If you’ve ever heard a dog retching in the middle of the night, you know well the panic you feel when your dog is about to vomit. Vomiting can be as simple as the body’s way of ridding itself of something it is unable to digest. But it can also be indicative of a far more serious problem at play. What causes our dogs to vomit, and what can we do help them? When is vomiting a cause for concern?
What do dogs vomit?
Although vomiting feels unpleasant to your dog and smells unappetizing to us, it is the body’s way of ridding itself of something potentially harmful to your dog’s system. Many dogs will eat nearly anything, including things that should not be ingested such as your shoes or bones that can easily break and splinter. When this occurs, your dog’s gastrointestinal system will reject the unusual body and vomiting or regurgitation occurs. Consider it an internal cleansing of sorts. Though it might not smell like it, vomiting is actually a blessing to your dog.
What Are Some Common Causes of Vomiting in Dogs?
While vomiting can merely be the body’s way of getting rid of indigestible materials, there are times when vomiting is evidence of something taking place in your dog’s body that is of a far more serious nature.
Among the things that can cause a dog to vomit are:
- Upset stomach
- Obstruction of the intestines
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Toxins or ingestion of poisonous materials
- Liver or kidney disease
- Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections
- Addison’s disease
- Pancreatic issues
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Trauma to the head
- Side effects from medications
- Food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities
It is easy to see from the provided list that vomiting runs the gamut from things that are of little concern to things that require immediate veterinary assistance and treatment. Owners should always monitor their dogs carefully at the first sign of attempts at regurgitation. If indeed your dog has simply eaten too quickly or has eaten something that just won’t go down, one or two attempts at vomiting should be sufficient to clear the obstruction. More frequent bouts of vomiting generally point to a bigger problem which will require veterinary attention.
Dogs who vomit frequently also run a much higher risk of dehydration. Fluid intake must be monitored and maintained to prevent serious illness and even death.
Why color and consistency matters
When our dogs vomit, the materials they throw up often appear different colors. The color of your dog’s vomit can help you to identify the problem he is suffering with and to ascertain if a trip the vet is necessary.
Dogs who are hungry or who have not eaten in a while will sometimes spit up a foamy substance that has a yellow hue to it. The yellow can be particularly upsetting to owners because of the intensity of the color. However, it is not anything of great concern. The foam is generally the by-product of mucus produced in the stomach. The yellow is simply bile.
Vomit that contains a large amount of water may indicate that your dog is suffering from excessive thirst but is struggling to keep down the water he is drinking. Since dehydration progresses quickly to a grave health condition, it is important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect he is suffering from dehydration. IV fluids could save his life.
Vomit that is red or appears to contain dark materials is suggestive of a bleed somewhere within the intestinal tract. This too requires immediate veterinary attention.
Green vomit of an intense shade is often the result of a dog who has eaten rat poison. Unfortunately, not only does this type of poison kill rats, it can also kill dogs if not caught and treated in time. If your dog’s vomit is green, it is important that you get your dog to your nearest veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
How to know when to visit your vet
All dogs will vomit during their lifetime. The challenging part for dog owners is trying to determine when the problem is serious enough to warrant a trip to the vet.
Here are some things to look for to help you determine the seriousness of the vomiting:
The greatest concern as a result of frequent vomiting is the possibility of dehydration. If your dog repeatedly vomits throughout a 12-24 hour time frame, seek the advice of your veterinarian.
Dogs who produce projectile vomiting most often have some sort of item lodged in the intestinal tract. This may or may not require surgical intervention.
Loss of energy
When a dog suddenly becomes lethargic and loses interest in engaging in his surroundings, he is likely feeling very poorly.
Dogs who don’t feel well often exhibit signs of depression.
When coupled with vomiting, this is a deadly combination. Dehydration can occur rapidly.
Lack of urine output is also an indicator your dog is dehydrated.
Abdominal sensitivities or changes in appearance
Abdominal pain, discomfort, and even swelling are generally signs that something very serious is happening with your dog.
Unproductive vomiting may be suggestive of bloat. Bloat is a very serious condition that progresses rapidly, and in many cases, will claim the life of your dog. At the first signs of this, you must seek immediate veterinary attention. There is no time to delay. Even waiting a few more hours could mean the death of your dog.
Strange items in the vomit
Anything abnormal in your dog’s vomit will give you an idea of what else might still be in there waiting to come out. If you see the presence of a foreign body such as glass or bone shards, it is wise to take your dog to the veterinarian for assistance.
The Return to Food after a Bout of Vomiting
Many dog owners wonder what to do about their dog’s next meal after their dog has been sick. Veterinarians recommend that after a bout of vomiting that you wait between 6-8 hours before offering your dog anything to eat or drink. If your dog has not vomited during this period, it is safe to offer him a small portion of water. Once your dog has successfully gone 12 hours without vomiting, you can then offer a small amount of a very bland food such as boiled chicken with a mixture of rice. Over a period of several days if no vomiting is evidenced, your dog should be able to return to his regular diet without any ill effects.
When our dogs are sick, we can’t help but worry. By learning what to look for when our dogs vomit, we can help identify when a trip to the veterinarian is necessary to help get Fido feeling fit as a fiddle again.