Dog vomiting: When do you know it is serious?
We’ve all heard that awful noise when our dog is about to throw up. The retching sound followed by the bringing up of bile or an unfinished dinner or an undigestible something that he ate is every pet parent’s nightmare!
But how do you when it’s just the stomach clearing itself or something more serious? When do you take your pet to the vet and when do you just clean up and treat the symptom at home?
We’ve decided to decode dog vomiting for you.
Understanding dog vomiting better
Vomiting usually occurs due to gastritis, which is nothing more than inflammation of the stomach lining. Dogs with acute gastritis vomit once, or off and on for a few days. It is usually because of some indiscriminate eating, such as spoiled food, garbage, bones, grass or plants, fungi, toys, socks, underwear, or any other questionable item.
Luckily for most dogs, acute gastritis can be treated without requiring a trip to the vet. However, if the vomiting continues for a few days, it can cause dehydration, depression or lethargy. If there is blood in the vomit or feces, accompanied by abdominal pain, loss of appetite, or other complications, your dog might require medical attention.
Chronic gastritis is when there is intermittent vomiting for more than one to two weeks. The cause for this can be many, ranging from ingesting prescription drugs or foreign bodies, infections, various canine illnesses, or prolonged exposure to allergens. Chronic vomiting hinders digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Dogs can become finicky, suffer from low energy levels, and have a dull and dry coat. Chronic gastritis cannot be treated at home, so if you notice intermittent vomiting goes on for more than a few weeks, you should make an appointment with your vet at the earliest.
Watch out for signs
If you’ve experienced your dog vomiting, you must already be aware of the signs. There is drooling, licking of lips, excessive swallowing, and your dog is mostly standing with its head down. If you catch these signs, move your dog someplace where there is minimum damage. You might even be able to train your dog to vomit in a specific location.
Maintain a diary of your dog’s vomit episodes, noting down details like what happened and when, what had the dog eaten earlier, what was brought up, the gap between eating and vomiting. Also make a note of the amount vomited, the consistency (was it food, liquid, foam, etc.), the color, the frequency of vomiting (date and time). Take pictures too, even if it seems gross.
All this will help you and your vet make the right diagnosis if your dog were to develop chronic gastritis. And if your dog is sensitive or allergic to a certain food or treat, this written and visual journal will help you discover the connection.
The reasons dogs vomit
Like we’ve said above, the reasons for vomiting could be many.
Empty tummy syndrome
Some dogs vomit when they’ve gone hungry for a long time. The collected stomach acids possibly irritate the stomach and cause the dog to throw up. This is quite common and is called empty tummy syndrome. You will notice your dog vomit bile and foam in the early hours of the morning only and be absolutely fine the rest of the day. Try offering a small meal before bedtime to take care of this issue.
If you notice that the night feeding isn’t working, then the cause could be a foreign body that the dog has swallowed but isn’t passing through the digestive system. If it stays in the stomach too long, it can cause irritation and lead to vomiting, especially when the stomach is empty.
Sometimes your dog might throw up what he shouldn’t have swallowed, but if he doesn’t, an X-ray or ultrasound might reveal the offending article which will then have to be surgically removed.
Some dog foods could cause vomiting
Not all brands of food agree with all dogs. If your dog’s stomach is sensitive to a certain food brand, repeated exposure could lead to stomach upsets and chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. If you believe dog food could be the reason for vomiting, try switching to a brand with different ingredients. You can also add digestive enzymes to your dog’s meals and give probiotic supplements. Avoid foods with grains such as soy or other legumes.
Dry food can trigger vomiting since it absorbs stomach moisture, expands, and causes regurgitation. You could try soaking the dry food before feeding. Better still, the transition from dry to a raw or home-cooked fresh-food diet to see a difference.
Try a rotation diet by feeding a fixed type of food on a particular day for 5-6 days to eliminate problem ingredients. This is easier with a homemade meal rather than with commercial pet food. Once you identify the issue, you can stop feeding the offending item.
Some dogs eat too fast
Is your dog a gobbler? Eating too fast can make the dog regurgitate his meals. Here are a few tricks to make him slow down:
- Feed your dog alone instead of with other pets to eliminate the threat of competition.
