Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

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Watching your dog throwing up can be both upsetting and heartbreaking, especially when you’re unsure of the cause and don’t know what you can do to help.

The truth is that it’s not unusual for dogs to vomit from time to time. Often, vomiting is simply the natural result of a dog scarfing down a meal too quickly. However, that’s not always the case, so it's important to not be complacent about the situation.

This article on why your dog may be vomiting can help you recognize when it’s time to worry, but if you’re alarmed by your dog’s vomiting, seek the opinion of a vet to rule out any medical emergencies or underlying issues.

Why Dogs Vomit

To better understand the issue, it helps to look at why dogs vomit in general. Dogs are infamous for eating pretty much anything they can get in their mouths. This includes everything from dirty baby diapers to other animals’ waste — and yes, dogs actually have eaten the occasional homework assignment from time to time as they sometimes eat paper. Simply put, not everything your dog munches on is digestible, which leads to vomiting.

When your dog vomits, he's usually ridding his system of something that he’s having trouble digesting. Some dogs actually consume grass to induce vomiting when they experience an upset stomach. In more serious cases, vomiting is caused by some type of underlying clinical condition or disease. It might be a clue that something serious is going on in your dog’s digestive system.

Vomiting Versus Regurgitation

To get to the root of why your dog vomits, consider that there is a big difference between true vomiting and the act of regurgitation. When your dog vomits, he is forcefully expelling his stomach contents, which generally include food that’s been partially digested. Prior to vomiting, your dog will likely drool, retch, or both; you may be able to see his stomach contracting before its contents make their way out of his mouth.

On the flip side, regurgitation occurs when your dog’s body gets rid of undigested food that has just made its way to the stomach or is still in the esophagus. Regurgitation occurs most often when your dog consumes his food faster than he should. Coming out, regurgitated food looks much like it did going down, but it will generally be in a tube shape, reflecting its short time in the dog’s similarly shaped esophagus. Regurgitating can be serious, but it is usually not as serious as vomiting. Regurgitation nearly always occurs just after the dog eats, unlike vomiting, which can occur at any time.

So, Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Some common reasons that dogs vomit include:

  • Consumption of indigestible objects. This is also known as scavenging; such objects can include a bone, a stick or a pile of cat poo. Scavenging is the most likely cause of dog vomiting.
  • Dietary change. A sudden change in your dog’s diet may trigger vomiting. With a dietary change, your dog may have a food allergy or intolerance.
  • Intestinal parasites. An infestation with worms, such as roundworms, tapeworms, heartworms, whipworms, or hookworms, can become so advanced that it results in vomiting.
  • Riding in a car. Dogs can get motion sickness and car sickness, just like their human counterparts.
  • Heatstroke. Dogs left in hot cars or who are confined in hot areas outdoors with no shelter and limited or no water are subject to heatstroke.
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Negative reactions to medication. Allergic reactions to medicine or anesthesia are not common, but they happen.
  • Bacterial infections. Salmonellosis, colibacillosis and leptospirosis are just a few bacterial infections in dogs that can result in vomiting.
  • Ingestion of toxins or substances that are poisonous to dogs. For example, some artificial sweeteners can cause sickness or even death in dogs.
  • Failure of the liver or kidneys.
  • Viral infections. Rotavirus and similar viral infections can cause dog vomiting.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease can cause dogs to throw up.
  • Underlying metabolic conditions or diseases.

When Is Dog Vomiting Serious?

A single episode of dog vomiting is generally no cause for concern, provided your dog doesn’t exhibit any other symptoms of being sick. However, call your vet if:

  • You suspect or know that your dog ate something poisonous or consumed a foreign object
  • Your dog’s stool or vomit contains blood
  • Your dog is frequently throwing up
  • Your dog is experiencing dry heaving that produces nothing
  • Your dog appears to feel discomfort
  • Your dog is dehydrated and vomiting
  • Your dog appears to be lethargic or depressed
  • Your dog is running a fever
  • Your dog has a reduced appetite or has lost weight
  • Your dog experiences seizures with vomiting

Any of these signs can indicate that your dog’s vomiting is due to something serious, from an obstruction in the digestive tract to canine cancer.

Treatment for Dog Vomiting

The treatment for your dog’s vomiting depends on the reason it's happening. Sometimes, dog vomiting results from an inflamed stomach, so a vet may recommend a bland diet or special food for sensitive stomachs. Vets may also prescribe special anti-nausea medicine. Dogs who are experiencing dehydration due to serious vomiting may require IV fluids to get their bodies back to equilibrium.

Getting help for your dog’s vomiting as soon as possible, if it’s serious, is key to a good outcome. If you have any doubt, contact your vet and get expert assistance for your dog.

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