Did your dog scarf down their food too fast, or eat inappropriate garbage? Several issues can cause your dog to vomit, but not all are cause for immediate veterinary attention. Our team at Belmont Animal Hospital wants to explain the important details that can help you determine if your dog is vomiting because of a serious issue. 

Vomiting versus regurgitation in dogs

When your dog ejects material from their mouth, you first need to determine if they vomited or regurgitated. Vomiting is a forceful ejection of stomach and upper intestinal contents, and typically, vomit contains digested food and smells sour. Vomiting is usually preceded by signs indicating nausea, such as drooling and retching. Regurgitation is a more passive ejection of food from the esophagus, and typically contains undigested food. Causes of regurgitation include eating too much or too fast, inflammation, and megaesophagus, an issue in which the esophagus loses tone and creates a pouch where food accumulates.

What are the characteristics of your dog’s vomit?

You may be squeamish about examining your dog’s vomit, but the appearance can be helpful in determining the reason they are sick.

  • Yellow vomit — Bile is a digestive fluid that is produced in the liver and released into the small intestine to aid in digestion. Yellow vomit typically indicates that your dog’s stomach is empty. The bile may be irritating your dog’s stomach. Feeding your dog smaller, more frequent meals may help prevent this issue.
  • White foamy vomit — A buildup of stomach acid or excessive gas in your dog’s stomach can cause white foamy vomit.
  • Bloody vomit — This indicates an active bleed in your dog’s digestive tract. The brighter the blood, the closer the bleeding is to their mouth. Light, bright bloody vomit is likely from their stomach or upper intestine. Dark, tarry vomit that looks like coffee grounds indicates digested blood. If your dog is vomiting any blood, they need immediate veterinary attention.
  • Wormy vomit — If your dog has a heavy worm infestation, especially roundworms, they may vomit live worms. Deworming should remedy this problem
  • Grassy vomit — Dogs often eat grass when they have an upset stomach, because the process can induce vomiting. 
  • Clear, liquid vomit — Clear, liquid vomit can be caused by excessive stomach secretions,  or when your nauseous dog drinks, and cannot keep the water down.

Common reasons your dog is vomiting

The possible causes of vomiting in dogs are too numerous to count, but the most common include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
    • Eating garbage or spoiled food
    • Ingesting toxic substances
    • Eating too fast
    • Exercising after eating
    • Bloat
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Stomach or intestinal blockage
    • Infectious disease
    • Motion sickness
  • Non-gastrointestinal issues
    • Kidney, liver, or pancreatic disease
    • Middle ear problems
    • Brain tumor
    • Meningitis
    • Extreme anxiety

When is your dog’s vomiting a veterinary emergency?

If your dog’s vomiting episode is a sole occurrence, and they are bright, alert, eating, drinking, and using the bathroom normally, you can simply monitor their condition. Factors that indicate they need immediate veterinary attention include:

  • Puppies — Young dogs do not yet have a fully functioning immune system and cannot combat disease as well. They are especially susceptible to certain infectious agents, such as parvo. They will need intravenous therapy to correct dehydration, and they may need nutritional support if their condition is severe.
  • Geriatric dogs — Older dogs have a weakened immune system and are more susceptible to dehydration.
  • Bloody vomit — Any condition that causes your dog to vomit blood is a serious issue. Conditions that can cause bloody vomit include rat poison ingestion, gastric ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, and blood clotting disorders.
  • Vomiting with other signs — If your dog is vomiting and also exhibiting other signs, such as diarrhea, lethargy, enlarged abdomen, or shaking, their condition should be addressed promptly. 
  • Dry heaving — If your dog is trying to vomit but not producing anything, this could indicate bloat or a gastrointestinal obstruction, potentially life-threatening conditions.
  •  Suspected poison or foreign body ingestion — If you believe your dog may have swallowed a poison or foreign body and they begin vomiting, immediate veterinary attention is needed.
  • Chronic vomiting — If your dog has been vomiting for days or weeks, they should be evaluated by our veterinary professionals at Belmont Animal Hospital. You may also notice weight loss or muscle wasting. Conditions that could cause chronic vomiting include kidney or liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or cancer. 

How can you prevent your dog from vomiting?

Not all conditions that cause vomiting can be prevented easily, but you can take steps to help prevent some issues.

  • Wellness — Take your dog for regular wellness exams to catch serious health issues, such as liver or kidney disease.
  • Diet — Never change your dog’s diet suddenly, or without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Foreign bodies — Do not let your dog play with small toys or toys that can easily be torn apart, to prevent foriegn body ingestion.
  • People food — Do not feed your dog table scraps, because many common human foods are toxic to dogs.
  • Garbage —Keep your garbage sealed to prevent scavenging.

Dealing with a vomiting dog is not fun, but use these parameters to help you distinguish between a gastric mishap and a serious veterinary emergency. If your dog is vomiting and you are concerned about the reason, do not hesitate to contact our team at Belmont Animal Hospital.