled material is undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the throat. Occasional regurgitation isn't a cause for concern unless it interferes with nutrition and what you feed your puppy. Chronic regurgitation typically is seen in a young puppy that as a result grows very slowly.

In cases of poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects, you may need to induce vomiting. Learning how to make puppies vomit can save his life.

Why Puppies Vomit

Vomiting should never be considered normal. Most cases of adult dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to swallowed grass, eating inedible objects, spoiled or rich food (raiding the garbage, table scraps) or simply eating too much too fast. You can prevent puppies from eating the wrong thing with these ​puppy proofing tips. Dogs and puppies also may vomit from motion sickness during car rides.

The most common cause of vomiting in dogs is gluttony. Dogs that gorge their food tend to lose it just as quickly, particularly if they exercise shortly after finishing a meal. This type of vomiting isn't particularly dangerous, but it is annoying.

Vomiting can be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine parvovirus, which can be prevented by proper vaccinations. In deep-chested breeds, unproductive vomiting may be a sign of bloat. If the vomit contains blood or fecal material, if it lasts longer than 24 hours, or if other signs such as diarrhea accompany the vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Repeated vomiting, vomiting along with diarrhea, unproductive vomiting, vomiting not associated with eating, and/or the puppy acts like she feels bad before or after the event is a cause for alarm.

Treatment for Puppy Vomiting

If your puppy just threw up, you might want to work on slowing down how fast your puppy eats which can relieve mealtime vomiting. Feed puppies in separate bowls to cut down on "competition" eating, or place a large non-swallowable ball in the dish so the puppy is forced to eat around it. Meal-feeding several times a day rather than once will also alleviate overeating. A few dogs vomit when they're excited or fearful.

Pick up the food bowl and give only small amounts of water. Vomiting makes pups feel thirsty but drinking can upset the tummy even further. So offer water in a syringe every 15 or 20 minutes, or offer an ice cube for her to lick.

Ask your vet if you can safely give Pepto-Bismol to manage doggy vomiting. It coats the stomach wall, soothes the upset and the bismuth absorbs bacterial toxins that prompt vomiting. 

Vomiting that happens only once or twice isn't a cause for concern as long as the puppy acts normal before and after. Rest the digestive tract for 12 to 24 hours or so to resolve the gastric irritation in older pups and adult dogs. But very young puppies, especially toy-size breeds, shouldn't go without a meal for longer than about six to eight hours. You'll need vet help with tiny pups.

Vomiting may be a sign of serious illness, though. Even if it's not due to a virus, vomiting for any reason can result in dehydration that can kill puppies very quickly. Anytime your pup vomits three or more times in a single day, or two or more days in a row, you should take her to the vet.