- Spread food over a sheet, so he takes longer to find and swallow.
- Feed multiple smaller meals rather than one or two larger ones.
- Place a smooth stone, a clean brick, or a similar heavy object in your dog’s bowl along with the food to slow down eating. Make sure your object is large enough to prevent swallowing.
- Invest in a ‘slow feeder’ bowl with dividers that prevent quick eating.
- Use Kong toys, food puzzles, or other devices to feed.
My dog is vomiting. What can I do?
If you think your dog has ingested or been exposed to something dangerous, you need to go to a veterinary clinic immediately. If your dog appears to be otherwise alert and normal, you can try these non-medical home interventions;
- Withhold food for 24 hours.
- Offer small amounts of water every hour or so. If that provokes vomiting, seek veterinary treatment.
- After a 24-hour vomit-free period, feed small amounts of bland food, like white rice and skinless, boneless chicken.
- Move to normal food, but feed smaller meals more often.
- Gradually go back to the usual meal schedule over the next 2-3 days.
- Contact your vet if the vomiting resumes.
Call your vet for help if:
Canine diseases that can cause gastritis
- The vomiting is severe and sudden
- Your dog has fever, pain or is lethargic
- Your dog has swallowed a foreign object
- There is bloody diarrhea
- There is blood in the vomit or it has an abnormal color or consistency (take a sample to your vet)
Besides ingestion or exposure to dangerous substances, there are several illnesses that can also trigger gastritis.
This occurs mostly with large breeds with deep chests like German Shepherd Dogs, Great Danes, Akitas, and Doberman Pinschers. This usually happens with dogs that very quickly eat a single large meal in a day or break into the panty and overeat. Gastric distention occurs and any physical activity shortly after can cause the stomach to twist. You will notice symptoms like a distended abdomen, pain, drooling, and repeated, unproductive attempts to vomit. This is a medical emergency and you need to rush your dog to the vet immediately.
Roundworms in puppies can cause vomiting. Giardia, an intestinal parasite, is easily transmitted through contaminated food, water, or soil, and also through pet-to-pet contact. Giardia infections lead to diarrhea and vomiting, although it might take time for a dog to display obvious symptoms. Coccidia is another single-celled organism that infects the small intestine, inducing vomiting, bloody and watery diarrhea, fever, depression, and life-threatening dehydration.
Inflammation of the pancreas has been known to cause diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a loss of appetite. Pancreatitis can be difficult to diagnose, although there are no blood tests that are more accurate.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Another hard-to-diagnose digestive illness, IBD causes inflammatory cells to take over the intestine, creating scar tissue throughout the digestive system’s lining and leading to chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Dogs suffering from this can vomit thin, clear, yellow, or brown and sometimes frothy bile. Stool becomes ribbon-like and has an orange tint. You can conduct a bile acid test can verify the diagnosis.
Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
Adrenal insufficiency can cause this illness, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and general weakness that comes and goes.
Any inflammatory or infectious disease of the visceral lining of the abdomen usually affects most of the abdominal organs. There is fluid accumulation within the abdominal cavity and can induce vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal distention and pain.
An infection of the uterus, this is most common in unsterilized females who have never been pregnant. The infection occurs typically in a dog aged 6 years or more, and after a heat cycle that does not result in pregnancy. Symptoms can include vomiting, lethargy, fever, lack of appetite, excessive thirst, frequent urination, depression, a distended abdomen, vaginal discharge, persistent licking at the area, and weakness in the hind legs.
This condition is unusual, but it can be scary, expensive, and sometimes fatal. This can affect dogs of any age, and the symptoms include slimy vomit followed by blood in the vomit and bloody diarrhea. If you notice these symptoms in your dog rush to your vet at once.
Don’t let us frighten you. In most cases, the vomiting dog is simply suffering from acute rather than chronic gastritis, which means it is probably benign. Most vomiting dogs recover on their own without requiring medical treatment.
But there is always that occasional time when vomiting is serious. And it makes sense as a responsible pet parent to know the possible causes so you are better prepared.