Being concerned about your dog being sick is only natural. After all, we care deeply for our furry friends and want them to lead happy and healthy lives.
Vomiting is actually quite common in dogs and is usually nothing to worry about. In most cases the causes are pretty harmless. Your dog could have gobbled down table scraps that don’t agree with them, they’ve eaten too much too quickly, or reacted badly to a change in diet.
But there are more serious issues that may cause prolonged vomiting and should be discussed with a vet. So it’s important to be aware of your dog’s mood and behaviours when they’re feeling unwell.
Their symptoms could indicate underlying problems such as an infection, an obstruction caused by toys or other objects, toxins or foods that are poisonous to dogs, and in more severe cases, cancer, kidney disease or pancreatic disease.
It’s heart breaking when we see our canine friends feeling under the weather, and that’s the time when they need us the most.
Read our guide to find out why your dog might be sick and what you should do if they’re feeling unwell.
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Why is my dog throwing up?
Owners are often surprised by the range of inedible and repulsive things their dogs will eat. Dogs are natural scavengers and can happily consume food, toxins and objects they don’t realise are bad for them.
If your dog’s vomiting is short-lived, they seem fine in themselves and are eating and toileting normally, it’s generally not a cause for concern. That brief bout of sickness can be a fleeting response to an upset tummy.
Here are a few relatively harmless reasons why your dog might be sick:
Motion sickness – Some dogs can feel nauseated on car journeys, but it’s more common in puppies and younger dogs. Because the ear structure used for balance isn’t fully developed, this can make your dog feel queasy and lead to throwing up.
Change in diet – If you’ve suddenly switched to a new flavour or brand of dog food this can upset a sensitive stomach. New foods should be introduced slowly over a few days. Add small amounts of the new food to the old one and increase the quantities each day.
Eating human leftovers – Although there are some human foods that are strictly poisonous to dogs and should be avoided altogether, safe human foods can also upset a delicate stomach if they’re too rich or new to your dog’s diet.
Bilious vomiting syndrome – Bilious vomiting syndrome is when a dog is sick on an empty stomach. You may notice your dog throws up a mucus-like, frothy liquid often yellow in colour that usually occurs first thing in the morning. Your dog’s stomach may be so empty after not eating overnight, this causes them to be sick and throw up bile. A simple case of reassessing your dog’s feeding schedule can stop this kind of vomiting.
Eating to much too quickly – If your dog is fed too much in one sitting or they gobble it down in seconds, this can disrupt their delicate stomach lining and cause your dog to be sick.
What does it mean when your dog keeps throwing up?
If your dog’s sickness is frequent and prolonged this can signal a more serious illness. Any vomiting that persists for more than a day is a cause for concern and you should consult your vet. Your dog may need urgent treatment to prevent further complications. Acute vomiting can be a symptom of any of the below illnesses:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Food intolerance
- Intestinal parasites
- Foreign bodies such as bones or toys
- Ingested toxins
- Kidney, liver and pancreatic disease
- Viral infections
- Medication side effects
If your dog continues to throw up throughout the day, try not to panic. Call your vet immediately and book them in for the earliest appointment available.
When should you be concerned about a dog throwing up?
Sometimes your dog’s symptoms can tell you if it’s time to see the vet. So besides vomiting, you should watch your dog and note any other unusual behaviours or warning signs. Dogs that feel a little nauseous will generally lick their lips, drool and swallow more than usual.
Although no-one really knows why, your dog may also eat grass, perhaps to make themselves sick or relieve the feeling of nausea. You may notice these behaviours if your dog has a short-term bout of sickness.
But the following symptoms can suggest your dog has a more serious problem as mentioned in the list above. Take note of how often your dog throws up and over how long. If your dog throws up more than once and it lasts longer than a day, call your vet. Seek advice if your dog also has diarrhoea, blood in their vomit, lethargy, a change in appetite, if they’re drinking or urinating more or less frequently, and if they can’t keep water down.
If you’re aware your dog has eaten something poisonous such as chocolate, raisins, mouldy food or onions for example, call the vet immediately. You should also be concerned if your dog is projectile vomiting or is retching repeatedly without bringing anything up.
If you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to get advice from your vet. They’ll be able to tell you if your dog should be examined or if they’re fine to be monitored at home.
What do I do if my dog throws up?
