Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

by Lorie Huston, DVM  

There are many different diseases and disease processes that can cause vomiting in dogs.

Vomiting is only a symptom, not a disease in itself. 

Not feeling too well

If your dog is vomiting, especially if he is vomiting persistently or severely, finding the proper treatment relies on finding the cause of the vomiting.

Gastrointestinal Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

There are many diseases that affect that gastrointestinal (GI) tract that can cause your dog to vomit. These diseases range from mild and self-limiting in their nature to life-threatening. They may be accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea, lack of appetite, dehydration and more depending on the individual disease and severity of the illness.

Commonly encountered causes of GI vomiting include:
  • dietary indiscretion (also sometimes known as “garbage can enteritis”)
  • food intolerance/food allergies
  • parasites (roundworms, hookworms, Giardia, coccidia, etc.)
  • viral infections (canine parvovirus, coronavirus, canine distemper, etc.)
  • bacterial infections (Salmonella, E. coli, etc.)
  • foreign bodies
  • intestinal obstruction
  • intussusception (telescoping of the intestines which causes a functional obstruction)
  • tumors/growths in the GI tract

Non-GI Causes of Canine Vomiting

While it is easy to always assume that vomiting is caused by gastrointestinal disease, this is not always the case. Systemic diseases can also cause vomiting, often as a result of toxins which build up in the bloodstream.

There is a relatively long list of systemic diseases that can potentially cause vomiting. While there is not room here to list each and every one, these are some of the most common:
  • kidney disease/kidney failure
  • liver disease/liver failure
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • pyometra (infection of the uterus)
  • diabetes mellitus
  • Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal gland)
  • toxins/poisons

Diagnosing Vomiting in Dogs

In cases of mild vomiting, absolute diagnosis may not be necessary as the disease may be self-limiting. In these cases, fasting for a few hours followed by feeding a bland diet may be all that is necessary for recovery.

However, if vomiting is severe and frequent or accompanied by other serious symptoms, pursuing an accurate diagnosis will be necessary. If there is doubt about how serious your dog’s symptoms are, pursuing diagnosis immediately, rather than attempting the fasting/bland diet approach, may be advisable.

The basic diagnostic approach for vomiting is likely to include one or more of the following:
  • fecal examination, checking for parasites and ova (eggs) of parasites
  • a Giardia Elisa test on the feces
  • a basic blood screen consisting of a complete blood count and blood chemistry profile, including blood electrolyte measurement
  • abdominal radiographs (x-rays) and/or an abdominal ultrasound

Additional testing may or may not be necessary, depending on the results of these tests.

Articles by Dr. Huston:Lyme Is Lame (Pun Intended)
The Ticking Bomb
Don't Let Heartworm Become A Heartbreak!
Summer Perils: Blue-green Algae
Your Dog And Leptospirosis
Canine Parvovirus
Canine Distemper Virus
Why Is My Dog So Itchy? Top 5 Causes Of Itching In Dogs 
Vaccination Concerns and Potential Side Effects 
Natural Flea Control for Dogs 
Vomiting in Dogs: Is He Actually Vomiting? 

Related articles:
What's In The Urine? (Part I)
What's In The Urine? (Part II: Urinalysis)
Excessive Drinking
Bad Odor
Excessive Panting
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire: A Symptom Is Your Friend!
When Is It An Emergency?


  1. LOL, at our house we call it "garbage-snarfsick" since Koly only gets sick when he somehow manages to get into one of the trash cans.

  2. LOL Glad that's the only time he gets sick. Gotta be careful with the garbage diving, as sometimes there can be dangerous items such as cooked chicken bones etc.

    Koly sounds like one healthy pup though!


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