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Why Do Puppies Throw Up?

Written By
Reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM
7 min read

Updated - Oct 7th, 2021

Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM.

Your new puppy is adorable, playful, and irresistible. And yet, even the cutest puppies (including yours) have accidents, roll around in stinky things, and throw up. If your puppy is vomiting, it may not be cause for concern, but we’ll tell you when you should worry – and how to spot warning signs of illness. 

What’s more, you’ll learn about the most common reasons that puppies vomit and how to discover food sensitivities in your puppy. 

Help! My Puppy Is Throwing Up

When your puppy vomits, they forcefully expel whatever is in their stomach, and sometimes, in their upper intestines. You’ll likely see your puppy’s abdominal area heaving when they vomit. 

Now, there’s a key difference between regurgitating food and true vomiting. If your puppy is regurgitating something, it’s likely to happen very soon after they eat. Whatever comes up isn’t going to be digested. In other words, you’ll see intact bits of kibble or blades of grass, and your pup may very well try to gobble them right back up. 

Dogs that are regurgitating don’t feel nauseous. Dogs regurgitate food for several reasons, including if they’ve eaten too quickly or too much. If your puppy does this once or twice and returns to their normal demeanor and activity level, you’re in the clear. But if it happens frequently, then have your dog checked out by a veterinarian, because regurge can also be caused by medical conditions such as hiatal hernias or megaesophagus. In addition, you can try feeding your puppy smaller amounts more often or try a puzzle feeder designed to slow overenthusiastic eaters.

Compared to regurgitation, vomiting is different. That’s when your dog is acting sick, heaving, and ejecting food or other stomach contents that contain bile. It will look slimy and partially or fully digested. Vomiting is an active process that requires effort (heaving), regurgitation is a passive process that doesn’t require effort, dogs just burp and bring up food.

If your puppy vomits once or twice, but acts normal afterwards and doesn’t have any further issues, then you likely don’t need to seek veterinary care. However, if your vomiting puppy is showing signs of distress, including whining, acting lethargic, or uninterested in their food for more than a few hours, then call your vet. If your puppy is vomiting blood, has vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, or has eaten something toxic, don’t wait, pack up and head to the emergency vet right away. 

Why Is My Puppy Vomiting?

The most common causes of puppy vomiting include eating something that doesn’t agree with them, intestinal parasites, and parvovirus. According to WebMD, there’s a long list of potential reasons for your puppy’s vomiting. This list includes:

  • Diet changes
  • Eating something toxic, like algae or antifreeze
  • Liver disease, kidney disease
  • Foreign substances like toys, sticks, stones, plastic, etc.
  • Viral or bacterial infections, including parvovirus, clostridium toxicity, etc.
  • Parasites in the gut
  • Severe Constipation
  • Heatstroke
  • Motion Sickness
  • Meningitis
  • Brain Trauma
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Drugs (NSAIDS, antibiotics, etc.)
  • Food sensitivities or intolerances
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bloat
  • Stress
  • Excessive stomach acid

It’s an alarming list – and it’s not exhaustive! Keep in mind, however, that your vet is the expert in determining the true cause of your puppy’s intestinal problems. As the pet parent, your job is to carefully note symptoms, provide an accurate picture of your dog’s diet, activity, and health, and follow up often if the problem continues.

Your veterinarian will ask questions about your puppy’s behavior before and after vomiting and want to know details about the type, quantity, and consistency of the vomit. Though it’s not exactly a fun chore, you can help by bagging up a small sample of the vomit for testing. 

Does my Puppy Have a Sensitive Stomach?

The tricky thing about vomiting – besides the fact that you have to clean it up – is that it can be related to so many different problems. Many pet parents end up deciding their pup has a sensitive stomach if they’re otherwise healthy but throw up fairly often.

