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Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

A vomiting dog often seeks grass to help them vomit.

A vomiting dog often seeks grass to help them vomit.

Vomiting Has Many Causes

Is your dog vomiting? If so, you may be wondering what is causing him to be sick. Unfortunately, there are several possible causes for this, and it is very difficult to diagnose a dog without your veterinarian running a variety of extensive tests.

During my time working with vets, in cases of mild vomiting without any other troublesome signs, it was often much easier to simply treat the issue rather than running a multitude of expensive tests. Vets, therefore, often recommended fasting and a mild diet and asked for the owner to observe the dog carefully for the following days.

Often, the vet also prescribed some medications to calm down the inflamed stomach. All that was often done test-wise was checking the dog's vitals, body temperature, hydration levels, and overall condition, and running a fecal test.

More often than not, the dogs recovered nicely. If the dog, however, was not getting better or presented other worrisome symptoms, a battery of tests was run to see what was going on. If your dog is vomiting, more often than not, it may be just an irritated stomach. But, because there are also some serious life-threatening disorders that cause vomiting, you should always take a vomiting dog seriously.

Regurgitation vs. Vomiting in Dogs

A first step to determine what may be causing dog vomiting is to check your dog's behavior before vomiting and inspect the vomit. Neither task is really pleasant, but they can give you an idea of what is going on and can help your vet in his diagnosis. It is important to distinguish real vomiting from regurgitation. The two are like comparing apples to oranges.

Your dog is generally vomiting if:

  • He appears to be anxious before vomiting.
  • He is drooling, which is a sign of nausea.
  • He is licking his lips and swallowing frequently.
  • He tries to eat grass or carpet.
  • He has strong stomach contractions.
  • He starts to retch.
  • He expels liquid or semi-liquid digested material or yellow/brown bile.
  • He may continue to retch or dry heave for a bit. He may also appear to be sick and may lose his appetite for some time.

Your dog is generally regurgitating if:

  • He appears rather calm.
  • He regurgitates with little or no warning signs.
  • He regurgitates quite passively, there are no stomach contractions and no retching takes place.
  • He regurgitates food that is not digested and often appears slimy and still whole. Because the food has not yet reached the stomach but has only been in the esophagus, it is often tubular in shape.
  • He feels fine right after regurgitating and resumes normal activities.

Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

Now that you have ascertained that you are truly dealing with a vomiting dog, you may be wondering what could be causing dog vomiting in the first place. As mentioned, there are various possibilities. The following questions may help sort through the plethora of dog vomiting causes, both serious and less serious.

Note: Obviously, this list should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, it is just a guide! See your vet if your dog is vomiting.

  • Is your dog prone to being motion sick? If your dog vomits on car rides consider this as a possibility!
  • Did your dog raid through the trash and did he find some bones or anything he could have swallowed such as corn cobs, plastic bottle caps, or tampons? If your dog has a Hoover reputation, there are chances for an intestinal blockage that may cause vomiting and requires a prompt vet visit.
  • Did you feed your dog fatty foods, such as bacon, fat meat, or the oil drippings from the pan? Fatty foods may cause a bout of pancreatitis with vomiting. Your dog will need to see the vet as this can get troublesome.
  • Is your dog stressed/excited/hyper? Did you feed him when he was worried, too excited? Did he eat too fast? Stress and other strong emotions may cause digestive problems in dogs.
  • Did your dog have a fecal test run this year? If not, your dog may have worms. In puppies, potbelly may be indicative of roundworms. Worms are not the only pesky parasites to cause vomiting though, protozoans such as coccidia and giardia may cause vomiting too! Bring a stool sample to your vet!
  • Did you feed a new food recently? Many dog owners forget to switch a dog over to new food over the course of seven days. Most bags of food suggest this in their labeling.
  • Does your dog have a sensitive stomach? Some dogs develop allergies and food intolerance and may need to be fed a sensitive stomach diet or a hypoallergenic prescription diet.
  • Have you been giving your dog any medications? Some meds cause vomiting as a side effect. Read the labeling carefully and consult with the vet.
  • Is your dog a young puppy? Young puppies may develop parvo, a potentially life-threatening condition. Puppies dehydrate quickly and need to see a vet so to rule out this dangerous disease.
  • Is your dog suffering from a systemic disease? Liver and kidney problems and even diabetes or cancer may cause vomiting; another good reason to see your vet!
  • Has your dog been left alone for most of the day? Could he have eaten something poisonous or toxic? If in doubt, see the vet!
  • Is your dog restless and repeatedly retching without bringing anything up? If so, see your vet immediately, as this can be a sign of bloat, a medical emergency!

These are just a few of the many causes of vomiting in dogs.

When to Be Concerned and See the Vet

Generally, just an isolated event of vomiting should not be terribly worrisome. It happens at times. Dogs have a strong vomiting center which comes from their nature of being scavengers. Keeping an eye on the dog for the rest of the day may be all that is needed. Yet, there are times when you may want to see your vet. Generally, you should be concerned and see the vet the same day or immediately, should your dog:

  • The vomiting was not an isolated event; rather, your dog keeps vomiting
  • Your dog's vomiting is persistent, severe, projectile, and does not stop.
  • Your dog is unable to keep food or water down
  • Vomit contains bright red blood (fresh blood)
  • Vomit contains material that looks like coffee grounds (digested blood)
  • Your dog is lethargic, doesn't want to play, sleeps for most of the day, has lost his appetite, and is not himself.
  • You have a small puppy or a toy breed dog. Smaller dogs tend to dehydrate fairly quickly and get low blood sugar and puppies are prone to parvo. Rub some pancake syrup on your dog's gums and see the vet!
  • Your dog's stomach appears bloated and your dog attempts to vomit
  • The vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea

If your dog's vomiting is self-limited and you recently changed his food or he has been subjected to a dietary indiscretion, you can try some vet-approved home remedies for upset stomachs in dogs. However, if you are in doubt about what may be causing the vomiting, take the better safe than sorry approach and have your vomiting dog see the vet the same day!

Remember: If you have a vomiting dog, please see your vet. This guide on dog vomiting is for reference only and should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice. There are many causes of vomiting in dogs and some can be serious and life-threatening.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 09, 2017:

Andrew, good luck with the later meals, some dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome also feel better with anti-acids your vet can prescribe.

Andrew on March 08, 2017:

I have a 6 months old kelpie who regularly vomits about 4 am .

Had all the vet checks (blood test, x-rays) at a cost of 700 Australian dollars all tests seem to be ok.

She was being fed a good quality dog biscuits and barf.

Changed her diet to raw food (meaty bones) and all the rest.

Also on the biscuit diet she would have a frenzy bout of eating grass,and a lot of the time she brought up just grass and bile.

So anyway what I'm going to try is giving her some food later as suggested. As she gets her last meal about 5.30 pm.

Jenna Pope from Southern California on August 19, 2012:

This is a very good, complete article. I am bookmarking it for future reference. Voted up.

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on August 19, 2012:

Very helpful hub! Helps me not to worry about my beloved dog.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on July 16, 2012:

Great information here. Thankfully my dogs are o.k., but this is something to read for a reference if ever needed.