Sick dog covered in blanket

Key takeaway

Dog vomiting can be the result of a multitude of things; from bad food to viruses, bacterial infections, indigestion, parasites, allergies, and more. Watch for secondary symptoms and don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care for prompt diagnosis and correct treatment.

Dogs can be energetic and eager eaters, sometimes scarfing down more than their stomachs can handle all at once, then proceed to throw it up. Other times, your dog may have eaten something toxic, or be suffering from an illness, both of which require veterinary care. For many dog owners, a case of vomiting can be hard to diagnose. Determining why your dog is vomiting requires looking out for other symptoms, and in many cases, getting a professional veterinary diagnosis.

Because there are so many potential reasons for a dog throwing up, it’s hard to know when you should be concerned, or when to ride it out. The bottom line is that it’s always better to be safe than sorry about your dog’s health. Learn more about dog vomiting causes and treatment here, and if you aren’t sure why your dog is puking, get help from your vet.

Is It Vomit Or Regurgitation?

Many dog owners are surprised to learn that there is a difference between vomiting and regurgitation. Knowing the difference, however, can guide you in finding out what is causing your dog to throw up.

  • Vomiting is when a dog’s body is forcing food or liquid out, and the process is clearly uncomfortable. Your dog may pace uncomfortably as its stomach muscles contract to force out the contents onto the floor. What gets barfed up will have been at least partially digested and traveled into the stomach, so the effort to expel this material is forceful and distressing.
  • Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a passive process, and it is much less forceful. The food coming out has not made its way to the stomach and is coming from the esophagus instead. The food expelled hasn’t been to the stomach, so it will look similar to the way it did when your dog first ate it. At the same time, regurgitation may also make your dog cough and struggle to breathe.

Causes

Dog vomiting can be either acute or chronic. It is also important for dog owners to know what each situation looks like and what information the veterinarian needs to diagnose and treat the reason your dog is throwing up. Try to note as many other symptoms of your dog's condition as you can, such as if your dog is throwing up blood or foreign objects.

Acute / Short Term Vomiting

Acute vomiting is when your dog has been throwing up once a day for a relatively short time (between 3 to 4 days) and no other symptoms seem to present themselves.

Acute Vomiting Causes

Any one of the following conditions could cause acute dog vomiting, and merit a visit to the veterinarian:

  • Bacterial infections—Several common dog bacterial infections can cause vomiting.
  • Bloat—If a dog eats too quickly, bloat can occur. It is a dangerous, emergency medical conditiont that can come with a sore, bloated abdomen and needs immediate veterinary assistance, or it could become fatal.
  • Diet changes—Dogs can have very sensitive stomachs. Any dietary changes should be made gradually, and with advice from the veterinarian.
Dog eating from bowl
  • Heat stroke—If your dog has been in the heat and is showing other signs like lethargy and fever, seek help right away.
  • Ingesting foreign objects or harmful substances (i.e., chocolate, toys, onions, garbage)—Depending on the substance ingested, your dog may be throwing up and having loose stool. Pay attention to the contents and secondary symptoms.
  • Ingesting toxins or poisons—Adog's body will want to expel any toxins as quickly as possible, which will result in vomiting.
  • Intestinal parasites—There are numerous intestinal parasites that can cause a dog to throw up.
  • Kidney failure or liver failure—These are conditionsthat require immediate diagnosis and treatment.
  • Motion sickness—Some dogs get nauseous in the car, just like humans. While this is not a life-threatening situation, care should be taken to minimize situations like this. Your veterinarian may also be able to provide ideas and guidance to help reduce the severity and incidence of motion sickness for your pet.
  • Pancreatitis—This dangerous inflammation of the pancreas can lead to vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea, sluggishness,and stomach pain. Seek veterinary help immediately.
  • Reaction to medications—Whenever you need to give your pet a new medication, watch carefully for any reactions. If vomiting occurs, discontinue the medication and call your veterinarian right away for advice.
  • Viral infections—Many viral infections in dogs can cause vomiting. One viral infection in puppies and young dogs, called parvovirus, is a life-threatening virus. You will want to have your puppy seen by a veterinarian right away if they start vomiting.

Chronic vomiting

Chronic dog vomiting is when your dog has been vomiting daily or near daily for multiple weeks.

Causes of Chronic Vomiting

It is important to have your dog checked for the following potential causes of chronic dog vomiting, as they are all serious enough to require quick veterinary care.

Causes of chronic vomiting in dogs

  • Cancer
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Liver disease
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Systemic illnesses

Especially note whether your dog’s chronic vomiting is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the vomit or stool
  • Dehydration
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Any other unusual symptoms

When to See a Vet

Given all of that, you may still wonder, “When should I be worried about my dog throwing up?” Most dogs puke at some point in time, and it isn’t always serious. Generally, if your dog throws up once, but there aren’t any other symptoms present, it may just be a little stomach upset that will pass soon.

On the other hand, if the vomitingis frequent, accompanied by the dog throwing up blood or yellow liquid,, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, lethargy, seizures, poor appetite or any other strange symptoms, contact your vet right away.

If Your Puppy is Throwing Up

If your puppy is throwing up, this is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care. Puppies are born with natural immunity from their mothers, but this wanes after about six weeks, which is when they start to receive their core puppy vaccinations. During this time, your puppy’s immune system is underdeveloped and especially vulnerable to diseases like parasites and parvovirus. So if your puppy is throwing up, do not wait to see if it gets better. Call your vet immediately.