Over at the Tufts University site on veterinary nutrition, Dr. Cailin Heinze notes that food sensitivities in dogs can be related to many different aspects of their food. While food allergies themselves aren’t very common in dogs and even less common in puppies (because it takes time for allergic sensitivities to develop), many pups can experience digestive upset due to their diet.

Most commonly, an upset stomach is due to unusual food. In fact, delicious table scraps can be downright bad for your dog thanks to their additional salt, fat, sugar, or spices. That’s why it’s best to skip giving your puppy bites of human treats like pizza, popcorn, or hamburgers.

Dr. Heinze recommends having your pet evaluated by a vet to rule out any serious illnesses, such as parasites or a birth defect that causes narrowing of the pylorus, which is the juncture where the stomach empties into the small intestine. If your puppy checks out normal with a veterinarian, but still vomits frequently or seems to have trouble with their food, try the following approach:

  • Start by writing down your pet’s symptoms, along with everything they’ve eaten. Do this for a week or two. 
  • Stop feeding your puppy anything but their regular food. That means no edible chews, no treats, no table scraps – you get the picture. Give them lots of love as a reward during dog training.
  • Feed your dog their normal diet, without switching anything up.
  • Write down symptoms, including when they occur.

This information is hugely beneficial when it comes to figuring out the precise food that’s upsetting your pup’s digestive system. If you eliminate everything else and they’re still vomiting regularly, it could be the food is the culprit. Remember with food intolerances it isn’t always a sensitivity to an ingredient – it could be food poisoning due to spoilage or moldy food with aflatoxins. Check with the FDA for any food recalls to ensure this isn’t the case.  If your puppy doesn’t tolerate the food, you can begin to test giving small amounts of a different type of food, eventually switching all the way over, to find out whether that solves the vomiting problem.

Why Is My Puppy’s Vomit Yellow, White, or Brown?

Puppy vomit comes in a variety of colors, depending on its cause. One of the most common colors you’ll encounter is yellow, which is the color of bile. When your puppy’s vomit is yellow, that means the food or material they’re throwing up has been in their digestive tract long enough to secrete bile.

There are multiple reasons that your puppy might throw up bile, ranging from the ordinary to the serious. As always, call your vet with any concerns. If their vomit is white or foamy, that can be the result of intense coughing or irritation. 

Dark brown or black vomit can mean that your puppy simply ate dirt, and needs to throw it up. However, these colors can also represent blood in the vomit, which looks like coffee grounds. If you notice a substance that looks like coffee grounds when your puppy throws up, consult your vet immediately.

If you ever notice fresh, reddish blood in your puppy’s vomit, it might be due to a cut or an irritation in your puppy’s mouth or throat. Do a visual inspection to see if you can find a culprit – and follow up with your vet. 

Treatment and Care for Puppy Vomiting

Your vet will likely want to monitor your puppy for further episodes. That means you’ll be keeping track and following up with additional concerns. 

Other than that, your vet may recommend short-term fasting, switching temporarily to very bland food, or giving your puppy anti-nausea medication.

Other interventions for a puppy that vomits frequently might include:

  • Probiotics or prebiotics to balance their gut bacteria
  • A change in diet to avoid trigger foods or ingredients
  • Surgery to remove a foreign object
  • Medication to treat an infection
  • Treatments for other conditions like pancreatitis

Always be sure to provide your puppy with plenty of fresh water. Dehydration after vomiting can be a concern. If they’re reluctant to drink, adding unsalted chicken broth or bone broth to their dish might entice them. Pedialyte can also be given to puppies, but may cause diarrhea, and it is recommended to always consult with a veterinarian before giving Pedialyte.

Welcome to puppy parenthood. (We promise it’s a lot more fun than it is gross.) With the right attention, knowledge, and care, you will know what to do if your puppy ever has problems with vomiting. 

Writer, Loving Dog & Cat Mom
Irene is a writer, NEA Fellow, content strategist & former editor at Rover. She's also mom to 2 rescue dogs & 2 vocal cats.
Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM