Dogs vomit for many reasons, and while some causes aren’t worrisome, others have fatal consequences. Our team at Country Valley Veterinary Clinic is here to help you distinguish between these causes, so you know when your dog needs veterinary care.
Dog vomiting basics
Vomiting involves forcefully ejecting stomach contents from the mouth. Regurgitation, which can appear similar to vomiting, also commonly affects dogs. However, regurgitation involves passively expelling esophageal contents. Distinguishing between these actions is helpful when determining the cause of the problem. Vomiting in dogs is typically accompanied by drooling, abdominal contractions, and retching, while regurgitation usually happens suddenly, and the contents appear to be undigested food.
Diet-related causes of dog vomiting
A dog’s diet can contribute to gastrointestinal upset. These causes include:
- Gastroenteritis — A sudden change in your dog’s diet can cause stomach and intestine inflammation. Most cases resolve without treatment, but fasting may help the stomach rest and calm down more quickly.
- Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) — Dogs can become sensitive to the bile in their empty stomach, and will typically intermittently vomit green and yellow contents. Feeding your dog small meals more frequently, especially late at night, can help remedy the problem.
- Pancreatitis — Inflammation in the pancreas can be caused by ingesting high fat foods, including table scraps. In addition to vomiting, signs include diarrhea, fever, abdominal distention, and a hunched back. Pancreatitis is potentially life-threatening, and should be addressed by a veterinary professional.
- Food allergies — Dogs typically exhibit skin issues and gastrointestinal upset when they are affected by food allergies. A food trial is needed to determine the cause of the problem.
Environmental causes of dog vomiting
Environmental factors that your dog encounters can cause vomiting. These include:
- Foreign objects — Dogs investigate their environment with their mouths, and a foreign object that they swallow can cause a gastrointestinal blockage. If this occurs, food cannot move past the obstruction, and vomiting will result. Gastrointestinal blockages frequently require surgical intervention.
- Toxins — Several common household items, including cleaners, anti-freeze, and rodenticides, are toxic to dogs, and cause vomiting. In addition, many human foods, including chocolate, onions, and grapes, are dangerous for your dog. If you know or suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance, immediately contact Country Valley Veterinary Clinic or Animal Poison Control.
- Parasites — A heavy parasite infestation can cause vomiting. The best way to address parasite infections is prevention. Bring your dog in for yearly fecal examinations, and provide regular year-round parasite prevention, to ensure your dog is not affected.
Health causes of dog vomiting
Factors affecting your dog’s health can lead to vomiting. These include:
- Infections — Infections such as parvovirus and canine distemper can cause vomiting, in addition to other signs, including fever, lethargy, and diarrhea. Puppies are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases, and require immediate veterinary attention.
- Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) — GDV is a fast progressing condition that most commonly affects large- and giant-breed dogs. This is a veterinary emergency in dogs, and can have life-threatening consequences, if not treated promptly. Signs include non-productive retching, abdominal distention, and abdominal pain.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — IBD is the most common reason dogs experience chronic vomiting and diarrhea. Inflammatory cells invade the gastrointestinal tract, damaging the intestinal mucosal lining. An intestinal biopsy is required to diagnose IBD, and treatment typically involves dietary management, antimicrobials, and, in severe cases, immunosuppressive drugs.
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) — This potentially fatal disease most commonly affects small-breed dogs, causing bloody diarrhea and vomiting. The cause is unknown, but affected dogs need immediate, aggressive treatment to survive.
- Kidney and liver disease — Damage to these important organs causes toxins to accumulate in the bloodstream, resulting in nausea and vomiting.
- Cancer — Certain cancers, including lymphoma and adenocarcinoma, can affect your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, and cause chronic vomiting. Senior dogs are most commonly affected.
Dog vomiting management
Signs indicating that your dog requires immediate veterinary attention include bloody vomit, frequent vomiting, non-productive retching, and toxin ingestion, along with other signs, such as diarrhea, lethargy, fever, pain, or distended abdomen. If your dog has a vomiting episode and appears normal, you can monitor them and manage them at home, by following these steps:
- Withholding food — Remove your dog’s food for 12 to 24 hours, to allow their stomach to rest. After this time, you can offer small amounts of a bland diet, such as plain baked chicken and boiled rice. If their stomach remains quiet, you can gradually start to reintroduce their normal food after 24 hours.
- Hydration — Dehydration is a concerning issue for vomiting dogs. Provide several fresh water sources, to help keep your dog hydrated. Also, monitor their mucous membranes to evaluate their hydration status. If your dog’s mucous membranes appear dry and dull, or if they are lethargic, they should be seen by a veterinary professional.
- Rest — Ensure your dog stays as quiet as possible while they are recovering from a stomach upset.
Bring your dog in for regular wellness exams, so we can monitor them for underlying health issues that may cause vomiting. Also, keep their vaccines up-to-date, to protect them from infectious agents. If your dog is vomiting, or you would like to schedule a wellness check, do not hesitate to contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Country Valley Veterinary Clinic.