Dog Vomiting: Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

By: Dr. Sarah WootenPublished: Updated:

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Dog Vomiting: Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Any dog lover can tell you that our furry best friends are susceptible to eating things they shouldn’t and that a dog throwing up, usually on the carpet or something else hard to clean, isn’t uncommon. Many things can cause dog vomit, some more serious than others. Read up on the most common causes of dogs throwing up, and learn how to examine your dog’s vomit for clues to what may be going on and how to help your dog stop vomiting, if needed.

Possible Causes: Why Is My Dog Throwing Up?

While we all have experienced it, what exacting is “vomiting”? Clinically speaking, vomiting describes the active expulsion of stomach contents from the stomach. It is unpleasant to be sure and most of the time harmless, but vomiting can also be a sign of other more serious conditions. A dog throwing up is not a specific disease or a diagnosis in and of itself; however, it is merely a clinical sign that can occur with many diseases or conditions. If you are wondering why do dogs throw up, the following is a list of things that can cause dog vomiting:

  • Eating something that causes inflammation, obstruction or infection in the gut or pancreas
  • Intolerance to fatty human food
  • Eating spoiled food or garbage
  • Motion sickness in the car
  • Allergic reaction to a particular food
  • Acute bacterial or viral infection of the stomach and intestines
  • Parasites (e.g., whipworms, roundworms, hookworms, Giardia, etc.)
  • Bloat and/or torsion of the stomach
  • Switching brands of dog food too quickly
  • Gobbling food or eating too fast
  • Cancer
  • Acid reflux
  • Neurological disease, such as brain tumors, inflammation or infection of the nervous system
  • Metabolic disorders (e.g., liver, kidney disease, etc.)
  • Heat stroke
  • Accidentally eating toxic or poisonous substances
  • Endocrine diseases, such as Addison’s disease
  • Adverse effect due to vaccination or medication

What Does Your Dog’s Vomit Look Like?

Though it may seem gross, examining your dog’s vomit can tell you a lot about what is going wrong inside your dog. Depending on the disease process, types of dog vomit look different. For example:

  • Mucus in dog vomit usually indicates inflammation in the stomach or intestine.
  • Yellow indicates bile and irritation of the stomach and may also indicate an empty stomach.
  • Undigested food can be due to food poisoning, anxiety, overeating or eating too fast. It might also be a problem with regurgitation rather than vomiting.
  • Bright red blood could indicate the stomach could be ulcerated. If a dog throws up something that looks like coffee grounds that is likely digested blood, and the problem is possibly in the intestines.

Vomit color or appearance

What it could mean

What you should do

Yellow

Nausea, empty stomach, acid reflux, bile

Dogs that go too long between meals will often vomit yellow material first thing in the morning. Try feeding later at night, or give a high protein snack right before bed. If this doesn't help, call your vet.

White and foamy

Nausea, inflammation, empty stomach, acid reflux

White foam usually occurs when a dog is vomiting on an empty stomach. This could be due to stomach irritation, obstruction or kennel cough. If happens regularly or more than 1-2 times in a 24 hour period, call your vet.

Chunky food pieces 

Undigested food

This means that your dog has vomited or regurgitated right after eating. If an isolated incident, no treatment necessary. If it happens regularly or more than 1-2 times in a 24 hour period, call your vet.

Green

Dog eats grass (you will see plant material), bile

Prevent your dog from eating grass. If this happens regularly or if no plant material is present, it means your dog is nauseous on an empty stomach. Call your vet.

Red or streaks of red

Dog eats food with red food coloring, fresh blood from an ulcerated stomach

If your dog doesn't eat food that has red dye, call your vet.

Black

Dog eats dirt, if the vomit looks like it has coffee grounds in it could be digested blood

Monitor your dog when outside to see if they are eating dirt. Otherwise, call your vet.

Clear liquid

Empty Stomach 

Monitor your dog when outside to see if they are eating dirt. Otherwise, call your vet.

Brown or smells like poop

Dog food or pica (eating poop) - you can tell the difference based on smell

If happens 1-2 times during a 24 hour period and stops, no treatment needed. If your dog is eating poop, talk to your vet about why it is happening and how to stop it.

Foreign objects

Your dog ate something they shouldn't

Sometimes, a dog will vomit a piece of a toy or sock they ate. If your dog acts normally afterwards with no further vomiting or diarrhea, you are okay to monitor them. If you are concerned, call your vet and keep them updated on your dog's progress—they will let you know if you need to bring your dog in.

When to Go to the Vet

A dog throwing up is a common occurrence, and not every dog vomit occurrence is cause for an emergency. If your dog vomits once or twice in 24 hours and then is fine or if your dog vomits once in a blue moon after eating something they shouldn’t, then your dog will likely recover without any treatment.

If, however, your dog keeps throwing up and isn’t stopping, your dog has vomiting and diarrhea, your dog is acting sick in any other way (excessively tired, loss of appetite, weight loss, increased drinking, urinating or any other unexplained behavior), or you have a puppy that is less than 16 weeks of age that is vomiting, then you need to call your local veterinarian and likely take your dog in for a visit.

Your veterinarian will utilize several tools to diagnose the cause of your dog throwing up, including a history from you about what has been going on, a physical examination of your dog, laboratory or imaging studies like x-ray or ultrasound, and/or response to therapy. Lab tests that your veterinarian may order include fecal tests, blood work, urinalysis and tests for viral causes like parvo in puppies.

To help your veterinarian make the diagnosis, bring a sample of the vomit to the clinic because, as described above, how the vomit looks can provide a lot of information.

