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What Causes Dogs to Vomit and When Should You Be Concerned?


Kate graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in biology. She currently resides in Sonoma, California.

Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

When your canine companion isn't feeling well, it can be easy to worry or jump to conclusions. Before you get overly concerned, remember that vomiting isn't always serious. It is important to identify the cause of your dog's upset stomach and discover what circumstances may surround your pet's individual situation.

Though vomiting is not always serious, every dog is different. You should never entirely disregard cases of vomiting as some situations may be time-sensitive or require immediate medical attention. Other situations may require you to keep an eye on your dog and see if they begin to recover over time.

It's Not Always Serious!

There are many factors that can trigger instances of vomiting in dogs ranging from mild cases of overeating to serious underlying medical conditions. Below, we will take a look at some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs.

Why Do Dogs Vomit?

Understanding why dogs vomit can help you to better diagnose your pooch. Vomiting is a natural defensive response created by a series of complicated physical, neurological, and chemical processes within your dog's body.

The area in your dog's brain that controls the vomiting response is called the Area Postrema. This area automatically scans for pathogens or irregularities in your dog's bloodstream. Vomiting is triggered by abnormalities or toxins in the body. Vomiting can help to keep your dog safe from certain toxins and bacteria.

Since vomiting is caused by physical irregularities in your pup's body, it can be caused by a wide range of very different factors such as:

  • Poisons
  • Diseases
  • Viral pathogens
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Overexertion

Vomiting is usually preceded by nausea in your dog, though this isn't always the case. Vomiting can also be triggered by your dog's vagus nerve, also known as the gag reflex. When vomiting is caused by the gag reflex, it is usually referred to as regurgitation and is less serious than actual vomiting.

Poisoning or Toxicosis

If your dog ingests toxins or poison, vomiting may occur shortly after. In most cases, vomiting will begin within one to 24 hours after the ingestion of most poisons. In these cases, your dog's body is attempting to eliminate the poison as quickly as possible.

To know whether your dog has consumed toxic materials, you will have to do some investigating. Check your floor, baseboards, or areas where your dog has recently been to see if there are any leftover remnants or packaging debris or evidence of poison substances nearby. Substances that can very be poisonous to dogs include:

  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol (found in sugarless candies and sugarless gums)
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Insecticides
  • Mouse and rat poison
  • Household cleaners (acidic or alkaline things like laundry detergent, lye, or toilet bowl cleaners)
  • Human drugs (namely ibuprofen or other NSAIDs, antidepressants, acetaminophen, and most amphetamines)
  • Fertilizers (including bone meal, blood meal, and iron-based products consumed in large amounts)

If you have discovered that your dog has ingested any of these poisons, you will want to call your veterinarian immediately. Poisoning can be a time-sensitive matter. Try to find a sample of what your dog has gotten into and bring it with you to your vet's office. Knowing how much and what your dog has consumed can be extremely important and helpful.

Bacterial Infection of the Gastrointestinal Tract

Dogs may vomit due to a bacterial infection of their gastrointestinal tract. This kind of gastroenteritis is not always serious and can be treated at home, though in some cases, it may lead to complications like dehydration or fever in your dog. There are many causes of gastroenteritis including but not limited to systemic infections and foodborne pathogens. Spoiled food or contaminated food can cause irritation of your dog's stomach and vomiting.

Gagging or Regurgitation Caused by the Vagus Nerve

One of the least serious causes of vomiting in dogs is regurgitation triggered by the vagus nerve in the back of your dog's throat. This nerve may be irritated if your dog eats too quickly, too much, or both. Many dogs who wolf down their food rapidly will vomit immediately after eating or even during the middle of their meal.

Though it isn't a cause of serious or immediate concern, you should still take measures to ensure that your dog doesn't make this sort of rapid overeating a habit. Over time, it can lead to more serious issues like bloat and gastric dilation.

Foreign Objects and Airway Obstruction

If your dog is choking on something, they may gag and vomit. Vomiting that is accompanied by wheezing, gagging sounds, or staggering behavior, may be due to a foreign object lodged in your dog's throat. Immediately check to see if your dog has anything lodged in their throat.

To prevent this kind of gagging and choking, be sure to only purchase toys designed specifically for your canine companion. If you have a puppy, keep your home clear of objects that can be chewed and easily break apart in your dog's mouth.

