Dog Vomiting – Causes & Treatment

It’s not uncommon for our dogs to throw up every once in a while, – especially if they’ve wolfed down their dinner too fast. But sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious going on. Learn when dog vomiting is a cause of concern with this handy guide.
Labrador at the vets
Labrador at the vets
Labrador at the vets

As a dog owner, you’ll know that your pup can be notorious for eating everything in sight and this isn’t always savoury. From eating another animal’s poo to toilet roll tubes, everything’s on the menu! And this can result in dog vomiting.

When your dog is throwing up, it’s a way for them to rid their system of anything indigestible, but sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious and an underlying disease or clinical condition. If your puppy is vomiting, you may be wondering whether it is serious and you should be thinking about seeking help from a vet. Keep reading to discover all the possible reasons why they may do this and the dog vomiting treatments available.

The difference between vomiting and regurgitating

First things first, you need to understand the difference between when your dog is vomiting and when they are regurgitating. If your dog vomits, it means that they’re forcefully removing the contents of their stomach, which is usually partly digested food. They may also display certain signs beforehand such as drooling, retching and their abdomen may contract too.

Regurgitation, on the other hand, is removal of undigested food which has usually only just reached the stomach or is still in the oesophagus. It is especially common if your dog has just wolfed down their food too quickly. If your dog is regurgitating the food, anything they bring up will appear undigested and may be shaped like a tube (the shape of the oesophagus). It also tends to reappear fairly shortly after the meal. This is not as serious as vomiting.

Dog eating food

Possible causes for dog vomiting

There are so many different reasons why your dog may be vomiting. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • Dietary indiscretion – also known as scavenging or eating something they shouldn’t have done! This is the most common cause of vomiting in dogs
  • A sudden change in diet or a potential food intolerance or allergy
  • Intestinal parasites – worms including: roundworms, heartworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. There will usually be a very heavy worm burden, however, before it causes vomiting
  • Ingestion of foreign bodies – these may include toys, sticks or bones
  • Car sickness and motion sickness
  • Heatstroke – most often caused by leaving a dog in a hot car
  • Reaction to medication or anaesthetic
  • Viral infection – such as rotavirus
  • Bacterial infection – including leptospirosis, colibacillosis and salmonellosis
  • Kidney failure or liver failure
  • Ingestion of something that’s toxic or poisonous to dogs
  • Pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas
  • Bloat – most commonly caused by eating too fast or overeating
  • Gastrointestinal disease such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Other underlying diseases or metabolic conditions

When you should be concerned

If your dog is sick as a one-off randomly and shows no other symptoms of being unwell, then there’s usually no reason to worry. If, however, they’re showing any of the following signs, then it’s time to call your vet:

  • If you think they’ve ingested a foreign body or something poisonous
  • You spot blood in their stools or vomit
  • They seem to be vomiting frequently
  • They’re continuously retching unproductively (i.e. there is nothing coming up)
  • Your dog seems to be in pain or discomfort
  • They’re demonstrating signs of depression and lethargy
  • They’re dehydrated
  • Your dog seems to be losing weight and have lost their appetite
  • They have a temperature
  • Your dog’s having seizures too

If your dog’s throwing up as well as showing any of the signs above, contact your vet immediately. This could indicate a more serious problem such as a gastrointestinal foreign body or obstruction, kidney or liver failure or even canine cancer. With these serious diseases the key is catching and treating it early, so always be on the lookout.

Diagnosis

If you are concerned that your dog is not suffering from a one-off episode of vomiting due to a relatively harmless cause, you should take your dog to the vet promptly. They’ll examine your dog and take into account their age, any other clinical signs, current physical condition as well as their medical history to investigate further. It’s likely they’ll also want to do a series of diagnostic tests, which may include blood tests, X-rays or ultrasound scans.

Dog being diagnosed at the vets

Dog vomiting treatment

Due to the fact that there’s so many different reasons why your dog is being sick, there’s a variety of treatments your vet may administer. A lot of dog vomiting is caused by inflammation of the stomach, so one of the most common treatments includes feeding a bland diet (boiled chicken or white fish and white rice or sweet potato or a veterinary-prescribed gastrointestinal diet), alongside some anti-nausea medication. If your dog is dehydrated, they may need to be admitted to the veterinary practice for administration of intravenous fluids. Additionally, if it’s extremely serious they may need surgery and to stay at your vets for a period of time, so that they can administer frequent medication.

Looking to find out more information about dog health and nutrition? Read our guide on dog poop.