- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Dogs vomit for many reasons, just like people do. Possible causes of dog vomiting can include diet, underlying health conditions, bloat, and more.
Throwing up is a natural reflex, but it’s important to figure out the reason why your dog is vomiting. If they throw up just once and then they’re done, you probably don’t need to worry. But continuous vomiting may require a trip to the veterinarian.
Paying attention to when your dog vomits, how often, and what that vomit looks like can offer some clues to the possible causes. Here’s what you need to know about dog vomiting, including how to recognize a concern and when to contact your vet.
Why Do Dogs Vomit?
“Vomiting helps dogs expel harmful substances from their stomach,” says Dr. Bethany Hsia, mobile veterinarian and co-founder of CodaPet. Vomiting prevents the absorption of toxic substances and helps remove indigestible material, so it’s actually good for your dog’s well-being overall, she explains.
Some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs include:
Many cases of vomiting can be traced back to your pet’s diet. Some of the most common examples include:
- Eating grass: In some cases, eating grass can mean something’s wrong with your dog’s digestive system. At other times, it can mean your dog is bored. But some dogs just love to eat grass!
- Eating dog-unfriendly foods: Table scraps high in fats and oils aren’t good for a dog’s digestive system and may cause vomiting. Spoiled food—such as moldy items, rotten food from the trash can, or expired dog food—can have the same effect.
- Eating inedible objects: Some dogs love to eat or chew inedible objects, from your slippers to an empty bag that once contained food. Some of these smaller items may make their way through your dog’s digestive system, but others can get lodged in their GI tract and lead to vomiting.
- Eating too fast: Some dogs practically inhale their food, which can lead to bloat, indigestion, and vomiting.
- Allergies and intolerances: Vomiting due to allergies or intolerances may also cause other symptoms, like diarrhea, gas, and abdominal discomfort.
- Toxic substances: If your dog ate or drank something toxic, they may vomit as a way to try and expel this substance.
Dietary issues that cause vomiting often affect puppies more than adult dogs.
Puppies are less picky about what goes in their mouths, so they’re more likely to have dietary issues. As a result, gastrointestinal upset tends to be the most common reason why puppies vomit, says Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ, holistic house call veterinarian and certified veterinary journalist.
“Intestinal parasites can also cause vomiting,” Dr. Mahaney says. These parasites, which live in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, include:
Vomiting due to parasites also usually involves other symptoms, including:
- Butt dragging (also called “scooting”)
- A distended abdomen
- Weight loss
- Occasional coughing
One classic sign of bloat in dogs is unproductive vomiting. This means your dog will vomit a small amount of white foam. Bloat, also known as gastric torsion, is a medical emergency that won’t go away on its own.
If you notice any of the warning signs of bloat, you’ll want to take your dog to the emergency vet for urgent treatment.
Stress and anxiety
Dogs who vomit due to stress may also have diarrhea.
Some dogs experience motion sickness, just like people. If your dog eats before a trip and becomes sick due to motion, they may end up vomiting.
Travel sickness can affect dogs of all ages, but it’s more common in younger dogs.
Dogs who develop heatstroke may experience vomiting and diarrhea.
If it’s very hot and your dog vomits and has other signs of heatstroke, like rapid breathing, deep red gums, and loss of coordination, you’ll want to take them to the emergency vet right away. Heatstroke is a medical emergency.
Other underlying health problems
Certain health conditions, including pancreatitis and kidney disease, can cause vomiting, Dr. Hsia says.
Could It Be Chronic Vomiting?
If your dog eats some grass, vomits once, and then bounces back to their usual self with no other symptoms, you generally don’t need to worry.
But if your dog regularly vomits and you can’t pinpoint a specific cause, they may have a more chronic vomiting issue.
Causes of chronic vomiting range from allergies to chronic illness. If your dog throws up frequently, it’s best to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Your vet can help find the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.
What Do Vomit Colors Mean?
Examining your dog’s vomit may be a bit gross—but different colors of vomit can suggest different conditions, according to Dr. Hsia.
- Yellow can mean bile is present in the vomit.
- Green could mean your dog has eaten grass or other green substances.
- White can mean the vomit contains mucus. White foam may mean your dog has bloat.
- Red or black may point to stomach bleeding.
Vomit can have so many different colors and consistencies that it’s not always that useful to take photos or bring a sample to the vet, Dr. Simon says. (Plus, vomit is another thing your dog may try to eat.)
That said, it doesn’t hurt to bring a photo or gather a sample, especially if the vomit appears red or black. Your vet may also want to know when your dog tends to throw up—first thing in the morning, right after eating, or during the day?
When To Ask A Vet About Dog Vomiting
As for when to call your vet, she says that depends. “If your dog vomits after noshing on grass, give it a few hours.”
You probably don’t need to visit the vet if you don’t notice anything else unusual.
But if your dog vomits more than a couple of times a week or seems otherwise unwell, Dr. Ochoa recommends calling your vet. “Watch out for other symptoms like diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite,” she adds.
How To Treat Dog Vomiting
How to treat your dog’s vomiting depends on the cause—so always check with a vet if you have any concerns or notice other unusual symptoms.
Isolated cases of vomiting
“To take care of a pukey pup, take away food for a bit, then reintroduce bland eats,” Dr. Ochoa says. This could include things like plain chicken, rice, and pumpkin puree.
Cases of ongoing vomiting likely need professional treatment. Your vet may advise electrolytes and potentially medication to ease nausea.
“For repeat vomiters, diet changes, nausea medication, or antibiotics often help,” Dr. Ochoa says. Severe cases may require hospital hydration and testing to uncover the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may also run diagnostic tests like x-rays and ultrasounds along with blood, fecal, and urinary tests.
Tips To Prevent Dog Vomiting
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to prevent the occasional bout of vomiting. But if your dog vomits regularly, these strategies could make a difference:
- Using a slow feeder to prevent rapid eating.
- Keeping your dog’s parasite treatments and vaccinations up to date.
- Using a trash can that has a dog-proof lid.
- Keeping toxic foods well out of reach.
- Keeping dogs cool in hot weather.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s vomiting, it’s always best to consult your vet for tailored advice and tips to get your dog back to full health.
Trying to clean up your home after a vomiting accident? Check out these cleaning tips.