Dog vomiting can be scary for any owner, as well as unpleasant for the poor pup. Vomiting in dogs can have many different causes, which can indicate a wide variety of conditions. Read on to learn more about this common problem.
What Is Dog Vomiting?
Dog vomiting, is also known as throwing up, emesis, barfing, puking and more! Dog vomiting refers to the act of forcefully and involuntarily expelling the stomach’s contents through the nose or mouth.
Dog vomiting is not a disease, but rather a symptom that can indicate other conditions or can occur as an isolated incident. Dog vomiting, though common, can sometimes develop into a serious condition, so should be taken seriously. When dogs vomit repeatedly, to the point where there is nothing left in their stomach but bile, this is known as acute vomiting.
Dog Vomiting Vs Regurgitation Vs Retching: Know The Difference
It is very important to know the difference between dog vomiting and regurgitation, as they are different processes and can have different implications in diagnosing your pet’s condition.
Dog vomiting, or throwing up, is an active process, often accompanied by retching or coughing sounds, and the contraction of the abdominal muscles.
Regurgitation, in contrast, is a passive process, often associated with a change in position (such as lowering the head), where food just appears to fall out of the dog’s mouth. Retching is where the dog coughs or makes retching noises, but doesn’t bring up any food or bile.
Another way to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation is the material that your dog brings up.
Vomit, or to call it by its scientific name, vomitus comes from the stomach or small intestine, and as a result will contain bile, a digestive fluid that is usually yellow, green or orange in color. However, if your dog has recently eaten or is not producing bile properly, the vomitus may not contain bile.
Regurgitated material (regurgitus) has come from the esophagus or pharynx and travels backward out of the mouth or nose. As a result, regurgitus often comes out in the shape of a tube, and may contain food, mucus, and saliva, but will not contain bile.
Sometimes when a dog is retching, coughing or expectorating, it will cough up a glob of mucus or snot. This is not the same as vomitus or regurgitus.
If you are in doubt about whether your pet is vomiting, regurgitating or expectorating, it can be helpful (if a little weird) to video your dog in the act and show it to your veterinarian to aid their diagnosis.
Why Is My Dog Throwing Up: Causes of Vomiting In Dogs
Dog vomiting can be caused by a wide variety of reasons, some of which are relatively harmless, and others which require immediate medical attention from a veterinarian. The causes of vomiting in dogs can include the following:
- Motion sickness (in cars, airplanes, trains etc.)
- Dietary indiscretion (including a change in diet, a food intolerance, eating something bad)
- The non-digestible material in the gastrointestinal tract (bones, toys, plastic, etc.)
- Bloat/Gastric dilation (due to overeating or eating too quickly)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Infectious diseases, viruses or parasites in the gastrointestinal tract
- Addison’s Disease
- Poisoning from ingesting toxic substances
- Parasites in the gastrointestinal tract
- Acute liver failure (hepatitis) or kidney failure
- Gallbladder inflammation, infected uterus (pyometra) or pancreatitis
- Reaction to medication (such as anesthetic, sedatives or pain relief)
- Bilious vomiting syndrome
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE)
- Peritonitis (infection of the peritoneum)
- Acute urethral obstruction
- Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
Each of these causes for dog vomiting may cause other additional symptoms, such as lethargy, temperature, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and more.
How to Make a Dog Throw Up: Should You Do This At Home?
If you find that your dog has ingested something poisonous or harmful, you may need to make it vomit to stop it from absorbing the toxins into their body. You should always consult with your veterinarian before you induce vomiting in your dog, and they will likely recommend the best method to use.
The first thing to remember that you should only induce vomiting in your dog if less than two hours have passed since it ingested the toxic substance. Otherwise, the substance will already have left the dog’s stomach and will be being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Secondly, know when NOT to induce vomiting, as in some cases it can do more harm than good, and could even be fatal to your dog. If your dog has ingested any of the following products, DO NOT induce vomiting:
- Any acid or alkali-based chemical
- Caustic substances (such as bleach or drain cleaner)
- Household chemicals or cleaning solutions
- Any petroleum-based product (such as kerosene, turpentine or gasoline)
- Sharp objects, such as broken glass
- Any product where the bottle instructs you not to induce vomiting
You should also NOT make your dog throw up if it is unconscious, if it has already vomited, if it is having trouble breathing, or if it is showing signs of a nervous system disorder, such as loss of coordination or seizures.
