Few sounds are as foreboding as your dog’s stomach gurgling as they are about to throw up. If your dog has one or two vomiting episodes but otherwise seems normal, you likely have no need for concern. However, acute vomiting can signal a serious health condition. Our team at Woodinville Veterinary Hospital & Mobile Services explains potential causes for your dog’s vomiting, and when to seek veterinary care.
What is the difference between vomiting and regurgitating?
Vomiting and regurgitating are not the same, and vomiting tends to be more concerning. Consider these vomiting and regurgitating differences:
- Vomiting — Vomiting occurs when your dog forcefully expels their stomach and upper intestine contents. Dog vomitus can contain yellow bile or partially digested food, which usually smells sour. Your dog may vomit immediately after eating, although they can vomit at any time. Nausea signs, such as drooling, lip lickings, and excessive swallowing, usually occur right before a dog vomits. Because vomiting causes dehydration, your dog may consume large amounts of water afterward, which may trigger more vomiting. So, if your dog vomits, try to limit their water consumption to small amounts at a time.
- Regurgitating — Regurgitating is a mild ejection of undigested food expelled from a dog’s esophagus, meaning the food never made it to their stomach. A major difference between vomiting and regurgitating is that abdominal heaving does not occur with regurgitating, which tends to occur shortly after your dog eats and is often an indication that they ate too much or too quickly, or is overly excited or stressed.
What are the possible causes of vomiting in dogs?
A dog’s vomiting can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from dietary indiscretion to more serious medical conditions. The causes of a dog’s vomiting can be extensive, and presenting them all here is impossible. However, consider these common reasons a dog vomits:
- Motion sickness — Just like humans, dogs can experience motion sickness, which may cause vomiting and can occur during vehicle or boat travel. Puppies more commonly experience motion sickness than adult dogs, and often outgrow this ailment.
- Dietary indiscretion — Dietary indiscretion is one of dogs’ most common reasons for vomiting, and describes situations when a dog consumes something that is not part of their regular diet such as garbage, table scraps, or plants. Your dog’s sense of smell is powerful, which often tempts them to eat things that are not good for them, leading to vomiting.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues — GI issues including infections, inflammation, and parasites, can cause a dog to vomit. Some common GI disorders include gastritis, gastroenteritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, which can cause vomiting, as well as other symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating.
- Viruses or bacterial infections — Viruses and bacterial infections, such as parvovirus, distemper, or salmonella, can also cause dogs to vomit. An unvaccinated dog who has been exposed to these infections may experience vomiting.
- Toxic substance ingestion — If your dog ingests a toxic substance, they may vomit. Toxic substances that dogs commonly ingest include pesticides, cleaning products, and medications intended for people. If your dog ingests a toxic substance, the poison can irritate their stomach lining, leading to vomiting. In severe toxin ingestion cases, a dog can experience organ damage or even die.
- Underlying medical conditions — An underlying medical condition, such as liver or kidney disease, cancer, or other serious illness, can cause your dog to vomit. In some cases, vomiting may be the only sign of an underlying medical condition.
When should veterinary treatment be sought for a vomiting dog?
If your dog vomits once, keep an eye on them to monitor their health status. However, contact your veterinarian for an urgent evaluation if your four-legged friend has been vomiting for longer than 24 hours, or shows any of the following signs:
- Vomit that is bloody or has coffee-ground appearance
- Poor appetite, or an inability to keep any food or water down
- Abdominal pain, often with a hunched posture
- Lethargy or depression
- Increased drinking or urinating
Dogs vomit for a variety of reasons, which range in seriousness, and you should become aware of the various causes. By monitoring your dog’s behavior, identifying the reason they are vomiting, and seeking veterinary care when necessary, you can help ensure that your four-legged friend stays healthy and happy. If you are concerned about your dog’s vomiting, schedule an appointment with our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital & Mobile Services team.
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