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Vomiting in Dogs - When to Head to The Vet

Vomiting is a common but troubling symptom in dogs, that every pet parent has to deal with at some point. But why is your dog vomiting? Is it normal? Today, we delve into the messy topic of vomiting in dogs.

Why is my dog vomiting?

Vomiting is a common sign of an irritated stomach and inflamed intestines or gastrointestinal upset in dogs.

Seeing your dog vomit is an unpleasant thing to witness and can be distressing but it's important to keep in mind that it's your pet’s way of emptying their stomach of indigestible material in order to prevent those materials from remaining in their system, or from reaching other areas of their body.

Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

There are a number of things that can lead a dog to vomit, and sometimes even healthy dogs will fall ill for no apparent reason and then recover quickly.

It’s possible your four-legged friend ate their meal too quickly, dined on too much grass, or ate something that disagreed with their stomach. These things typically lead to a one-time occurrence and aren't generally accompanied by any other symptoms. So, vomiting in dogs isn't always a reason for concern.

That said, there are other times when vomiting is a sign of something more serious. Potential causes of acute vomiting (sudden or severe) can be related to diseases, disorders, the ingestion of a toxin, or health complications such as:

  • Heatstroke
  • Ingestion of toxins such as chocolate, xylitol, or raisins
  • Bloat (also called GDV or twisted stomach)
  • Reaction to medication
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Change in diet

When To Worry About Vomiting in Dogs

The fact is that as unpleasant as it is, most dogs will vomit on occasion. If your dog vomits once or even twice, shows no other symptoms, and then returns to normal, there is likely nothing to worry about. (Although we still recommend calling your vet to let them know).

Nonetheless, vomiting can be a clear indication of a serious medical issue that requires urgent veterinary care. Contact your vet right away if your pup exhibits any of the following:

  • Vomiting in conjunction with other symptoms such as lethargy, weight loss, fever, anemia, etc.
  • Suspected ingestion of a foreign body (such as food, objects, children’s toys, etc.)
  • Vomiting a lot at one time
  • Vomiting/dry heaving with nothing coming up
  • Vomiting blood
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Continuous, repeated, or recurring vomiting
  • Vomiting accompanied by bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • If vomit appears foamy, or bright green (See below for details)

Chronic Vomiting in Dogs

Frequent, repeated, or recurrent vomiting in dogs is cause for concern, especially if you’ve noticed symptoms including abdominal pain, depression, dehydration, blood, poor appetite, fever, weakness, weight loss or other unusual behaviors.

Long-term, recurrent vomiting can be caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Liver or kidney failure
  • Uterine infection
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Colitis

As a cautious pet owner, it’s always best to prioritize safety and caution when it comes to your pup’s health. The best way to learn whether your dog’s vomiting is normal or not is to contact your vet. 

Different Colors & Appearances of Dog Vomit

Depending on the cause, your dog's vomit could be clear, yellow, green, red, or brown and the consistency could be anywhere from foamy or watery to semi-solid. So what do all those characteristics mean? 

That said, here is what some types of vomit indicate in dogs:

  • Bright green or team vomit could mean that your pup has ingested rodent poison. Immediate veterinary care is essential! Contact your nearest emergency vet right away.
  • Black or brown vomit that looks a bit like coffee grounds can indicate poisoning (this is a medical emergency), ulcers, intestinal blockage, viral conditions, tick-borne diseases, or cancer.
  • Bright red vomit can be a sign of gastritis, ulcers, Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), foreign body ingestion (contact your vet immediately), trauma (injured stomach, hit by car), clotting issues, heat stroke, parvovirus, or inflammation of the stomach.
  • Light brown could mean that your dog has ingested chocolate (emergency care is required), swallowed mud or dirt, has an intestinal blockage, or has been eating poop.
  • Foamy or white vomit can be a sign of bloat or GDV. Contact an emergency vet immediately.

If you are taking your dog to the vet due to vomiting take a sample of the vomit with you for your veterinarian to examine. Why this may seem yucky it can save time (and maybe even your dog's life) when determining the cause of your dog's vomiting.

What To Do If Your Dog Has Ingested a Toxin

The best thing to do if you are concerned about your dog's vomiting, or if you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxic substance, is to immediately contact your veterinarian or emergency vet for more advice. 

Treating Non-Emergency Dog Vomiting

If you believe that your dog's vomiting is not caused by anything serious there are a couple of things you may want to do to help ease your pup's upset tummy. Of course, we recommend that you still call your vet to let them know what's happening, your vet knows your dog best and could offer suggestions on how best to handle your dog's tummy troubles. That said, many vets recommend the following approaches for mild gastric upset in dogs.

  • Skip your dog's next meal then provide a smaller portion for the following meal. If your dog does not vomit again return to normal feeding.
  • Provide your dog with a light on the stomach GI formula dog food from your vet's office to help ease them back to normal eating.
  • Make your dog a light meal of cooked chicken and boiled rice and feed in small portions.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of fresh water to stay hydrated.  
  • If your dog is not back to normal within 24 hours call your vet to book an examination for your pup.

What to Do if Your Dog Swallows Something They Shouldn't

Many pet parents want to know how to induce vomiting in dogs, but it is not always the right thing to do if your dog has swallowed an object or ingested something they shouldn't.

Some toxins can cause more damage coming back up through your pup's digestive system, whereas objects could become lodged along the way. Always contact your vet or an emergency vet for further instructions based on your dog's specific issue. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Vomiting and diarrhea are common in dogs but could indicate a more serious health problem. Contact our Santa Cruz vets today if you are concerned about the health of your loyal companion.

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Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about restoring good health to Santa Cruz companion animals. We are open 24/7 to provide your pet with care, whenever they need us.

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