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after ingesting poison, you should take them immediately to an emergency veterinarian.
Your veterinarian is more likely to suggest that you induce vomiting if your dog has ingested the following substances:
- Rodenticide (rat poison)
- Medication not intended for dogs
The most common – and safe – medication to make your dog vomit is apomorphine, though diluted hydrogen peroxide can be used in an emergency. After inducing vomiting, vets will often treat dogs that have ingested poison with IV fluids and activated charcoal.
My Dog Is Throwing Up! Examining What That Vomitus Means!
Dog Vomiting—Although it sounds gross, it’s important to take a look at your dog’s vomitus can tell you a great deal about its condition, and whether it needs additional medical attention.
Dog Throwing Up Yellow Stuff!
Yellow, orange or greenish vomitus indicates the presence of bile, a digestive fluid. This means that the food has been sitting in the stomach for some time, and is partially digested. If the vomitus is entirely liquid, this can indicate a more serious condition, and you should contact your veterinarian.
Dog Throwing Up White Foam!
If your dog is passing globs of white foam from the mouth, this may not actually be vomitus, but rather expectorus, like when we cough up phlegm. White foamy expectorus can indicate kennel cough.
Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food
If your dog vomits undigested food, this indicates that the food has not been in the stomach very long. Your dog might be eating too fast, or exercising too soon after eating. If this happens often, try using a slow-feeding bowl.
Is Your Dog Throwing Up Bile? Or Is Your Dog Throwing Up Blood?
Bile is a yellow, orange, light brown or greenish liquid that aids digestion. It has a strong, sour smell, which is the smell that most of us associate with vomitus. Bile is common in vomitus, especially when mixed with chunks of food.
Throwing up blood, also known as hematemesis, can be alarming for owners, and may indicate a serious condition. Blood in dog vomit can look a few different ways, depending on where the blood came from.
Fresh blood will be bright red and easily identifiable. Small amounts of fresh blood in the vomitus, in the form of streaks of small clots, is usually indicative of a cut or irritation to the mouth, throat or esophagus, especially if the dog has been vomiting repeatedly.
Blood that has been digested will look grainy and dark brown or black, like coffee grounds. If you see blood like this in your dog’s vomitus, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, as it could be a sign of a stomach ulcer or internal bleeding, or related to a serious condition.
When identifying blood in your dog’s vomitus, remember to think back if it ate any red foods (such as beetroot), to make sure you are not incorrectly identifying it. If you do identify blood in your dog’s vomitus, you should also keep an eye on its stools, to see if they show signs of blood too.
Puppy Vomiting? The Dangers of A Puppy Throwing Up
Dog vomiting in puppies can be a very serious situation!
Because puppies are so much smaller, and their immune systems less are developed, vomiting can be much more serious, especially in puppies under 6 months of age.
If a puppy just throws up once, it may just have a sensitive stomach, but ifs acute vomiting, you should take it to the vet immediately.
You should also take your puppy to the veterinarian pronto if it is projectile vomiting, show signs of pain, distress, weakness or lethargy if it is throwing up a long time after eating, if it has abdominal pain or bloating, or if it has diarrhea in addition to vomiting.
Puppies are at greater risk of dehydration than adult dogs, so if your pup has thrown up, be sure that it has access to water and keep an eye out for signs of dehydration. If your puppy is showing signs of dehydration, you should always take it to the veterinarian.
Is Your Dog Throwing Up? The 5 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself
Dog vomiting is not an easy thing to diagnose. So, it’s important to remember that you probably cannot diagnose dog vomiting yourself. Nevertheless, you can ask yourself the necessary questions to figure out possible causes of dog vomiting.
- To the best of your knowledge, has your dog eaten or drunk anything that it shouldn’t have? Look around for spills, open packets, vermin traps, garbage, or anything else your pet could have gotten into.
- Have you recently changed dog food, or started giving your dog different treats? Has anyone been feeding the dog “people food” from the table? These could be signs of a food allergy.
