Does your dog vomit frequently? Most dogs throw up at some time in their life. It can be upsetting but it’s not always the sign of a terrible medical condition. However, if she’s throwing up frequently or chronically it could be a sign of an underlying condition. Let’s find out what causes vomiting, the types of vomit (there are different colors) and how we can treat it.
Vomiting and regurgitation
Before we get to the causes of vomiting we should talk about the difference between that and regurgitation.
When a dog vomits, she is forcibly ejecting contents from her stomach and upper small intestine, then depositing them on your carpet or newly cleaned couch. These contents are usually coated in yellow vile (how colorful!) Prior to this, she will usually display signs of nausea such as retching, drooling and abdominal contractions.
Regurgitation on the other hand is a passive motion that expels undigested food and debris from the esophagus or pharynx. This is generally without warning and abdominal contractions. The material may be coated with a lot of saliva and mucus. Your dog may have difficulty breathing and may also cough. You can tell that your dog has regurgitated when the substances that come up are undigested. Sometimes they may retain the cylindrical shape of the esophagus.
By the way, if she starts coughing and brings up foamy material or mucus, that is likely expectoration which stems from respiratory causes and not from the gastrointestinal tract.
It seems like puppies throw up more than adults. Maybe that’s due to their curious nature as they explore their new environment and put anything they can get hold of in their mouths. When that happens, things can get stuck in the outflow of the stomach or intestines and cause persistent vomiting. When this happens, your puppy will likely start to slow down and show signs of dehydration.
Puppies frequently develop gastroenteritis from a change in food or from ingesting plant material.
One infection that’s more common in puppies than adult dogs is a severe one called parvovirus. Two of the symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Puppies with this condition can become quickly dehydrated and will often need fluid therapy as well as other treatments.
If your puppy came from a litter of puppies where some were sick, or if she hasn’t had all her vaccinations, it’s a good idea to have her checked for parvovirus.
Why a dog throws up – vomiting causes in dogs
Food allergies: Food allergies happen when your dog’s immune system attacks a certain component of her food. This is usually an animal-derived protein. These allergies generally show up as a gastrointestinal or skin problem. Food allergies are actually less common than pet owners believe.
In order to identify the offending cuisine, you’ll have to conduct a food trial by feeding her one kind of food at a time. You then, of course, eliminate the offending food.
Food intolerance: This is different from a food allergy in that the immune system isn’t involved. It actually has more to do with the digestive system.
The underlying causes aren’t clear but it could have something to do with sensitivity to certain compounds within the food. Just like with food allergies, you will need to conduct a food trial.
Gastroenteritis: This is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines and is the most common cause of vomiting in dogs. Gastroenteritis is typically caused by a sudden change in diet or your dog ate something nasty like trash (yes, dogs do eat gross things sometimes!)
With this condition your pooch will usually experience vomiting, diarrhea or both.
To treat gastroenteritis you should make slow changes to your dog’s diet. Of course, you should discourage your pooch from eating icky stuff she finds on the ground or in the garbage.
Gastroenteritis will usually resolve itself without any treatment.
It’s usually caused by a sudden introduction of a much higher fat diet or a dietary imprudence (Like your dog eats the entire chocolate cake sitting on your counter – this is a personal experience BTW). However, from a scientific standpoint, a dog’s tendency to develop this condition is a bit unpredictable.
Your dog will have repeated vomiting, diarrhea, hunched back, bloating, loss of appetite, lethargy and fever.
To avoid pancreatitis, don’t make any sudden changes in your dog’s diet. If your dog has chronic pancreatitis, you may need to switch to a low-fat diet.
Bilious Vomiting Syndrome (BVS): This is when your dog has a desensitivity to the bile in her stomach. It appears that the bile causes inflammation. Your dog may have daily vomiting that usually starts 6 or more hours after her most recent meal. The vomit is usually yellow and liquid without any food present. Feeding your dog more frequent meals, especially one late in the evening, can help.
Toxic foods: For a list, click here.
Diseases and conditions that cause vomiting
Gastric Dilatation: Sometimes this condition is called bloat. It progresses quickly and is life-threatening. Your dog’s stomach dialates and twists. It generally occurs in large and deep-chested dogs. The exact causes are unknown.
Dogs will often act like they want to vomit but are unable to.
This is a very serious condition so get your dog to the veterinarian immediately.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: This condition usually occurs when there are abnormal amounts of immune cells lining a dog’s stomach or intestines. Diarrhea is the most chronic symptom but chronic vomiting can also occur.
Cancer: Cancer can cause just about anything, including vomiting.
Liver and/or gallbladder disease: If there is infection and inflammation in these organs, vomiting may occur. As a matter of fact, there’s a condition called gallbladder mucocele where vomiting may be the sole symptom. This condition occurs more in certain breeds, like the Sheltie.
