Vomiting in Puppies

There are several possible causes

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

Although vomiting or regurgitation is a normal thing for a puppy to do from time to time, there are some possible health or ingestion issues that may cause your pup to upchuck. It will be up to your veterinarian to determine how or whether to treat a vomiting puppy. But there's an important distinction between adult dogs and puppies where vomiting is concerned: Vomiting in an adult dog may warrant a wait-and-see approach in many instances, but vomiting in a very young dog or puppy is always potentially serious because it may quickly become dehydrated, losing critical electrolytes. Don't wait too long to take a vomiting puppy to the vet.

Why Do Puppies Vomit?

Most cases of adult dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to eating grass, 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.

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 (retching or dry heaving), vomiting not associated with eating in a puppy that acts lethargic or confused before or after the event are all serious situations that require a visit to the vet.

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.

In cases of poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects, you may need to induce vomiting.

Differences Between Vomiting and Regurgitation

Vomiting is different from regurgitation, which is a passive process without strong muscle contractions. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your puppy eats its food, and the expelled material is mostly undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the esophagus.

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 young puppies and may cause them to grow more slowly than other dogs.

Treatment and Prevention

Vomiting may be a sign of serious illness. 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, if it lasts longer than 24 hours, or if other symptoms, such as diarrhea, accompany the vomiting, you should take it to the vet.

Feed Mild Foods

When kids are vomiting or have stomach upset, pediatricians usually prescribe the BRAT diet while their tummies recover: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. The idea is to eat foods that won't aggravate an already irritated digestive system.

While you're unlikely to get a dog to eat bananas or applesauce, the same principle applies after your puppy has vomited. Rice, soft boiled potatoes and boiled chicken with the skin removed are all good options that will give your puppy a little nutrition without upsetting its stomach again.

If your puppy has a more serious condition causing its vomiting your vet may prescribe further medical treatment, such as antibiotics and additional fluids to prevent dehydration. Always check with your vet before starting your puppy on any treatment.

Slow Down Eating

If your puppy throws up right after eating, it just may be eating too fast. Try to work on slowing down how fast your puppy eats.

  • 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.
  • Feeding your puppy several small meals a day rather than one large meal will also alleviate overeating.
  • 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 the puppy 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 normally before and after. For older dogs, you'd want to allow 12 to 24 hours of rest to resolve any gastric irritation. But very young puppies, especially toy-size breeds, shouldn't go without a meal for longer than about six to eight hours.

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 toxic material. There are some instances when you should never induce vomiting: if your puppy swallows something sharp, if your puppy ingests caustic material such as drain cleaner, or if your puppy loses consciousness.

Consult your vet before giving your puppy any remedy or anything to make it throw up, just to be sure it's the proper course of action. If your vet gives you the go-ahead, ipecac, a hydrogen peroxide solution, and salt are all safe alternatives 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.