Why Dogs Vomit and What You Can Do

Some of the reasons your dog may be throwing up and when to call the vet.
By Daniela Lopez, December 2020
why is my dog throwing up - sick dog

Dogs are notorious for their indiscriminate eating habits and as a result there are plenty of upset stomachs and needed carpet cleanings. If a dog vomits once or twice, it’s likely no cause for concern, but more than that can be a sign of a serious or potentially life-threatening illness that requires attention by a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons why a dog may throw up and vomiting is a symptom of many mild and serious illnesses, so how do dog owners know when it’s important to see a vet and what is causing your dog’s upset tummy? The good news here is that many of the causes of a dog vomiting can be resolved with home treatment alone.

Common Causes For Dog Vomiting

Let’s dive into some of the possible causes of dog vomiting.

  • Eating too fast
  • Eating grass
  • Car sickness
  • Diet change
  • Food allergy
  • Foreign body obstruction
  • Poison
  • Medications
  • Infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Bloat

Tummy Ache

One of the most common reasons for a dog throwing up yellow bile is due to their indiscriminate eating habits and so it’s quite common for dogs to eat something that doesn’t sit quite right in their tummies. If your dog just vomits once but otherwise seems happy and healthy, it’s likely they just had an upset tummy. The cause may remain unknown but common reasons include eating too fast and eating grass.

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Foreign Body Obstruction

Some dogs are known to eat inedible things like trash, plastics, socks, chicken bones and cat poop. It’s more common to see this behavior in young dogs and certain breeds, probably out of curiosity. While some items may pass through the intestinal tract without a problem others could get stuck, quickly leading to an emergency and costly surgery. Prevention is best so keep your home clear of potential hazards and consider training methods to prevent scavenging.

Poison

In addition to more obvious toxins like rat poison or snail bait, you might be surprised to find that many common household items are actually poisonous to dogs. Dogs have been known to get into coffee, chocolate, pennies, and even common plants which are highly toxic to dogs and cause vomiting. There are also some things that might seem toxic when in fact they are harmless like birth control or some topical creams. When in doubt it’s best to check with your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s pet poison control helpline.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas caused by many things including eating fatty foods. One of the first signs of pancreatitis in dogs is vomiting and loss of appetite. The good news is that with veterinary treatment, most dogs make a full recovery from acute pancreatitis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease exhibit symptoms of chronic vomiting, diarrhea and poor appetite. While the cause isn’t typically known, it may be due to diet, parasites or bacteria.

Bloat

Bloat is an extremely serious condition when a dog’s stomach fills with air causing the stomach to expand and potentially twist. A clear symptom of bloat is vomiting–specifically a dog who appears highly nauseated and vomits but little comes up. A dog with bloat can die in hours without veterinary treatment, so when in doubt contact your vet right away.

These are just some of the conditions that may cause your dog to throw up. If you are concerned about your dog’s vomiting, reach out to your veterinarian who will be able to determine the nature of the problem and provide you with the best advice on your dog’s health.

When to Call the Vet

How do you know when it’s a true emergency and how do you know when it can wait? To identify an abnormality with your dog, you must first be able to recognize what is normal for your dog. Changes in a dog’s behavior or body may be subtle, making noticing a problem more difficult. 

  • If you see that your dog is vomiting multiple times in one day or for several consecutive days, you should seek veterinary attention.
  • If you find your dog throwing up accompanied by a loss of appetite, diarrhea, blood in vomit or stool, lethargy, change in urination, pain, pale gums or increased thirst it’s important to seek immediate veterinary assistance.
  • If an inspection of the dog vomit indicates potential foreign objects or toxicity, seek veterinary care.

Tips To Help Your Dog

If your dog seems otherwise happy and alert, they may just have a mild upset stomach which can be treated at home. Consider fasting your dog for six hours then switching your dog to a bland food diet for 24 hours to rest their stomach. Start with rice water before slowly reintroducing their regular foods.

Photo by Erin Minuskin