Thu, 05/13/2021 - 8:55am

Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Your complete guide to the canine heave-hos

There is nothing that gets a dog owner moving quite like the sound of a dog about to vomit. It is a sound we all know too well and hate to hear. As a veterinarian, dogs that present with a history of vomiting are always a cause for concern. The reason may be simple and easy to resolve or it may be the sign of a deadly illness, surgical emergency or anything in between.

Dogs vomit for many reasons. Since they will eat almost anything, the ability to vomit readily is a built-in defense mechanism to help them eliminate most undigestible items. So, let’s discuss how can you tell if the vomiting is a problem.

The first thing to determine is whether your dog is vomiting or regurgitating. In most cases, vomiting is more of a concern than regurgitation. The treatments for the two conditions are different.

When a dog vomits, the contents of the stomach are forcibly ejected. On an empty stomach, the vomit may contain yellow bile. Following a meal, partially digested dog food will come up. The stomach acid gives the vomit a sour smell. Right before vomiting, the dog may show signs of nausea, such as drooling, licking the lips and swallowing excessively.

The fluid lost during vomiting episodes may cause dehydration, and your dog will crave water. Excessive drinking after vomiting can lead to more vomiting, so it is best to restrict water intake to small amounts at a time or offer ice cubes instead.

Regurgitation is a mild ejection of food from the dog’s esophagus or throat. This means the food never made it into the stomach. You can tell the difference between vomiting and regurgitation since there is no abdominal heaving when a dog regurgitates.

Your dog will most often regurgitate soon after a meal. This can be due to eating too fast, eating too much or being overly excited right before or after eating. Dogs, especially puppies, that regurgitate on a regular basis may be suffering from a dilated esophagus (megaesophagus) or a stricture in the esophagus (persistent right aortic arch). These are life-threatening conditions that require veterinary attention.

What can I tell from the appearance of the vomit?

Thankfully, since these days everyone has their phone with them at all times, my clients tend to bring me pictures or movies of the vomit, rather than the actual material in a bag. I actually encourage clients to do this. A lot can be determined by the color and texture of the vomitus.

Yellow vomit is the result of bile secretions and commonly seen when a dog vomits with an empty stomach. It can be caused by stomach acid buildup, reflux or a systemic condition, such as kidney disease, that makes a dog nauseous on an empty stomach. This type of vomiting usually occurs in the middle of the night or early morning.

White, foamy vomit is also caused by a buildup of stomach acid. The foamy appearance is the result of the vomit coming into contact with the air or being sloshed around in the stomach before the dog vomits.

Clear, liquid vomit is either stomach secretions or water pooling in the stomach. This type of vomit occurs when a dog drinks water while feeling nauseated and cannot even keep the water down.

Slimy vomit that looks like mucus comes up when a dog is drooling, and it collects in the stomach in response to some major irritation. The dog relieves his nausea by vomiting up the mucus.

Red or pink bloody vomit should always be taken seriously. Blood itself causes nausea, so if it accumulates in the gastrointestinal tract, it is usually vomited up. A pink tinge may not be a sign of a serious problem if the vomit is not profuse or prolonged and is not worsening to red vomit. Fresh blood, blood clots or a coffee-ground appearance to the vomit indicate possible bleeding into the stomach or upper small intestine. This bleeding may be due to an ulcer, tumor, clotting problem or ingestion of rat poison. These are all emergency conditions and require immediate veterinary treatment.

Brown vomit may contain traces of old blood, recently eaten poop, or may just be regurgitated food from the esophagus that did not make it into the stomach. In this case, careful inspection of the vomit should help you determine the nature of the contents.

Green vomit is seen most often when a dog has been eating grass, but it can also happen after a contraction of the gall bladder before vomiting bile on an empty stomach. Dogs will eat grass if they have an upset stomach to help themselves vomit. Eating grass is not usually harmful, unless the grass has been treated with fertilizer or pesticides.

Worms, usually roundworms, will be vomited up if there are live worms or a heavy infestation. More commonly, roundworm eggs will be passed in the feces and detected on a stool exam. If a dog vomits a worm, he definitely needs treatment to get rid of the parasites.

In addition to the color of the vomit, the texture and consistency also provide information as to why your dog has vomited.

Chunky vomit contains pieces of food or other material your dog has eaten. The food is not digested and the vomiting occurs soon after eating. If the chunks look like food, the dog probably ate too fast or was too active too soon after eating.

Lumps of plastic, paper, rocks, or fabric in the vomit are an indication the dog has swallowed something other than food. Getting into the trash or laundry hamper can lead to a bout of pancreatitis or gastrointestinal obstruction.

Granular vomit looks like coffee grounds. It is somewhat liquid and may contain particles of partially digested food. If blood is present in the vomit, this can be a sign of bleeding in the stomach. Any dog with bloody vomit should be seen by a veterinarian.

Liquid vomit can be yellow or clear, slimy or foamy. It is not food related. Some dogs with kennel cough will cough so severely that they vomit liquid.

So, what would make my dog vomit?

The most common causes are stomach issues. Some of these are minor concerns, such as motion sickness, eating too fast or being too active right before or after eating. Other stomach problems are more serious, even life-threatening, such as eating garbage or spoiled food, ingesting toxic plants, inflammatory bowel disease, bloat, or a blockage in the stomach or intestines.

Vomiting can also be a sign of a serious medical condition. Diabetes, meningitis, brain tumor, middle ear infection, or pancreatic, kidney or liver disease can induce dogs to vomit. Infectious diseases like canine parvovirus will produce vomiting along with the horrible diarrhea. Dogs that suffer from severe anxiety or fear may vomit during an episode.

How can I tell if I should take my dog to the vet for vomiting?

If the vomiting has been going on for less than 12 hours and your dog is alert and keeping down food and water, it may be all right to wait and monitor the situation. In these cases, it is best to feed very little food. Small meals of a bland diet more often or ice cubes instead of water can be more easily held down.

One of the biggest problems with vomiting, especially with puppies, is dehydration. The dog is losing more fluid than he is taking in. If your dog’s nose and gums are dry, the skin lacks elasticity and your dog is acting weak or lethargic, it is time to see your veterinarian.

Projectile vomiting right after eating or drinking is a sign of gastrointestinal obstruction. Vomiting without bringing anything up or dry heaving is a sign of life-threatening bloat. Tenderness or enlargement of the abdomen, blood in the vomit, diarrhea with the vomiting, and weight loss as a result of chronic vomiting are all situations that your veterinarian should evaluate.



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