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Why Do Dogs Throw Up? When It’s Normal, And When It’s Not

Written by Ella White

Updated

puppy feeling sorry for itself

The sight of your dog throwing up can be distressing for owners – not just because we know ourselves how unpleasant it is to vomit. But also because vomiting is a listed symptom for a wide range of dog illnesses, from the mild through to the most serious.

More often than not, we’ll have a pretty good idea about what’s making them ill: they might have eaten something they shouldn’t or be suffering an allergic reaction or maybe they just scarfed their dinner down too quickly and engaged the zoomies button! It doesn’t make it more pleasant, understanding why our pets are ill helps put our minds at ease as we know if it’s cause for concern, and what we need to do about it, if anything.

In this blog we’ll explain the reasons dogs throw up, when it’s normal and when it’s not, and how you can treat vomiting in dogs.

 

Sometimes when you think your dog is vomiting they might actually be regurgitating. Regurgitation usually happens when dogs need to pass a temporary blockage often as a result of eating too much or too quickly.

  • Vomiting is a forcible expulsion of the contents of the stomach and usually comes with the same signs as humans: drooling, retching, and contractions.

  • Regurgitation passively expels undigested foods and is normally signified by coughing or difficulty breathing.

Though equally unpleasant, regurgitation usually ends once the blockage or substance has been ejected. Though it can also be a sign of more worrying physical disorders, it’s usually just a way to remove unwanted bodies or undigested food from their system.

Dogs vomit for a wide range of reasons. Like humans, they can get sick from eating too much, too quickly, or eating something that doesn’t agree with their stomachs. If they vomit and display no other symptoms of illness, it’s likely a response to something unwanted in their stomachs which needed to be expelled, and shouldn’t be cause for further concern.

However, if your dog displays any of the following symptoms alongside vomiting, it’s recommended that your seek medical attention:

  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Anemia
  • Lethargy and tiredness
  • Excessive amounts of vomit
  • Continuous or chronic vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Retching with nothing coming up
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures

If you’re not sure if your dog’s vomiting is normal, you should contact your vet. Similarly, if you believe your dog is being sick because they have ingested a foreign body or something they shouldn’t have, a vet will be able to help.

Nobody knows your dog’s behavior as well as you, so if you’re not sure why they’re vomiting, and you know it’s very out of character for them, it could be a sign of bigger problems. But like humans, some dogs are more prone to vomiting than others. 

Some common causes of vomiting in dogs include:

Your vet will likely ask for your help in determining the cause of vomiting. For example, if they’ve got to your chocolate stash, been scavenging in the trash pile, or overheated in a hot car. Because severe bouts of acute vomiting can be a sign of serious issues, it’s important to be honest with your vet about any information you have that might explain their illness.

Chronic vomiting, defined as long-term, frequent throwing up, could be a sign of the following serious conditions:

  • Constipation
  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Parvovirus
  • Obstruction of the intestine
  • Colitis
  • Uterine infection
  • Liver disease or failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Systemic illness
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer

If your dog is suffering from chronic vomiting you should seek advice from your vet immediately. It is especially dangerous if accompanied by blood, weight loss, lack of appetite, weakness, fever, and signs of pain.

The good news is that with quick medical attention, chronic vomiting and the associated diseases can all be treated by a vet. However, these symptoms are unlikely to go away on their own.

 

If your puppy is vomiting you should seek veterinary attention immediately. It’s likely to be a case of normal vomiting but, since puppies lose their inherited immunity after six weeks, they are at increased risk of contracting diseases like parvo. Especially if they’ve not yet completed their vaccinations.

Once you’ve taken your dog to the vet to treat their vomiting, you’ll likely be asked if you know of any reasons they might be sick, including if they’ve had access to garbage or toxic foods or if their diet has been changed recently.

Vets will most likely perform a physical examination and potentially blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, and ultrasounds. Once the cause of the vomiting is determined, your vet will create a treatment plan that targets the specific issue. This will most likely be a round of medication to treat potential illnesses and other symptoms, as well as anti-nausea prescriptions.