Kidney disease: The most obvious symptoms of this are increased drinking and urinating. However, if toxins build up, vomiting may be a result.
Diabetes: Diabetic dogs often vomit as well as show other symptoms like increased drinking and urinating.
Cushing’s or Addison’s Disease: Either condition can cause vomiting.
Environmental causes of vomiting
So, if you’ve ruled out all the above possibilities but your pooch is still throwing up, It could be something in the environment.
Here are some environmental causes:
Parasites: These are most common in puppies but can occur at any age. If your dog eats something like a beetle or some kind of insect, she could pick up a stomach worm that may cause vomiting. There are other microscopic parasites such as giardia that can also cause vomiting. Make sure you take your dog in for fecal examinations and deworming.
Toxins: There are a lot of bad things in the environment and your dog might find them. Just think of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that are frequently used. All your dog has to do is walk across a lawn sprayed with these and then lick her paws. Then there are topical flea and tick medications that can make her sick and cause vomiting.
Thoughtless people will leave unattended antifreeze out in the open and the taste is pleasing to dogs. This will not only cause vomiting but it’s deadly. There are also certain plants that your dog could ingest that will cause her to throw up.
Foreign objects: Remember that dogs like to explore with their mouths and might eat just about anything – rocks, underwear, toys, etc. These can become stuck in the outflow of the intestine or stomach and vomiting can result.
Drugs: Many drugs can cause your dog to throw up and some are more likely to do so than others. These include flea and tick medicines, anti-inflammatory drugs and cyclosporine which is used in allergy treatment
Bacteria: Bacteria like salmonella, can cause problems. If your pooch eats raw food, be aware of this.
Viruses: The most common is Parvovirus and it usually infects unvaccinated puppies.
When is vomiting an emergency?
- Multiple attempts at vomiting without bringing anything up – this is a sign of the very serious condition of bloat
- Vomiting with a distended (swollen) abdomen
- Vomiting and not wanting to get up
- Not able to hold water or ice down for more then 12 – 24 hours
- Vomiting and collapse
- Episodes of vomiting more than 6 times per day
- History of eating foreign objects
- Vomiting and pale gums
- Vomiting and racing heart
Types of dog vomit – a rainbow of colors
Did you know you can identify the source of the vomit by its color? It’s true and here’s a guide.
Red dog vomit: It’s alarming to see this and it’s usually a sign of fresh blood. It’s important that you know that even a small amount of blood can appear to be a lot. The reasons dogs vomit blood include an irritation of the lining in the stomach or esophagus and an inflammation of the stomach (gastritis).
If the blood is a darker red or black, this could point to a stomach ulcer. If your dog is vomiting pure blood, this is serious so call your veterinarian immediately.
Black dog vomit: This isn’t common and often points to something relatively benign such as eating soil. As stated above, it could also mean she has a stomach ulcer.
White dog vomit: This could be material that she’s coughing up from her throat. It may also mean she has an upset stomach. Many times, gastroenteritis can cause white vomiting when the stomach is empty. Also, if your pooch eats grass or a small amount of another material, this can induce white vomit.
Another cause of white vomit is bilious vomiting syndrome where bile in the stomach causes irritation and induces vomiting.
If she is vomiting white foam, particularly if she seems like she’s trying to vomit but is unable, this could be a sign of bloat or gastric-dilatation-volvulus.
Green dog vomit: There are two major causes of this. One is the ingestion of plant material and grass and this is the most common. The chlorophyll stains the liquid parts of the vomit causing the green color. Bile is another cause of green vomit After your dog eats, the gallbladder releases bile into the upper part of the small intestine and some may reflux up into the stomach. Throwing up green vomit means that the bile is fresher and this can indicate a lack of movement or an obstruction in the intestines.
Brown dog vomit: This often has a very foul odor and may happen when your dog eats something gross like feces. However, it can also indicate a block in the intestine or that material is refluxing up into the stomach.
Yellow dog vomit: This is also a sign of bile.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this section on the rainbow of colors possible in dog vomit!
How to treat dog vomiting
Once your veterinarian determines the cause, she can start treatment. She may perform various diagnostic tests such as blood work, radiographs, ultrasound, fecal examination, endoscopy, biopsy and possible surgery.
Vomiting can create dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and acid based disorders, so she will need to treat these. In addition, she may prescribe anti-nausea medications.
Keep in mind that vomiting isn’t always a cause for alarm. If your pooch throws up once and then resumes her normal activities, the chances are that it was just a minor incident. It’s when there is recurring episodes of vomiting that you need to worry.
Does your dog vomit frequently? If so, see if you can find out why based on the information presented here. While vomiting isn’t always cause for alarm, it can also be the result of an underlying, more serious condition.
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