- What does the vomitus look like? Does it contain bile, mucus, or chunks of food? Is there blood in it?
- How many times has your dog thrown up, and with what regularity? Did it eat or drink anything in between throwing up?
- Can you notice any other symptoms, such as lethargy, diarrhea, a temperature, pain, or anything else out of the ordinary?
Dog Keeps Throwing Up! Complications That Come With A Dog Vomiting
If a dog throws up once, this needn’t necessarily be cause for concern. Monitor the dog carefully, and watch out for any other symptoms, or if it throws up again, or the following complications:
Dog Vomiting and Diarrhea: Beware of Dehydration
If your dog is vomiting repeatedly, and especially if it has diarrhea as well, it is in danger of becoming dehydrated.
A dehydrated dog can become seriously ill quickly, so be aware of the signs, and be ready to take your dog to the vet if it shows signs of being dehydrated, and cannot keep water down.
The signs of dehydration in dogs include lethargy, sunken eyes, a loss of skin elasticity, panting, and a dry nose or gums.
Disturbances In Electrolytes and Acid-Base Balance
If your dog becomes severely dehydrated as a result of acute vomiting or/or diarrhea, its acid-base balance or electrolyte levels may become disturbed.
Your dog’s gastrointestinal tract has a complex mixture of digestive fluids that are continually reabsorbed into the body after passing through the intestines during regular digestion.
However, these fluids are lost in cases of acute vomiting, and this can cause further digestive issues until the levels are re-balanced.
Is Your Dog Throwing Up? Veterinarian’s Diagnosis
If your dog has acute vomiting or is throwing up in addition to any other symptoms, you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The veterinarian will likely then ask you a series of questions regarding how and when your dog got sick.
Try to arrive prepared with as much information as you have, including when your dog first got sick, how long it has been vomiting for, any changes in diet, any substances it may have ingested, any medication it is on, what the vomitus looks like, and so on. The more information you can give your vet, the easier it will be for them to make a diagnosis.
What’s Going to Happen During The Physical Exam!
Next, the veterinarian will probably give your dog a physical examination to try and figure out what’s making it sick.
What the vet is looking for will depend on what you told them about how and when your dog got sick, but they will probably take the dog’s temperature, examine and palpitate the dog’s abdomen for signs of swelling or pain, check for signs of dehydration and check the dog’s pulse with a stethoscope.
The vet may also need to run tests on your dog, including a fecal examination and getting bloodwork to check for organ function. The veterinarian may need to give the dog an ultrasound or x-ray if they believe it may have an intestinal blockage.
Vomiting In Dogs—If Your Dog Is Vomiting Then Here Are Some Tests Your Vet May Do!
If the veterinarian cannot diagnose why your dog is vomiting from asking your questions and the physical exam, they may need to run further tests to find out what’s wrong. These tests may include the following:
A urine test can help your veterinarian to check the functioning of your dog’s kidney, liver and bladder, and whether any infections are present. The dog’s urine color can also indicate dehydration.
Sometimes veterinarians will collect the urine sample through a process called cystocentesis, where a needle is inserted directly into the dog’s bladder. In other cases, a sample cup is used, similar to with humans.
pH Of The Vomitus
Testing the pH levels of the dog’s vomitus will help the vet to determine whether it is vomitus or regurgitus; vomitus will have a pH level of around 5 or less due to the presence of gastric acid, but the regurgitated material will have a higher pH as it is less acidic.
Electrocardiography, also known as ECG or EKG, is a test that measures the heart’s electrical activity. This test will not usually be carried out on a vomiting dog unless it is displaying other symptoms, such as collapsing or seizures.
Radiography, of x-raying, is commonly carried out on dogs with acute vomiting, especially where the veterinarian believes there to be a foreign object in the digestive tract. Sometimes the vet will recommend an ultrasound if the object does not show up on an x-ray.
A laparotomy involves creating an incision in the dog’s abdominal wall to gain access to the abdominal cavity. If your veterinarian believes there is a blockage in the digestive tract but medical imaging proves inconclusive, they may need to conduct an exploratory laparotomy.
