What Causes Dogs to Vomit and When Should You Be Concerned?

Updated on January 30, 2018
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Kate graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biology. She currently resides in Sonoma, California.

When your canine companion isn't feeling well, it can be easy to worry or jump to conclusions. Before you get overly concerned, remember that vomiting isn't always serious. It is important to identify the cause of your dog's upset stomach and discover what circumstances may surround your pet's individual situation.

Though vomiting is not always serious, every dog is different. You should never entirely disregard cases of vomiting as some situations may be time sensitive or require immediate medical attention. Other situations may require you to keep an eye on your dog and see if they begin to recover over time.

It's Not Always Serious!

There are many factors that can trigger instances of vomiting in dogs ranging from mild cases of overeating to serious underlying medical conditions. Below, we will take a look at some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs.

Why Do Dogs Vomit?

Understanding why dogs vomit can help you to better diagnose your pooch. Vomiting is a natural defensive response created by a series of complicated physical, neurological, and chemical processes within your dog's body.

The area in your dog's brain that controls the vomiting response is called the Area Postrema. This area automatically scans for pathogens or irregularities in your dog's bloodstream. Vomiting is triggered by abnormalities or toxins in the body. Vomiting can help to keep your dog safe from certain toxins and bacteria.

Since vomiting is caused by physical irregularities in your pup's body, it can be caused by a wide range of very different factors such as:

  • Poisons
  • Diseases
  • Viral pathogens
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Overexertion, and more.

Vomiting is usually preceded by nausea in your dog, though this isn't always the case. Vomiting can also be triggered by your dog's vagus nerve, also known the gag reflex. When vomiting is caused by the gag reflex, it is usually referred to as regurgitation and is less serious than actual vomiting.

Reasons Your Dog May Be Vomiting:

There are many reasons that dogs vomit. We have listed some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs as well as additional common symptoms.

Poisoning or Toxicosis

If your dog ingests toxins or poison, vomiting may occur shortly after. In most cases, vomiting will begin within 1 hour to 24 hours after the ingestion of most poisons. In these cases, your dog's body is attempting to eliminate the poison as quickly as possible.

To know whether your dog has consumed toxic materials, you will have to do some investigating. Check your floor, baseboards, or areas where your dog has recently been to see if there are any leftover remnants or packaging debris or evidence of poison substances nearby. Substances that can very be poisonous to dogs include:

  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol (found in sugarless candies and sugarless gums)
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Insecticides
  • Mouse and rat poison
  • Household cleaners (acidic or alkaline things like laundry detergent, lye, or toilet bowl cleaners)
  • Human drugs (namely ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, antidepressants, acetaminophen, and most amphetamines)
  • Fertilizers (including bone meal, blood meal and iron-based products consumed in large amounts)

If you have discovered that your dog has ingested any of these poisons, you will want to call your veterinarian immediately. Poisoning can be a time-sensitive matter. Try to find a sample of what your dog has gotten in to and bring it with you to your vet's office. Knowing how much and what your dog has consumed can be extremely important and helpful.

Bacterial Infection of the Gastrointestinal Tract

Dogs may vomit due to a bacterial infection of their gastrointestinal tract. This kind of gastroenteritis is not always serious and can be treated at home, though in some cases, it may lead to complications like dehydration or fever in your dog. There are many causes of gastroenteritis including but not limited to systemic infections and foodborne pathogens. Spoiled food or contaminated food can cause irritation of your dog's stomach and vomiting.

Gagging or Regurgitation Caused by the Vagus Nerve

One of the least serious causes of vomiting in dogs is regurgitation triggered by the vagus nerve in the back of your dog's throat. This nerve may be irritated if your dog eats too quickly, too much, or both. Many dogs who wolf down their food rapidly will vomit immediately after eating or even during the middle of their meal.

Though it isn't a cause of serious or immediate concern, you should still take measures to ensure that your dog doesn't make this sort of rapid overeating a habit. Over time, it can lead to more serious issues like bloat and gastric dilation.

If your dog is vomiting multiple times a day, it may be time to speak to a veterinarian.
If your dog is vomiting multiple times a day, it may be time to speak to a veterinarian.

Foreign Objects and Airway Obstruction

If your dog is choking on something, they may gag and vomit. Vomiting that is accompanied by wheezing, gagging sounds, or staggering behavior, may be due to a foreign object lodged in your dog's throat. Immediately check to see if your dog has anything lodged in their throat.

To prevent this kind of gagging and choking, be sure to only purchase toys designed specifically for your canine companion. If you have a puppy, keep your home clear of objects that can be chewed and easily break apart in your dog's mouth.

Intussusception or Intestinal Inversion

Intussusception means that part of the intestines may be telescoping on themselves.
Usually, occurrences of this condition are preceded by vomiting or diarrhea with or without small amounts of blood being present in either or both. Things that may contribute to this condition include intestinal parasites, bacterial or viral infections, abrupt dietary changes, or anything that may cause inflammation of the intestines.

Other Causes of Vomiting

There are many other possible causes for a dog to vomit. Here are some causes that aren't typical but can still occur in a dog. There causes should still be considered serious and will warrant a cause visit to your veterinarian.

Less Common but Still Serious Causes:

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease)
  • Viral Infections (Distemper, Parvovirus, etc.)
  • Heatstroke
  • Underlying Diseases
  • Acute Kidney, Liver, or Renal Failure
  • Pancreatitis or Gallbladder Failure
  • Bloat

The most common causes of vomiting in dogs however and generally considered "non-serious" and are usually not life-threatening.

Common Non-Serious Causes:

  • Diet changes
  • Food Intolerances
  • Ingestion of garbage or spoiled food
  • Easily treatable intestinal parasites (hookworms, pinworms, tapeworms, roundworms)
  • Car sickness or motion sickness
  • Post-operative nausea

Something as simple as over exertion can cause a dog to throw up and is not of concern unless it becomes on-going.
Something as simple as over exertion can cause a dog to throw up and is not of concern unless it becomes on-going.

Warning Signs You Should Watch For:

Below, we will describe the warning signs and symptoms that you should watch out for that may indicate a more serious problem.

Warning Signs

In many cases, vomiting is no big deal. It's your dog's body cleaning out something that has made it "off-balance." Still, there are a few signs to look out for:

  • Multiple instances of vomiting in one day
  • Consistent or "non-stop" vomiting
  • Inability to hold down water
  • Loss of appetite for a long period of time surrounding vomiting (more than 6 hours)
  • Unusual behavior (pacing, swaying, whimpering, etc.)
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Pale or white gums
  • Lack of urination
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Lack of bowel movement for more than 48 hours after vomiting
  • Blood in vomit or stool

If one or more the above-listed symptoms accompanies vomiting, it may very well be time to call your vet or take your dog in for a visit. You know your dog best and will be able to tell if their behavior is abnormal.

Keep in mind that some dogs may not show any of these symptoms right away. If you suspect that your dog has ingested any of the above-listed poisons or other toxic substances, don't wait for other symptoms to present themselves. Call your veterinarian.

Remember, vomiting can be a natural and harmless process. There is no need to immediately jump to any conclusions. Investigate the situation, watch for symptoms, and remember that all dogs are different. A quick call to your vet will help you put your mind at ease if you find yourself becoming unusually concerned.

© 2018 Kate Daily



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