Vomiting in Puppies

There are several possible causes

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

There's an important distinction between adult dogs and puppies where vomiting is concerned. Mild vomiting in an adult dog may warrant a wait-and-see approach, but vomiting in a very young dog is always potentially serious because puppies may quickly become dehydrated and lose critical electrolytes. Don't wait too long to take a vomiting puppy to the vet.

Why Do Puppies Vomit?

Many cases of dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to eating inedible objects, spoiled or rich food (raiding the garbage, table scraps), or simply eating too much too fast. Dogs and puppies may also vomit due to motion sickness during car rides or from poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects.

Puppies are at special risk for infectious causes of vomiting, particularly if they have not completed their vaccination series. For example, vomiting can be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine parvovirus. Intestinal parasites are another common cause of vomiting in puppies. In deep-chested breeds, unproductive vomiting may be a sign of bloat. 

Other causes of vomiting include organ dysfunction (liver and kidney, for example), Addison's disease, gastrointestinal ulcers, anatomic abnormalities, pancreatitis, abdominal infections, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Repeated vomiting, vomiting along with diarrhea, unproductive vomiting (retching or dry heaving), vomit that contains blood or other abnormal materials, or vomiting in a puppy that acts lethargic or confused are all serious situations that require a visit to the vet.

Differences Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

Vomiting is different from regurgitation. Vomiting is an active process that is accompanied by retching and abdominal contractions. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is passive. Dogs may even appear surprised when food comes out of their mouths. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your dog eats its food, and the expelled material is mostly undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the esophagus.

Your veterinarian will need to differentiate between regurgitation and vomiting because the two symptoms have very different causes and treatments.

Treatment and Prevention

Vomiting may be a sign of a dangerous illness. Even if the underlying cause is not serious, vomiting for any reason can result in dehydration and other problems that can kill puppies very quickly. Anytime your pup vomits multiple times in a single day, chronically vomits, or has additional symptoms such as diarrhea or lethargy, you should call your vet.

Feed Mild Foods

Your veterinarian may recommend a mild diet for a few days to help your puppy recover. Foods are available from your vet, or you can prepare white rice and boiled white meat chicken with the skin and bones removed to give your puppy a little nutrition while recuperating. Also, make sure your puppy continues to drink adequate amounts of water. Call your vet ASAP if your puppy vomits after eating a mild meal or drinking water.

If your puppy has a more serious condition causing its vomiting, your vet will prescribe appropriate medical treatment. Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases.

Slow Down Eating

If your puppy is healthy but wolfs down its food and throws up right after eating, it may be eating too fast. Try to work on slowing down how fast your puppy eats.

  • Feed puppies in separate rooms to cut down on "competition" eating.
  • Place a large inedible object in the dish so the puppy is forced to eat around it.
  • Feed your puppy several small meals a day.

Inducing Vomiting in Puppies

Puppies are known for ingesting things they shouldn't, and there may be occasions when you need to induce vomiting so your puppy doesn't absorb toxins. However, there are some instances when you should never induce vomiting--for example, if your puppy swallows something sharp, if your puppy ingests caustic material such as drain cleaner, or if your puppy loses consciousness.

Always consult your vet before giving your puppy any medication, including anything to make it throw up. If your vet gives you the go-ahead, hydrogen peroxide solution is the best over the counter option for getting your dog to vomit.

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.