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Why Is My Dog Throwing Up?

8 min read

Updated - Aug 16th, 2022

It’s never fun to witness your dog throwing up. It can leave you wondering if your pup simply has a sour stomach or if something serious is going on – most times, it is not cause for concern – but there are a few things you should look out for. 

Read on to learn some common (and not-so-common) reasons why your dog might have vomited. We’ll also explain when you should take your dog to the vet for throwing up, and how to care for your dog’s sensitive stomach. 

Symptoms 

It can be hard to know what caused your dog to throw up, which is especially worrisome if your dog is throwing up continuously. When your dog throws up, it’s because there is something in their stomach that needs to be expelled. It’s normal to notice your dog dry heaving or gagging before (or even after) they throw up. It’s important to recognize the difference between regurgitation and true vomit. In order to know more about why your dog threw up, you might want to do some detective work.

Inspecting your dog’s vomit, while gross, can offer helpful hints about what and why your dog threw up. The color, consistency, and size of your dog’s vomit are all helpful clues. For example, if your dog’s vomit looks more like undigested food, it might mean that your dog simply ate too fast and is regurgitating food as a result. If your dog’s vomit is clear, yellow, or mixed with a bit of white foam, it means that there was nothing in your dog’s stomach to throw up and as a result, they’re expelling bile. Different types of vomit tell a different story about what’s going on in that sweet pup of yours.

If your dog throws up, it could mean that they ate something that didn’t agree with their stomach. Your dog could be sick simply because they got into the garbage, ate table scraps, or picked up a bite of waste while on a walk. But there are many other causes of vomiting in dogs, which range in severity. 

Regurgitation vs. vomiting in dogs

You might not know that regurgitation and vomiting in dogs are actually two very different actions. When a dog vomits, they’re actively expelling substance from the stomach, accompanied by retching, coughing, and abdominal contractions. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a passive process in which food comes back up and out of your dog’s mouth before it hits their stomach.

Vomit comes from the stomach or small intestine, whereas bile comes from the esophagus and travels back up out of the mouth. You’ll notice that regurgitated food does not contain bile since it hasn’t traveled down into the stomach. Vomit can contain bile and range in color from yellow to green to brown. 

Oftentimes, the reason why your dog regurgitated food is because they ate or drank a bit too quickly. However, if your dog frequently has this problem, it’s a good idea to take them to the veterinarian. 

Acute vs. chronic vomiting in dogs

Acute vomiting in dogs refers to a singular incident of vomiting or a shorter bout of sickness caused by a virus. Generally, if your dog throws up one time and doesn’t seem to be showing too many signs of distress or discomfort, it’s classified as acute vomiting. For example, acute vomiting can occur from your dog eating grass, which might bother your dog’s stomach. 

On the other hand, chronic vomiting in dogs is considered a more serious condition than acute vomiting. If your dog throws up more than once in a day and has trouble keeping food or water down, they’re experiencing chronic vomiting. It’s very important to take your dog to the vet if they’re experiencing symptoms of chronic vomiting, as these conditions can be life-threatening. 

Chronic vomiting symptoms include:

  • Vomiting more than once in a 24-hour period
  • Retching, heaving, and gagging behaviors
  • Mucus, yellow bile, white foam, or blood in vomit
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Drooling
  • Dehydration
  • Signs of distress and abdominal pain 

Causes

Some common causes of dog vomiting include:

  • Diet change
  • Motion sickness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Intestinal parasites such as worms or
  • Gastrointestinal infections such as Giardia
  • Bloat
  • Ulcer
  • Bladder obstruction 
  • Ingestion of toxic substances (like antifreeze, pesticides, and other chemicals)
  • Ingestion of toxic human food (like chocolate, avocado, and grapes)
  • Constipation 
  • Food allergies 
  • Heatstroke 
  • Meningitis
  • Stress
  • Drugs like antibiotics or NSAIDS
  • Foreign objects in the stomach or intestines  
  • Inflammation of the stomach 
  • Viral infections
  • Dietary indiscretion 
  • Roundworms
  • Kidney failure 
  • Liver failure
  • Excessive stomach acid 
  • Kidney disease 
  • Colitis 
  • Inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Pancreatitis
  • Parvovirus  
  • Motion sickness (from a car or plane ride)

While this list ranges in severity, it’s still anxiety-inducing for pet parents, which is why it’s a good idea to call your vet if you’re unsure of the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting spell. Especially if your dog is experiencing other symptoms such as diarrhea or you’re not sure if your dog ate something toxic or inappropriate for digestion, like a small toy, it’s important to contact your vet for further instruction.

