Vomiting in dogs: What to do when your dog throws up

Dog pet sick vomit liquid

Vomiting in dogs is a pretty common occurrence. Chances are you’ve seen yours getting ill a number of times. The question to ask is, is he vomiting or regurgitating? Dogs are notorious for eating dodgy things – sometimes not even edible things (!) – so how do you know if it’s cause for concern, or not?

Regurgitation requires little to no effort to bring back up, whereas if your dog is ‘heaving’ and in obvious distress while throwing up, his vomiting might be a symptom of an underlying health issue and might require urgent treatment.

What causes a dog to vomit?

There are a number of reasons why a dog could vomit. Sometimes it’s because they eat too quickly, or they eat something they don’t like, or as mentioned before, they scoff down something which is definitely not meant for consumption (canine, or otherwise).  Dogs also get motion sickness, which, just like humans, could cause them to get sick.

However, there are other, more serious, reasons for vomiting in dogs. Here are just some of them:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Ingestion of toxic substances
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Parasites
  • Colitis or pancreatitis
  • Cancer

The different types of vomit

It’s important to note the different types of vomit, because it could be key in diagnosing what is wrong. If you can stomach it, try and get a close look to see the texture, colour and whether there are any foreign objects in there. Your veterinarian will most likely ask for as much detail as possible.

  • Watery

Foamy, slimy or clear vomit is often the one you need to be the most worried about. This can often indicate a more serious underlying issue, which has nothing to do with anything that has been ingested.

  • Granular

Vomit that appears granular in appearance often means that food has already been partially digested, and the ‘granules’ are actually a sign of blood being present.

  • Chunky

If you can still identify the food in the vomit, this indicates that it hasn’t been in the dog’s stomach for long, often the case when the food has been eaten too quickly or your pooch has a severe dislike for this particular food. (Have you changed brands recently?)

  • Brightly colours

If the vomit is brightly coloured, this could be an indication of poisoning.

How to treat a dog that has been vomiting

Firstly, check the dog’s behaviour. Does he vomit and then get back up again, back to his usual self? Or does he display signs of being ill?

If your dog has only vomited once or twice and isn’t displaying any of the symptoms listed below, take away all food and water for 6 – 8 hours. If he doesn’t vomit during that time, you can introduce some water and feed them a bland meal; chicken and white rice is a safe bet.

When should I go to the vet?

It is advisable to take him to the vet after 24 hours if the above mentioned home treatment doesn’t help. It is also advisable to take him to the vet if he is still a puppy. Puppies – like babies – can dehydrate very quickly, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

An immediate trip to the vet is advised if there is any of the following:

  • Frequent or constant vomiting
  • Blood in the vomit (could appear granular as mention above)
  • Projectile vomiting
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Increase in thirst and urination
  • Decrease in urination (this is an indication of dehydration)
  • Pain in the tummy
  • Anything strange in the vomit (strange colour, foreign objects etc)

How to prevent dogs from vomiting

It’s quite difficult to prevent a dog from vomiting. They are dogs after all! Dogs are natural scavengers and do all their exploring with their mouths, so it’s inevitable a lot of unsavoury ‘stuff’ is going to end up in them. But here are some ways to try and prevent it:

  • Change their diet gradually (mix the last of their previous food with the new food, gradually phasing the old food out)
  • Don’t give toys that can be chewed into breakable pieces (which can get lodged in the throat)
  • Don’t give bones (the larger bones that can’t break into splinters are better, if bones are a must)
  • Avoid the foods that are toxic to dogs such as chocolate, onions etc. Click here for a list.
  • Don’t let them scavenge through garbage bins or dump sites and the like while on your walks.  

 If you have any questions or concerns with regards to your pets, it is advisable to consult a registered veterinarian.

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