Vomiting is very common in dogs and, in most cases, there is no need to panic! Mild cases of dog sickness usually improve within 24 hours, but if vomiting persists for a longer period, or if your dog vomits upwards of 6 times in one day, then please seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
It’s important to know the difference between vomiting and regurgitating to be able to help your vet determine what the problem is. Vomiting occurs when the stomach or small intestine forcefully expels some or all its contents and will appear as undigested or partially digested food, water, or a foamy yellow/green liquid (bile).
Regurgitation is different as it comes from the oesophagus and may be accompanied with some coughing. The dog will lower its head and the undigested contents will appear to simply ‘fall out’ of their mouth. The contents may also resemble the cylindrical shape of the oesophagus.
There are some tell-tale signs that your dog is about to vomit, including increased salivation, increased lip-licking and repeated swallowing. They may additionally appear restless and needy, requiring more comfort and attention from you than normal. When a dog is in the process of vomiting, it will be easy to spot as they will heave, have body contortions and abdominal contractions.
If your dog vomits as a one-off and displays no other symptoms of being unwell, then there’s usually no reason to worry. However, if any of the following symptoms are also present, you should contact your vet straight away:
- Abnormal behaviour and signs of stress
- Vomiting with nothing coming up
- Blood in the vomit or stools
- Trembling or shaking
- A fever
- Signs of pain or discomfort
- Lethargy and depression
- Chronic vomiting
Vomiting can occur for many different reasons. It is often the case that your dog ate something that didn’t agree with their stomach, such as a change in diet or food intolerance, or that they simply ate too much of something too fast.
Dogs also commonly eat grass to make themselves vomit and get rid of something they’ve eaten and to settle their stomach. Chronic (frequent or long-term) vomiting could also be a warning sign of something potentially more serious which you need to keep a close eye on for a full 24 hours after your dog vomits, including but not limited to:
- Ingestion of toxins, poisons or foreign objects
- Reaction to medication
- Worms or other intestinal parasites
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Gut blockage
- Severe constipation
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Acute kidney or liver failure
Prevention and treatment
If your dog is about to vomit, there isn’t much you can do in the moment apart from comforting them. There are, however, various things you can prep in and around your home to help prevent one-off vomiting:
- Being in the know about what your dog can and cannot eat
- Keeping human medications, poisonous plants and other toxic substances out of wandering paws’ reach
- Limiting your dog’s food intake by using a slow feeder
- Making sure they always have easy access to fresh water
- Keep a close eye on your dog while out and about on your walks as you never know what might attract them; this way you can stop your dog from eating something they shouldn’t
Although a dog vomiting can be unpleasant and worrying, you shouldn’t ignore it. After an episode of vomiting, avoid feeding your dog for at least 12 hours, then after this period introduce them to small amounts of bland foods such as well-cooked chicken and plain rice. Another common treatment is anti-nausea medication.
If your dog is trying to vomit with nothing coming up, this can be a sign of dehydration so you can try giving them electrolytes. It’s best to check with your veterinarian for the recommended brand and dosage.
Animal Friends customers with a dog insurance policy can access free video vet calls with a qualified vet or vet nurse.