If the vomiting turns out to be no more than a passing incident, your veterinarian may ask you to limit your dog's diet to clear fluids for 24 hours to rest their digestive tract and then feed a bland food diet for several days. Do not fast a puppy less than 16 weeks of age unless directed to do so by a veterinarian. Bland food can be a prescription digestion diet, or it may be something simple like cooked chicken and rice. Your vet may also ask you to collect stool samples over that period as the underlying cause may be passed along in the stool.

Additional treatments, if needed, are aimed at stopping vomiting and pain and addressing the underlying cause. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Possible treatments that may be prescribed include:

  • Medication to control the vomiting
  • Prescription antibiotics
  • Probiotics (nutrients that are designed to nourish and promote the growth of good bacteria that are already living in the colon)
  • Steroids to treat inflammatory bowel disease
  • Surgery to remove items stuck in the gastrointestinal tract, biopsy the intestines or stomach or remove any tumors or devitalized intestines
  • Treatments aimed at conditions outside the intestinal tract that could be causing vomiting, i.e. liver disease, kidney disease, adrenal disease, etc.

As far as what to do and future management of your dog's vomiting, always follow the recommended treatment plan of your veterinarian. Do not experiment with medications or food at this time. Pay close attention to your pet. If he does not improve, return to your veterinarian for a follow-up evaluation.

What Can I Give My Dog That Is Vomiting?

If you notice your dog vomiting once or twice and he is otherwise doing okay, then try the following at-home remedies.

  • Frequently feed small amounts of a bland diet, such as boiled chicken and rice with no skin, no seasoning, no oil or butter. The amount to feed depends on the size of your dog, so consult with your veterinarian. If this stops the vomiting, continue feeding a bland diet for 3-5 days, and then slowly transition back to the regular food by mixing small amounts of the regular food with either a prescription digestion food or chicken and rice for an additional 3 days. Feeding a bland diet is similar to the BRAT diet in humans, and gives the gut a chance to heal. If you feed a bland diet and the vomiting continues multiple times, or if your dog vomits after eating, call your vet.
  • If you are changing from one dog food to another, transition slowly over a period of days by mixing small amounts of the new food in with the old food, slowly increasing the ratio of new food to old food so that after 3-5 days the dog has been transitioned to the new food. This may reduce an upset stomach associated with starting a new food.
  • If your dog 'bolts' their food (which means they gobble it quickly and then might puke it back up), then either feed your dog multiple small meals a day or slow down eating with a slow feeder food bowl or by placing a large rock in their bowl that forces them to eat around it. Make sure the rock is too big to fit in their mouth! If you have more than one dog and they compete with each other to finish their food first and try to finish each other’s food, feed them in separate spaces.
  • If your dog has issues with motion sickness, talk to your vet about motion sickness medication that you can give at home. Motion sickness doesn’t always cause dog vomiting; sometimes the only signs are excessive drooling or anxiety in the car. If you see this in your dog, talk to your vet.

Remember: If nothing helps and the vomiting continues or if your dog acts sick in any other way, call your vet. Dog vomiting can be a passing problem or a sign of a serious underlying condition that could be life-threatening.

Vomiting is a miserable experience for humans and dogs alike. Any time your dog is throwing up vomit of any color or consistency, it is best to talk to your vet. The peace of mind you will gain from having the support of a professional is always worth the time and expense of talking to a vet when you are worried.


Q: Why is my dog vomiting?

A: Your dog is usually vomiting in reaction to something they ate that doesn’t agree with them, but in some instances vomiting is an indicator of a more serious medical condition. Dogs have evolved a well-developed vomiting center in their brains. As you have probably observed, dogs often experience the world through their mouth, eating something to find out if it’s edible. If it’s not, their body throws it back out the same way it came in. This is an unpleasant but harmless and effective defense against eating things they should not be consuming. While vomiting is not a specific disease or a diagnosis in and of itself, it can be a clinical sign that can occur with many diseases or conditions.

Q: Is dog vomiting serious? Do I need to see my vet?

A: It can be. If your dog vomits once or twice in 24 hours and then is fine or if your dog vomits once in a blue moon after eating something they shouldn’t, then it is likely that your dog will recover without any treatment. If, however, your dog keeps throwing up and isn’t stopping, your dog has vomiting and diarrhea, your dog is acting sick in any way (excessively tired, loss of appetite, weight loss, increased drinking, urinating, or any other unexplained behavior), or you have a puppy that is less than 16 weeks of age that is vomiting, then you need to call your local veterinarian and likely get your dog seen.

Q:What do different colors of vomit indicate?

A: You can tell a lot about what’s going on with your dog’s vomiting by examining the vomit. This is important information to provide your vet.

  • Mucus usually indicates inflammation in the stomach or intestine.
  • Yellow indicates bile and irritation of the stomach and may also indicate an empty stomach.
  • Undigested food can be due to food poisoning, anxiety, overeating or eating too fast. It might also be a problem with regurgitation rather than vomiting.
  • Bright red blood could indicate the stomach could be ulcerated. If a dog throws up something that looks like coffee grounds that is likely digested blood, and the problem is possibly in the intestines.

Q:Can I treat my dog’s vomiting at home?

A: It is always a good idea to consult with your vet when your dog is ill to determine the best course of action. If, however, your dog has vomited once or twice but is otherwise doing okay, a few days of a diet of bland, easy-to-digest foods that allow the digestive system to recover can be beneficial.


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By: Dr. Sarah WootenPublished: Updated:

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