Foreign objects in your dog’s stomach such as socks or sticks can get caught in your dog’s esophagus, causing vomiting and coughing spells. Your vet may take an x-ray of your dog’s intestines or stomach to get a better idea of what could be blocking their internal organs. 

Your dog may also get an upset stomach if they were put under anesthesia. This is not something to be too worried about, since the medication is known to cause drowsiness and nausea. It usually takes a few hours for the anesthesia to completely wear off, but do monitor your dog for signs of dehydration and chronic vomiting. 

Diagnosis 

If your dog is vomiting continuously (more than one or two times in a 24-hour period) or has a major change in behavior (lethargy, loss of appetite, etc.) it’s a good idea to bring them to the vet, as underlying issues of chronic vomiting can be life-threatening. 

Though it’s a pretty gross task, bringing in samples of your dog’s vomit and poop can be a major help to your veterinarian. They’ll run tests on your dog’s expulsions to look for things like parasites, worms, and other underlying causes that could explain your dog’s sickness. 

You should take your dog to the vet if your dog shows signs of:

  • Chronic vomiting 
  • Fever
  • Abnormal behavior 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Refusal to drink water
  • Diarrhea or constipation 
  • Blood in vomit 
  • Behavioral abnormalities
  • Weight loss

Your vet might run some blood tests to get to a diagnosis and implement the right treatment plan. After reviewing bloodwork results, your vet will help form the right plan of action to get your dog’s health back up to speed. 

Treatment

After determining what’s making your dog throw up, your vet may prescribe medications such as antihistamines or anti-nausea pills if they’re sick from an allergic reaction, for example. An IV of fluids may help your dog if they’re severely dehydrated, which can happen after chronic vomiting. If your vet determines that your dog is vomiting due to an underlying infection, they may prescribe antibiotics. 

Regardless of the treatment, your vet prescribes, offering your dog lots of pets and attention will certainly help them feel a bit better after a trip to the vet. 

Recovery and care 

Access to fresh, clean water and a comfortable resting spot is essential to helping your dog recover from a bout of vomiting. Your vet might also recommend keeping your dog on a bland diet for a few days. Think: Unsalted cooked rice and plain boiled chicken. Be sure to consult with your vet before offering your dog certain foods, especially if you were prescribed medication. Monitor your dog for signs of abnormal behavior during the recovery period, and let your vet know if anything is out of the ordinary.

Prevention 

It can be hard to prevent an upset stomach, but there are a few measures you can take to ensure your dog’s stomach stays free from harm. 

  • Remove toxic substances (like cleaning products and medications) from accessible areas 
  • Clean your dog’s food and water bowls regularly and replace their water daily
  • If your dog is prone to eating too fast, try a slow feeder dog bowl
  • Consider switching to a grain-free diet if your dog has a sensitive stomach
  • Treat your dog for worms and parasites with deworming medication 
  • Keep your home cool in the summer months to help prevent heatstroke

What to expect at the vet’s office

  • Your vet will likely ask for details about your pup’s vomiting spell, such as how often they threw up over a certain timeframe and what the vomit looked like
  • If you brought in a vomit sample, your vet will examine it to see whether it might indicate an underlying medical condition
  • The vet may run blood tests in order to diagnose your dog

The bottom line

While vomiting doesn’t always indicate a serious medical condition, it can be cause for concern – especially if your pup is throwing up multiple times in a 24-hour period, or if you see blood in their vomit. In cases like this, you should always go to the vet to get a professional opinion on how to best care for your pup.

FAQs

Should I take my dog to the vet for throwing up?

Not all vomiting incidents require a trip to the vet. Keep in mind that vomiting is a symptom rather than a health condition, and not all vomiting cases are a cause for concern. There is usually a reason why your is dog throwing up, which ranges in severity – but generally, you shouldn’t be too alarmed if your dog throws up just once. If you think your dog might be vomiting as the result of a serious condition, you should give your vet a call to be safe.

Should I worry if my dog throws up?

Your pup’s vomit could be cause for concern, indicating a serious underlying health condition – or it could nothing to worry about. Monitor your dog for signs of chronic vomiting and abnormal behavior. Consult your veterinarian for further instruction if you’re unsure of the severity of your dog’s sickness. 

Did you know?

  • Vomiting is very different than regurgitation, so it’s important for pet parents to distinguish between the two.
  • The color of your dog’s vomit can be a big clue that helps you understand why your dog is sick. 
  • Pet health is important, and enrolling your pup in a pet insurance plan can help ensure your furry friend gets the best care possible should they get sick or hurt in the future.


Zoe is a passionate writer and long-time animal lover. She's a devoted cat mother to four furry felines.