Diagnosis

Acute Vomiting: Watch for sudden onset. Your veterinarian will ask questions about your dog’s access to small objects, garbage or toxins and do a physical exam of your dog’s abdomen, mouth and rectum for signs of blood, discharge or foreign objects. The vet may order an x-ray to determine whether or not your dog ingested any foreign objects, or if there are other obstructions or life-threatening conditions at play. In some cases, fecal, urine or blood tests may also be ordered. The veterinarian will evaluate the test results to determine the appropriate treatment.

Chronic Vomiting: If your dog throws up more than once or twice daily for several weeks, that alone can be concerning. But if the vomiting is also accompanied by the dog throwing up blood, fever, abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, depression, the dog throwing up yellow, and/or dehydration, an appointment with the veterinarian is certainly in order.

In these cases, the veterinarian may order tests such as x-rays, CT scans, an MRI, blood, urine and fecal testing, and endoscopic tests where a biopsy of the small intestine or stomach may be needed.

Treatment

For acute vomiting: Provide small feedings of easily-digested food, depending on the size of your dog. Continue to offer water. If your dog does not vomit again, build up gradually to a normal feeding routine. Follow any treatment instructions that your veterinarian provides so your dog can recover.

For chronic vomiting: Since chronic vomiting is a symptom of something going wrong inside your dog, and knowing how to treat dog vomiting depends on correct diagnosis and treatment of the cause. The tests mentioned above will give your vet information that will lead to a treatment plan. Chronic dog puking can also cause secondary conditions like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that need to be treated as well, sometimes with intravenous fluids. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication to help relieve weakness and vomiting, if your dog’s condition warrants it.

Dog Vomiting: Frequently Asked Questions

Diagnosing and treating dog vomiting can be difficult without veterinary assistance, and could indicate a serious condition that requires a rapid response. If you are not sure why your dog is throwing up, it’s always better to be safe than to wait it out, especially in the case of young puppies. When your puppy throws up, this is always a sign of trouble and requires prompt attention from your veterinarian. The following frequently asked questions can help you determine how to best help your dog get the right care at the right time:

When should I be concerned about my dog throwing up?

If your dog is a puppy, you need to take it to a veterinarian right away, even if no other symptoms are present. In adult dogs, note the difference between vomiting and regurgitation. Vomiting is harder and more forceful and can indicate a more serious problem than regurgitation. Also, watch for secondary symptoms like  blood in the vomit, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, abdominal pain, etc. These all indicate serious problems that need to be addressed by your veterinarian.

How do I know if a dog throwing up is serious?

Sometimes dogs just eat too fast, and they may regurgitate or throw up the excess if that’s the case.

The best way to tell if your dog throwing up is serious is to note secondary symptoms.

The best way to tell if your dog throwing up is serious is to note secondary symptoms. For example, if your dog is throwing up blood, having seizures, suffering from a fever or is generally lethargic or looks to be in pain, these are all signs that something serious is going on, and you will need to get your dog in to see the veterinarian right away.

Why is my dog throwing up but acting normal?

If your dog is throwing up, but still acting otherwise normal, it’s possible that your pet has either chronic gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) or food indiscretion. Food indiscretion in dogs is very common when they get so excited about eating that they eat too fast or too much, and some of it comes back out. Food indiscretion can also cause bloat, which is a life-threateningcondition that requires immediate veterinary care. If your dog’s stools are normal and they are acting happy and content otherwise, then controlling the amount of and timing of feedings is an option.

For example, introduce a small meal of rice with some boiled white meat chicken in small chunks. Slowly increase the amount of feeding to normal, and then gradually (over the course of a week) switch out the chicken and rice in small increments with the dog’s usual brand of food.

Dog holding bowl

If the vomiting returns, it’s possible that the dog food contains something your dog has a sensitivity to. Talk with your veterinarian about sensitive-stomach dog food options and be sure to only introduce the new food gradually. Again, you can start with the rice and chicken and gradually switch out small amounts of that with the new brand of dog food. Never make a sudden switch of dog foods, otherwise that will probably upset your dog’s stomach and you’ll have to deal with more vomiting. In the event that this does not solve the problem, your vet should perform a somediagnostic tests to determine what the underlying cause of the vomiting is.

Final Notes

Obviously, it is not normal to have a dog throwing up often. If your dog is puking, be sure to pay close attention to additional symptoms that could indicate a serious problem. Most of all, you want your dog to be healthy and happy, and vomiting is not part of that scenario. Err on the side of caution and contact your veterinarian quickly for an examination and to have any tests done to rule out or discover serious problems. The right diagnosis and treatment for dog vomiting can help your best friend feel better and healthier again.

Here at Dutch, we are a team of veterinary experts and telemedicine professionals who are committed to providing all pets with easy access to veterinary professionals who can help them live healthy, happy, full lives. Our treatments are science-based and use the latest in modern veterinary medical technology. Whether your dog is throwing up, or you have a pet with separation anxiety, allergies or any other concern, we are here to help! Your pet deserves the best, and Dutch aims to deliver. Our pets are family. Schedule a veterinary telehealth appointment today and we can help your pet get the care he or she needs.

References

  1. Vomiting in Dogs, MSD Vet Manual, https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/digestive-disorders-of-dogs/vomiting-in-dogs