Dogs are built to vomit.
Which is a good thing, considering the kinds of stuff they get into. If something doesn't sit right after it's gone down, back out it comes. That is a good thing, particularly when there is a clear reason you can either think of or discover in the vomit itself.
The signs of impending doom might include your dog drooling, licking their lips (or the furniture, the rugs, themselves) and swallowing excessively. Some seek to eat grass.
If my dog vomits just once, looks and acts normal, and I can put my finger on the cause, I don't get overly worried.
Things my dogs threw up over time include dead mice, pieces of sticks, rocks, pieces of plastic, a sock (we really dodged a bullet there), grass, and horse poop mixed with hay .... Yes, I do worry when I find assorted inedible items in the puke. But as far as I can tell, it all came back out and didn't cause further trouble.
I don't encourage my dogs to eat these things but I can't watch them every second of every day either.
“Drop it” or “leave it” commands are great if you're at the right place at the right time. But this has even backfired on me when Cookie discovered that grabbing sticks is a way to acquire more treats. She'd drop one and accept her treat only to turn around and grab another one. Eventually it turned out that ignoring her stick-grabbing behavior was more successful.
With inedible items you have to worry about obstructions or perforations.
This was one of the reasons we got pet health insurance. Having a lot of free time outside, it is inevitable that the guys will ingest something inappropriate from time to time. As long as it safely makes its way back out, you're in the clear.
If your dog keeps vomiting and/or exhibits signs of distress, it's time to be on your way to the vet.
Signs that you should call your vet include:
- vomiting more than once or twice
- projectile vomiting (a sign of possible gastrointestinal obstruction)
- poor appetite
- weight loss associated with chronic vomiting, inability to keep food down, or lack of interest in the food
- changes in drinking and urinary habits
- abdominal pain
- abdominal enlargement or distension especially concerning if happening quickly over an hour
- blood in the vomit (partially digested blood looks like coffee grounds; fresh blood is bright red)
- attempting to vomit but nothing comes out
- evidence of poison in the vomit (e.g., packaging or bright green dyes that are included in some types of rat poison)
Dogs do seem to conduct scientific studies on the edibility of almost everything in their environment, but it’s important to remember that their vomiting might have nothing to do with what they recently ate.
While vomiting is often caused by a problem in the GI tract itself, the issue might be originating somewhere else all together.
Problems within the GI tract that cause vomiting include:
- dietary indiscretion
- foreign bodies
- intestinal obstruction
- food intolerance/food allergies
- parasites (roundworms, hookworms, Giardia, coccidia, etc.)
- viral infections (canine parvovirus, coronavirus, canine distemper, etc.)
- bacterial infections (Salmonella, E. coli, etc.)
- intussusception (telescoping of the intestines which causes a functional obstruction)
- tumors/growths in the GI tract
- ulcers in the GI tract
- kidney disease/kidney failure
- liver disease/liver failure
- heart disease
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- pyometra (infection of the uterus)
- severe diabetes mellitus
- Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal gland)
If you pay close attention your dogs will tell you how ill they feel.
With her IBD, Jasmine threw up fairly frequently. She'd refuse food, her stomach would make gurgly noises and eventually she'd throw up some bile. Shortly after she'd start feeling better and look for food.
When Cookie got a bout of pancreatitis, she vomited only once and we were on our way to the vet. Why? Because she was looking sick even before she threw up. She was refusing food and looked tired and lethargic. When she threw up we thought that getting it out of her system was going to make her feel better. But because it didn't, we didn't wait any longer.
Know when it's an emergency
Projectile vomiting, vomiting repeatedly, trying to vomit but nothing coming out, blood (whether fresh or digested) ... mean you need to see a vet ASAP.
A vomiting dog who is lethargic, weak, shaking or otherwise obviously in distress, needs to see a vet immediately.
With severe vomiting, you're problem isn't only the underlying cause but also the dehydration, acid-base imbalances and electrolyte disturbances caused by the vomiting.
Waiting too long before seeing a vet could even be fatal.
What’s In the Vomit?
Why Examine Your Dog's Vomit?
One Vomit, No Vomit
What Happens in a Dog's Body with Severe Vomiting?
Grocery Bag Is Not An Open Buffet: What Was In JD's Vomit
Causes of Vomiting in Dogs
The Gross Factor: When A Dog Vomits In Your Hands
Veterinarians Answer: 10 Main Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog
Symptoms: Recognition, Acknowledgement And Denial
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Panting
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drinking
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Odor
Symptoms to Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drooling
What Can Your Dog's Gums And Tongue Tell You?
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Coughing
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Head Shaking
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: What Is That Limp?
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Nose Bleeds (Epistaxis)
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Unexplained Weight Loss
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Loss Of Appetite
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Lethargy
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Fever (Pyrexia)
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Regurgitation
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Changes in Urination/Urinary Accidents
Symptoms to Watch for In Your Dog: Diarrhea
Whats In The Urine? (Part I: What You Can Notice On Your Own)
What's In The Urine? (Part II: Urinalysis)
Don't Panic, Don't Panic: Know What Your Job Is
Vomiting in Dogs
Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Vomiting in Dogs
Why Is My Dog Vomiting?