Reasons Why Dogs Vomit and How to Handle It

1. Distinction Between Vomiting and Regurgitating

Vomiting and regurgitating are two different conditions, and the causes and treatments for each are quite distinct. Vomiting is generally more concerning than regurgitating.

a. Vomiting

Vomiting occurs when food from the stomach and upper intestines is forcefully expelled. Vomit may be yellow or contain undigested food, often with a sour smell. It can happen immediately after eating or at any time afterward. Signs that a dog is about to vomit include drooling excessively, lip licking, and excessive swallowing.

Dogs vomiting

Some dogs may eat grass before or after vomiting, as a way to induce vomiting or protect the esophagus. However, it is advisable to discourage excessive grass consumption, as it can worsen the issue. After vomiting, dogs may instinctively eat their own vomit.

Because vomiting causes dehydration, dogs may attempt to drink as much water as possible. However, excessive water consumption may lead to more episodes of vomiting. Therefore, it’s best to limit their water intake at a time.

b. Regurgitation

On the other hand, regurgitation is the ejection of undigested food from the esophagus, without abdominal bloating. It does not involve abdominal distension.

The most common cause of regurgitation is eating too much or too quickly. Excitement or stress can also trigger this behavior.

2. What Color is Dog Vomit?

When you are sure that your dog is vomiting rather than regurgitating, you can determine the cause of the vomit by its shape and color.

  • Yellow: Vomiting yellow fluid is common when a dog is hungry. This yellow color is due to the accumulation of bile. This is most common in the middle of the night or early in the morning and can be caused by acid reflux or any other condition that triggers nausea when the stomach is empty.

  • White with Foam: Vomiting white foam can be due to the accumulation of acid in the stomach. The foaming can occur when the vomit comes into contact with the air or due to foaming in the stomach before vomiting occurs.

Dog vomiting foam

  • Clear and Watery: If a dog vomits clear watery fluid, it may be due to secretions in the stomach or residual water present in the stomach that refluxes out when the dog vomits. Typically, this occurs when a dog drinks water while feeling nauseous and is unable to retain water in its body.

  • Slimy and Mucus-like: Dogs that vomit slimy mucus have likely experienced their stomach acid combine with large irritants. The dog will experience relief from nausea after vomiting the slimy substance.

  • Red or Pink: Vomiting blood indicates a serious condition. Blood itself can cause nausea, so dogs vomit when blood pools in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If the color does not turn red, and the vomiting is not prolonged or frequent, the pink vomit is not always an emergency sign.

  • Green: Vomiting green fluid can be due to grass or plant consumption. It can also be caused by bile pooling in the stomach before vomiting, often when the stomach is empty.

  • Brown: Vomiting brown fluid may be caused by food (dog kibble) refluxing from the esophagus. It could also indicate that a dog ate too quickly or swallowed a lot of air. Although brown vomit may appear to be just dry kibble, it can sometimes contain more than that. It is advisable to examine the vomit to determine the contents.

  • Worms in Vomit: Intestinal parasites, such as worms, can cause vomiting in dogs. If a dog has live worms or a severe infestation, such as roundworms, they may vomit worms and refuse to eat. Typically, the dog’s feces will have white flecks, which are tapeworm eggs.

  • Grass in Vomit: Grass is a common component of dog vomit. Dogs often eat grass when they have an upset stomach, which can sometimes cause vomiting.

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3. Causes of Dog Vomiting

There is no single definitive answer as to why a dog vomits. Different ages, dog breeds, and behaviors can make dogs more prone to vomiting. Several internal and external factors can influence dogs. Below is a list of possible causes of vomiting in dogs, both acute (sudden, one-time occurrence) and chronic (recurring over time):

  • Sudden changes in diet
  • Addison’s disease
  • Bloating
  • Brain tumors
  • Cancer
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Ingesting contaminated water
  • Eating grass (could be due to another cause)
  • Eating feces (coprophagia)
  • Eating too quickly
  • Exercising after eating
  • Allergies or food intolerance
  • Gastritis or stomach pain due to ingesting garbage or spoiled food
  • Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines)
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers

a. Acute Vomiting in Dogs

Acute vomiting occurs suddenly and does not last for an extended period. Here are some common reasons for acute vomiting:

  • Eating foreign objects or toxic substances
  • Infectious diseases, such as parvovirus. Certain breeds, including Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers, are more susceptible to parvovirus.
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Contaminated water ingestion

b. Chronic Vomiting in Dogs

Chronic vomiting is a long-term condition that can be continuous or intermittent. Chronic vomiting can be bothersome if the underlying cause is unknown. Some dogs may experience chronic vomiting, resulting in persistent nausea.