In an endoscopy, the veterinarian will use a long, thin camera called an endoscope to examine the dog’s internal organs, such as the bowel, intestines or esophagus. This can show blockages, bleeding, tumors and more.
How To Stop Throwing Up In Dogs—Treatment Plan! These Are Treatment Options
Once you’ve figured out why your dog is throwing up, your next step is to help your poorly pup feel better!
Because vomiting is a symptom rather than a condition, the treatment your veterinarian suggests may depend on what is causing the vomiting, as treating the cause can be more effective than just treating the vomiting.
The most common remedy for vomiting in dogs is feeding a bland diet (a good bland food for dogs is rice, potatoes and well-cooked, skinless chicken) with plenty of fluids. If this doesn’t work, your veterinarian may recommend the following:
A dog that has been vomiting can easily become dehydrated or experience acid-base imbalance or electrolyte abnormalities, especially when it has also had diarrhea.
Fluid therapy, either through an oral rehydration solution or an intravenous drip, can help to correct these imbalances and get your pup back to normal quicker. Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s levels and tailor any fluid therapy to its needs.
Antiemetics are drugs that can block the signals from dog’s brain that tell it to vomit. These drugs are usually only prescribed once the underlying cause of vomiting has been identified, or in cases of motion sickness.
Antiemetics for dogs that your veterinarian may prescribe include:
- Reglan (metoclopramide)
- Cerenia (maropitant citrate)
- Chlorpromazine, and
Only give your vomiting dog these medicines if your vet tells you to.
Histamine Blocking Drugs
Histamine blocking drugs, or antihistamines, will be prescribed if your dog is vomiting as a result of an allergic reaction or food intolerance. These drugs work by stopping the body’s immune system from overreacting to perceived threats.
Your vet may recommend that you give your dog antacids if it is suffering from a stomach ulcer, acid reflux or gastritis. Antacids are also sometimes given in combination with other drugs that can damage the stomach lining. Famotidine is the most common antacid for dogs, but you will need a prescription.
Due to its high acid content, vomit can cause damage to a dog’s mouth, teeth and throat, especially in cases of chronic vomiting. Your vet may recommend an oral protectant, usually in the form of a mouth spray or special toothpaste, to protect your dog’s mouth from damage.
Dog vomiting can often be a symptom of an underlying infection. To stop the vomiting, your vet will treat the dog’s infection with appropriate antibiotics. Common antibiotics for dogs include:
- Enrofloxacin (Baytril) for skin, respiratory and urinary tract infections
- Metronidazole (Flagyl) for periodontal disease and gastrointestinal upsets
- Clindamycin (Antirobe) for dental, bacterial, bone and soft tissue infections, and
- Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid (Clavamox) for wounds and skin or respiratory infections.
Remember, antibiotics may not work for a viral infection, so only give your dog antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian.
Can I Give My Dog Pepto Bismol?
Many of us reach for the Pepto Bismol as soon as we feel the first signs of an upset stomach but think twice before giving it to your dog. Sometimes a veterinarian will recommend Pepto Bismol, in which case it should be fine if you follow their instructions closely.
However, do not give your dog Pepto Bismol if you have not been told to by your vet.
Firstly, the active ingredient of Pepto Bismol, bismuth subsalicylate, can be given to dogs, but other brands may contain ingredients such as colorings of flavorings that may cause your dog more stomach upset.
Secondly, the dosing for Pepto Bismol is different for dogs than it is for humans, so you will need your veterinarian to tell you exactly how much to give your dog, according to its age, breed, weight, and height.
Thirdly, your dog should not take Pepto Bismol for more than 48 hours; if the symptoms have not gone away by then, take your dog back to the vet. Finally, nursing or pregnant dogs should never be given Pepto Bismol.
Dog Vomiting and Throwing Up, This May Indicate A Sick Dog
If your dog throws up just once, this may be an isolated issue. However, if your pet throws up more than once in a 24-hour period, or shows any other symptoms in addition to vomiting, you should seek medical attention from your vet.
Vomiting in dogs is common but can be a symptom of many conditions, some of which are serious or even life-threatening. When in doubt, take your dog to the vet!