The moment you notice your dog has been sick, monitor them closely for the next few hours. It may seem revolting, but poke around in your dog’s vomit as this may give you some indication as to what the problem is. It may also help to share this information with your vet to get an accurate diagnosis.
Here’s what your dog’s vomit could reveal:
A foamy, yellow throw up suggests bile from the intestines and shows your dog’s stomach is empty. If the vomit is watery, your dog may be struggling to keep water down and is at risk of dehydration, whereas traces of blood can be a sign your dog is bleeding into their gastrointestinal tract.
In other cases, your dog may have regurgitated rather than vomited. If your dog has thrown up a lot of undigested food, this can be a one-off after eating too much or something that doesn’t agree, but if it happens regularly this can suggest an oesophageal disorder. Bright green sick can signal your dog has eaten a poison used to kill rodents.
After your dog has been sick, remove access to food and water for a few hours. After 2 hours you can let your dog have small sips of water hourly, but don’t feed them for a further 10 hours. If your dog doesn’t throw up during this time, you can introduce small amounts of bland foods.
What can you give a dog for throwing up?
If your dog hasn’t thrown up for several hours after they first vomited, you can offer a small meal of white fish or boiled chicken and rice. Give your dog 3 or 4 small helpings during the day – this should help settle their tummy. If they successfully keep their food down, increase the portion sizes the next day and reintroduce their normal diet the following day.
As an alternative, you can mix a meat-based baby food with rice after several hours of no vomiting. Baby foods are very easy for your dog to swallow and digest. Just make sure the food you use doesn’t contain any garlic or onion powder as these are toxic to dogs.
Another option is to offer ginger disguised in a treat. Ginger is a natural anti-nausea, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory aid that will help soothe your dog’s irritated stomach and relieve feelings of nausea. Ginger does come in pill form, but you can also use powdered ginger or grate the fleshy root. Add a little honey onto a small piece of bread and sprinkle a little ginger on top.
How can I get my dog to vomit?
If you’ve caught your dog eating something potentially poisonous, inducing vomiting could save your dog’s life. But always consult your vet first as you could cause more harm or it could be too late to do anything.
If it’s been longer than 2 hours since your dog ate the poisonous substance, it’s likely the toxins have already been ingested. Take your dog to the vet immediately, and if you can, bring the thing they’ve eaten along with you. This could help your vet decide the best course of treatment.
Never stick your fingers down your dog’s throat – this will unlikely be effective and can be dangerous. Dogs don’t have the same gag reflexes that cause us to vomit, and your dog could bite with all that manhandling.
Mustard used to be recommended to induce vomiting, but vets no longer support this theory as they see no evidence of its effectiveness. Salt is also not recommended as the risk of salt poisoning is high. Likewise, syrup of ipecac is now considered unsafe due to being toxic to your dog’s heart.
If you’re quick enough, your vet may tell you to use hydrogen peroxide. This is considered the only relatively safe and effective home remedy to induce vomiting. Your vet should inform you of the correct dosage to give your dog, but a general rule of thumb is 5ml for every pound of weight.
But if you think your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have, the best cause of action is to act fast and take your dog straight to the vets.
How can I prevent my dog from future vomiting?
Not all causes of vomiting can be prevented, but there are a few things you can do to keep your dog safe and prevent unnecessary vomiting.
- Keep all harmful foods, choking hazards and poisons out of reach to reduce the risk of your dog swallowing them.
- If you’re changing your dog’s diet, do so gradually over the course of a week to avoid upsetting their tummy.
- Keep a secure lid on your bin or behind closed doors to stop your dog from scavenging and potentially eating something toxic.
- Don’t feed your dog leftovers as you may accidentally offer foods that are poisonous to your dog. Even human foods that are safe for dogs can cause vomiting in sensitive stomachs.
- Keep an eye on your dog’s toys. If they become damaged or break into small pieces throw them out before they can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockages.
- If your dog likes to scavenge for scraps when out and about, consider using a basket muzzle to stop them from picking up potentially dangerous items.
- If they tend to throw up in the morning, feed your dog smaller amounts more often throughout the day. Feed your dog their evening meal a little later before bed and their breakfast earlier in the morning.
Although some vomiting is perfectly harmless in dogs, it’s important to note any other possible symptoms that may indicate a more serious issue. If your dog is their usual playful self and the sickness is brief, it’s usually nothing to panic about. But if you’re at all worried about your dog being sick, it’s always best to get professional advice.