Causes of chronic vomiting in dogs include:

  • Megaesophagus: This is a condition where the esophagus dilates and loses its ability to transport food into the stomach. It can be caused by various conditions and affects dogs of all ages. Certain dogs may be born with megaesophagus due to abnormal formation of the esophagus. Other dogs may develop it due to conditions such as Addison’s disease, myasthenia gravis, or hypothyroidism.

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Dogs with chronic vomiting may suffer from IBD, where the digestive tract becomes chronically inflamed. Sometimes, vomiting is the main symptom of IBD.

  • Pancreatitis: This is a common cause of acute vomiting, but in some cases, dogs with chronic pancreatitis may experience frequent vomiting. These dogs require a very low-fat diet. Schnauzers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, and Bichon Frisés are prone to chronic pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes.

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4. What to Do When Your Dog Vomits

The most important thing is to determine when to take your dog to a veterinarian and when you can try home remedies or wait for the vomiting to subside.

  • If your dog has vomited within the past 12 hours and is otherwise alert and able to eat and drink normally, you can wait and monitor the situation. One of the biggest dangers when a dog vomits is dehydration. When a dog becomes dehydrated, essential bodily functions begin to break down.

  • Take your dog to a veterinarian if your dog:

    • Is a puppy, as they can quickly become weak due to dehydration or low blood sugar if they are unable to eat.
    • Is an older dog.
    • Vomits bile (a sign of obstruction).
    • Is struggling to vomit but nothing is expelled (a sign of bloat, which can be life-threatening).
    • Vomits blood.
    • Vomits pieces or whole foreign objects.
    • Faints (a sign that the entire body is affected).
    • Has a rigid or swollen abdomen (a sign of severe vomiting).
    • Vomits and refuses to eat.
    • Is unable to drink or drinks but immediately vomits.
    • Shows signs of dehydration (dry gums, lack of elasticity in the skin when lightly pulled).
  • Urgent situations: Here are urgent situations that warrant immediate veterinary attention.

    • Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea (especially if the vomit contains blood): This can quickly lead to severe dehydration and may require hospitalization.
    • Dog becomes lethargic after vomiting or experiences tremors during or after vomiting: This may be the result of severe abdominal pain or electrolyte imbalances.
    • Your dog eats something known to be toxic, a known poisonous substance, or something you suspect is toxic.
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5. How to Treat a Vomiting Dog

a. Home Remedies

There are some home remedies you can try if your dog has mild vomiting and does not exhibit any of the serious symptoms mentioned earlier. You can use over-the-counter medications like Pepcid AC (famotidine) or Prilosec (omeprazole). These are safer medications that help reduce acid production and acid reflux in vomiting dogs. They can stabilize and soothe the dog’s stomach.

b. Veterinary Treatment

Treatment for a vomiting dog involves consulting a veterinarian. After diagnosing the underlying cause of the vomiting, the veterinarian may recommend the most appropriate treatment method, such as prescribing antibiotics if the vomiting is due to an infection. Other medications may include antiemetics, which are used to control vomiting. In other cases, dogs may require fluid therapy. Surgery may be recommended in severe cases.

6. Preventive Measures

While it is not possible to prevent all causes of vomiting in dogs, you can take preventative steps with the following:

  • Do not abruptly change your dog’s diet; do it gradually. Sudden changes in diet can disrupt the digestive system and lead to vomiting.

  • Do not provide your dog with toys that can be swallowed or chewed into small pieces. They can cause irritation or blockages in the digestive system, leading to vomiting.

Dog chewing bone

  • Avoid feeding your dog cooked or unsafe bones.

  • Keep your dog away from toxic foods. Consult a list of human foods that are toxic to dogs to avoid them.

  • Prevent your dog from scavenging while walking or accessing garbage cans. This reduces the risk of dogs swallowing foreign objects and coming into contact with toxins.

  • Observe curious dogs closely. You may even want to use a muzzle to prevent them from eating anything they find while walking.

In conclusion, dogs are more prone to vomiting compared to cats due to their tendency to scavenge, especially puppies. There are numerous causes of dog vomiting, with common factors including illness, viral and bacterial infections, ingestion of foreign substances, poisoning, gastrointestinal inflammation, food intolerance, parasites, or eating too quickly. When your dog vomits, observe the vomit and other signs to decide whether to take them to the veterinarian. If your dog is an adult and the vomiting is not severe or prolonged, you can try home treatment and monitor them. However, if your dog is a puppy, senior, has pre-existing medical conditions, or shows urgent signs such as diarrhea, fainting, vomiting blood, or toxin ingestion, immediate veterinary attention is necessary.

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