Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

by VetDepot on July 5, 2011

dog-vomitUnlike cats, dogs known to be chronic vomiters.  Vomiting is usually a sign of serious illness in dogs and always warrants examination by a veterinarian.  When you take your dog to the vet for vomiting, there are several points of information you should take note of because you will likely be asked.

One of the first is to differentiate vomiting from regurgitation.  Vomiting is an active process that is coordinated by the brain and involves several stages. Usually the early signs can be noticed when the lips get pulled back and salivation occurs. The actual act of vomiting involves noticeable contraction of the stomach resulting in a repeated “heaving” before the vomiting actually occurs.  The body’s goal of vomiting is to empty the stomach and even the first part of the small intestine (in case there was any recently ingested toxins that the body can detect).  Regurgitation is a more passive process, which usually occurs because of a problem with the esophagus. When a pet regurgitates, it’s almost as if the food or water just falls out of their mouth, without any contractions or heaving.  Noticing the difference will help your veterinarian arrive at the correct diagnosis.  A bloated stomach along with repeated retching or heaving with production of only clear fluid can be associated with a twisted stomach (GDV) in dogs. If you notice these symptoms you should seek help from a Veterinarian immediately.

The second thing you should take note of is the character of the vomit.  It is just food?  Do you see any bits of stuff from the garbage?  Is there any yellow or green bile?  Any blood?  Are there any little black granules that look like coffee grounds?  This information will help your veterinarian determine how serious the problem is, where the vomiting is coming from (stomach vs. intestine), and may even help direct treatment (blood or coffee grounds may indicate an ulcer).  If your pet is on any medication, they should be immediately discontinued until you speak with your veterinarian if vomiting occurs.

There are literally thousands of reasons why your dog may be vomiting.  Gastroenteritis, which is a fancy term for an upset stomach, is the most common reason. This can occur when your pet has a dietary indiscretion like getting into the garbage. Most of the time, some mild supportive care delivered by your veterinarian will resolve this (fluids under the skin and an injection for vomiting).  However, much more serious problems can result in vomiting as well.  Let’s face it, dogs are not the smartest of creatures and sometimes eat things they shouldn’t- underwear, toy stuffing, etc. These items can become stuck in the intestine which will require surgery. As dogs age, medical problems such as organ failure or tumors can result in vomiting as well.  Some pets can even get pancreatitis which is a serious type of inflammation in the pancreas.

After performing a physical exam, your vet may recommend some tests to help determine why your pet is vomiting or at least make sure nothing serious is going on.  These tests include radiographs (x-rays), blood tests and ultrasounds.  Once the diagnosis is made, treatment can begin to resolve the issue.

You should always seek veterinary care if your pet is lethargic, continues to vomit even with proper care, if there is blood in the vomit, if your pet is displaying signs of pain, or if there is a chance they got into something toxic.

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