If your dog vomits, it’s messy for dog owners, and uncomfortable for them. It’s always awful to see your pet struggling and not knowing what’s happening to them.
Fortunately, prompt care usually resolves the issue quickly. But vomiting can be a symptom of a more serious condition. So if there’s any doubt about why your pet is vomiting, it’s best to bring your furry best friend to a veterinarian.
Symptoms: Is it vomiting or something else?
Even though vomiting may seem obvious, there are some conditions that look similar but have a completely different set of possible causes.
To know for sure if it’s vomiting, look for active retching or heaving along with throwing up food or bile. You may also notice fluid, mucus, white or yellow foam, or more when your dog throws up.
On the other hand, if your dog is bringing up food they’ve just eaten—especially if it’s undigested food and there’s no heaving, retching, or gagging and instead the food just kind of “pops out” suddenly—this is more likely regurgitation.
Surprisingly, severe coughing can also look and sound a lot like vomiting — some coughing dogs will even bring up foam.
The differences can be subtle, but vomiting, regurgitation, and coughing have different causes and, therefore, different treatments. So, any observations you make can help your vet reach a diagnosis more quickly.
Of course, if your pet is ill and you don’t know these specific details yet—that’s OK! The most important thing is to seek care so your pup can start feeling better as soon as possible.
What causes vomiting in dogs?
There are many possible reasons of vomiting in dogs. Common causes include:
- Eating something they shouldn’t have (such as table scraps, getting into the garbage, or foreign objects)
- Food allergies and food sensitivities
- Eating too fast
- Eating something toxic
- An internal problem such as kidney or liver disease, an inflamed pancreas, or hormonal imbalances
- Swallowing an object that got stuck in the stomach or intestines (like a plastic toy) — this typically requires surgery
- Certain cancers
Fortunately, most cases of vomiting in otherwise healthy dogs are easily treated. However, other times it may be something serious, even life-threatening. Here are some clues that your pooch’s vomiting is more dangerous; if any of these conditions apply to your dog, you’ll want to visit your vet as soon as possible:
- Severe or frequent vomiting — especially if your dog keeps throwing up when their stomach is already empty
- Vomiting that lasts more than 1-2 days
- You know they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have — like a toxic substance, or a toy that could be causing a blockage
- Throwing up and diarrhea — this makes the risk of dehydration much higher
- Loss of appetite for more than a day
- Weight loss
- Throwing up blood
- Any signs of abdominal pain, such as yelping, a hunched-up posture, or reluctance to let you touch their abdomen
- Dehydration — check for gums that are dry or pale, and skin “tenting.” To look for this, gently pull up on the skin over the shoulder blades and see how quickly it sinks back into place. If it stays up like a tent, your pal is probably dehydrated.
Again, this list is relevant for otherwise healthy, adult pets. If you have a puppy, a senior dog, or a dog with medical conditions, you’ll want to be more cautious and seek care sooner. These pets may be more severely affected by dehydration, loss of nutrients, and other consequences of vomiting, regardless of cause.
That’s especially true if you have a puppy that’s throwing up, since they’re at a higher risk of deadly infections like Parvovirus. Seeking care ASAP will give your puppy the best chance of getting through any infections and having better health moving forward.
How is vomiting in dogs treated?
Treatment usually depends on what caused the vomiting in the first place. So, in addition to a physical exam, your veterinarian may recommend blood tests and/or X-rays, which may surface a foreign body, an underlying condition, or another issue.
These diagnostics help your vet get to the bottom of the issue sooner, to prevent dangerous complications, and to deliver more efficient (and often less expensive, in the long run) treatment.
And if all the tests come back normal? Well, then you’ll have good news and peace of mind.
To prevent complications and get your buddy feeling better fast, here are a few common treatments for most kinds of vomiting:
- A bland diet such as chicken and rice or a prescription diet for sensitive stomachs
- A short period of fasting (for healthy adult pets only)
- Fluid administration — your furry friend may have lost important electrolytes when they were throwing up. A balanced fluid solution, given by your vet team via an injection just under the skin, can correct dehydration and restore a healthy electrolyte balance.
- Rest until they are feeling better
In addition to these treatments, some dogs will need medication. Additional care will be recommended to treat the root cause of the vomiting, and to help very ill pets recover safely. Remember, don’t give any human medications or home remedies without checking with your vet first — many are dangerous to pets!
Preventing vomiting in dogs
Try these tips to decrease the chances of your pal throwing up:
- Keep your pet up to date on routine medical care, including vaccines. This is especially important for puppies!
- Avoid table scraps — instead, try for healthy treats in moderation
- Prevent your pal from eating stuff off the ground during walks. If they’re incorrigible, consider using a basket muzzle (one that’s wide enough that they can still pant to prevent overheating) during walks
- Prevent access to toxic substances, garbage cans, and any toys or objects that could be accidentally swallowed
- If your pup eats too fast, try feeding them more smaller, more frequent meals
Many of these tips will go a long way toward preventing other health problems besides vomiting, too. And should your furry friend ever start throwing up, remember to seek care as soon as possible — your pup will thank you for the relief from a queasy tummy!