There’s nothing quite as distressing for a pet parent as the sound of their dog vomiting. It’s a sound that all pet parents recognize and hate to hear. But why does it happen? Dogs vomit for various reasons, some of which are harmless, while others indicate a serious health issue that requires immediate veterinary care. Learning to differentiate between the two can be challenging, but it’s crucial to understand why dogs vomit and when it’s necessary to seek assistance. In this guide, we’ll explore the causes of dog vomiting, identify different types of dog vomit, and discuss when it’s appropriate to consult a vet.
Is It Vomiting or Regurgitation?
Before delving into the causes of dog vomiting, it’s essential to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation. While they may seem similar, they have distinct differences. Vomiting is an active process that forcefully ejects the contents of the stomach and upper intestines. The vomit can contain yellow bile or partially digested dog food, emitting a sour smell. Vomiting is usually preceded by signs of nausea, such as drooling, excessive licking, and swallowing. Dogs may eat grass before or after vomiting, possibly to induce vomiting or protect the esophagus. Although it may be unappealing to us as humans, dogs eating their own vomit is generally not a major problem.
On the other hand, regurgitation is a passive practice that involves the mild ejection of undigested food from the esophagus. Unlike vomiting, regurgitation doesn’t involve abdominal heaving. It often occurs shortly after eating, indicating that the dog may have eaten too quickly, eaten too much, or been overly excited or stressed.
Identifying Different Types of Dog Vomit
Once you’ve determined that your dog is indeed vomiting and not regurgitating, you can examine the appearance of the vomit to identify its type. The appearance of vomit can provide insights into the underlying causes.
Yellow Vomit: Yellow vomit is common when a dog has an empty stomach. The yellow color is due to bile secretions. This usually occurs in the middle of the night or early morning hours, caused by acid buildup, reflux, or systemic conditions that induce nausea on an empty stomach.
White, Foamy Vomit: Foamy vomit can result from a buildup of stomach acid. The foamy appearance occurs when the vomit comes into contact with air or is agitated in the stomach before being expelled.
Clear, Liquid Vomit: Clear liquid vomit can be caused by stomach secretions or water pooling in the stomach, which is subsequently expelled during vomiting. This often happens when a dog drinks water while feeling nauseous and is unable to keep it down.
Mucus-Like, Slimy Vomit: Slimy vomit resembling mucus indicates drooling that has pooled in the stomach due to significant irritation. The dog relieves their nausea by vomiting up the mucus.
Bloody Vomit (Red or Pink): Blood in a dog’s vomit should always be taken seriously. If blood pools in the upper gastrointestinal tract, it can cause nausea and may be vomited. A pink tinge is not always an urgent sign unless there are blood clots, fresh blood, or a coffee-ground appearance, suggesting bleeding in the stomach or upper small intestine. These conditions require immediate veterinary attention.
Brown Vomit: Brown vomit may consist of regurgitated food from the esophagus that bypassed the stomach’s digestion process. It can also indicate fast eating without proper chewing or ingesting a significant amount of air while gulping food. However, brown vomit may sometimes contain blood traces or indicate coprophagia (eating feces).
Green Vomit: Eating grass can cause green vomit in dogs. Additionally, a contraction of the gall bladder before vomiting, usually on an empty stomach, can lead to bile presence in the vomit.
Worms in Vomit: Worms and other infectious organisms can cause vomiting in dogs. If live worms or a large infestation, such as roundworms, are present, the dog may vomit them up. Worm eggs are usually detected through a fecal examination.
Grass in Vomit: Grass is a common component in dog vomit. Dogs often eat grass when they have an upset stomach, which may induce vomiting. However, repeated consumption of grass can expose them to more pesticides and parasites.
Why Is Your Dog Vomiting?
Determining the exact cause of dog vomiting is not always straightforward. Various factors, such as age, breed, and behavior, can make dogs more prone to vomiting. It can stem from external or internal causes, each with its own set of influencing factors. While it is impossible to list every cause, here are some common ones:
- Abrupt diet change
- Addison’s disease
- Brain tumor
- Diabetes mellitus
- Drinking contaminated water
- Eating grass or poop (coprophagia)
- Eating too fast or exercising after eating
- Food allergies or intolerance
- Gastritis from consuming garbage or spoiled food
- Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract)
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Head trauma or drug side effects
- Heat stroke
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Ingestion of toxic plants or substances
- Intestinal obstruction from a foreign body
- Intestinal parasites
- Kidney or liver disease
- Motion sickness from car rides
- Reaction to medication
When to Consult a Vet
Determining when to bring your dog to the vet is crucial. While mild vomiting that has lasted less than 12 hours and doesn’t exhibit serious symptoms can often be monitored at home, certain situations warrant immediate veterinary attention. These include:
- Puppies (weakness or risk of hypoglycemia from dehydration)
- Geriatric dogs
- Projectile vomiting (potential sign of obstruction)
- Unproductive attempts to vomit (symptom of bloat)
- Vomiting blood
- Vomiting foreign objects or large amounts of an object
- Decreased urination (sign of dehydration)
- Tender or enlarged abdomen (indicating severe causes)
- Refusal of food or inability to hold down small amounts of water
- Signs of dehydration (skin doesn’t snap back when gently pulled, dry gums)
- Diarrhea accompanied by vomiting (increased risk of dehydration)
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Consumption of human food (to assess concern)
- Chronic vomiting or weight loss from vomiting
- Decline in appearance and overall demeanor (including weight loss and muscle mass deterioration)
In some cases, immediate veterinary or emergency clinic attention is necessary. These emergency situations include:
- Vomiting accompanied by bloody diarrhea, indicating severe dehydration requiring hospitalization
- Lethargy after vomiting or vomiting with shaking, potentially indicating severe abdominal pain or electrolyte imbalances
- Consumption of a foreign object or known toxin (projectile vomiting could indicate ingestion of a foreign object)
Home Remedies and Veterinary Treatment
For mild vomiting without serious symptoms, there are some home remedies you can try. However, it’s important to note that Pepto Bismol is not recommended for dogs due to the potential risk of salicylic acid, an ingredient similar to aspirin. Safer options include Pepcid AC (famotidine) and Prilosec (omeprazole), which can help reduce acid production and reflux, settling the dog’s stomach.
In most cases, veterinary treatment, including injections, is the most effective approach to treat vomiting. Medications such as Cerenia (maropitant citrate), Reglan (metoclopramide), and Zofran (ondansetron) can be administered to stop nausea and vomiting. Feeding a bland or easily digestible diet may also be recommended.
While many causes of dog vomiting cannot be prevented, some can be avoided by following these guidelines:
- Avoid sudden dietary changes; introduce new foods gradually.
- Refrain from giving your dog toys that can be swallowed or cause gastrointestinal irritation.
- Avoid giving your dog bones, as they can lead to vomiting episodes.
- Steer clear of feeding table scraps, especially foods that are toxic to dogs, such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, xylitol, onions, garlic, chives, macadamia nuts, and high-fat items.
- Prevent your dog from scavenging for food on walks or accessing garbage cans, as it can lead to gastroenteritis and increase the risk of foreign body ingestion and toxin exposure.
- Keep overly curious dogs under close observation during walks and consider using a muzzle to prevent them from eating potentially harmful items.
Remember, if you have any concerns about your dog’s vomiting or if the symptoms persist or worsen, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
This article is brought to you by Katten TrimSalon.