Intussusception or Intestinal Inversion

Intussusception means that part of the intestines may be telescoping on themselves.
Usually, occurrences of this condition are preceded by vomiting or diarrhea with or without small amounts of blood being present in either or both. Things that may contribute to this condition include intestinal parasites, bacterial or viral infections, abrupt dietary changes, or anything that may cause inflammation of the intestines.

Other Causes of Vomiting

There are many other possible causes for a dog to vomit. Here are some causes that aren't typical but can still occur in a dog. Therse causes should still be considered serious and will warrant a cause visit to your veterinarian.

Less Common but Still Serious Causes:

  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison's disease)
  • Viral Infections (Distemper, Parvovirus, etc.)
  • Heatstroke
  • Underlying Diseases
  • Acute Kidney, Liver, or Renal Failure
  • Pancreatitis or Gallbladder Failure
  • Bloat

The most common causes of vomiting in dogs however and generally considered "non-serious" and are usually not life-threatening.

Common Non-Serious Causes:

  • Diet changes
  • Food Intolerances
  • Ingestion of garbage or spoiled food
  • Easily treatable intestinal parasites (hookworms, pinworms, tapeworms, roundworms)
  • Car sickness or motion sickness
  • Post-operative nausea

Warning Signs

In many cases, vomiting is no big deal. It's your dog's body cleaning out something that has made it "off-balance." Still, there are a few signs to look out for:

  • Multiple instances of vomiting in one day
  • Consistent or "non-stop" vomiting
  • Inability to hold down water
  • Loss of appetite for a long period of time surrounding vomiting (more than 6 hours)
  • Unusual behavior (pacing, swaying, whimpering, etc.)
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Pale or white gums
  • Lack of urination
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Lack of bowel movement for more than 48 hours after vomiting
  • Blood in vomit or stool

Know When to Call Your Vet

If one or more the above-listed symptoms accompanies vomiting, it may very well be time to call your vet or take your dog in for a visit. You know your dog best and will be able to tell if their behavior is abnormal.

Keep in mind that some dogs may not show any of these symptoms right away. If you suspect that your dog has ingested any of the above-listed poisons or other toxic substances, don't wait for other symptoms to present themselves. Call your veterinarian.

Vomiting Happens From Time to Time

Remember, vomiting can be a natural and harmless process. There is no need to immediately jump to any conclusions. Investigate the situation, watch for symptoms, and remember that all dogs are different. A quick call to your vet will help you put your mind at ease if you find yourself becoming unusually concerned.

© 2018 Kate Daily

Amanda on August 27, 2018:

I wanted to see if I should be concerned or not. This morning Gimli threw up foamy stuff. It appeared to be white. That was around 7:30-7:45. He got up drank a lot of water. I put half a pouch of his food in his bowl. He ate. This morning he went out to potty. He did both. He came in and drank more water. Then around 10 he throw up his food. Our schedule has been different the past two weeks. We've had my momma's dog. There were a few times I gave Gimli some can food, because the store DIDN'T have his regular food, but that was around the first week of us having my momma's dog. We took her dog back yesterday and took Gimli with us. Before we left I noticed Gimli had eaten the other dogs food. After he threw up I called my momma to ask her what she had done with her onion peel she said she threw it in the trash. Back in June Gimli got into our compost bin and ate a huge amount of sausage and onion casserole. We had to take him to an after hours vet. They gave him fluids. He was puny the next day, but was better the next. My momma said Gimli did get into her dogs food bowl again while we were at her house. My husband and I were outside cutting her grass. I did see Gimli eat a leaf. This morning he tried to eat a leaf again right before he threw up, but I stopped him. Could he be throwing up from over eating. He did get more food and treats than normal.

Thank you for any advice you can give me. He appears ok now. He's laying on the couch with my daughter.

Kate Daily (author) from California on April 09, 2018:

Hi Daorili,

At this point I would take your puppy to see a veterinarian. The main reason is that he is now displaying two symptoms and it is no longer just an issue with throwing up. It is important for your vet to rule out some of the more serious possible causes. In the mean time, make sure your dog stays well hydrated until you can get him to the veterinarian since both vomiting and diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration. Good luck!

Daorili on April 08, 2018:

My puppy vomit 2 times in aday and get diarrhea please tell me how to take care


Caring for a dog who has vomited

If your dog has only vomited once and seems otherwise well, you may decide to wait and see if they vomit again before taking them to the vets. Here are a few things you can try at home during that time.

Starve for a short amount of time

A short period without food (12 - 24 hours) can sometimes help. Make sure they are still drinking water.

Small, regular bland meals

Give your dog small, regular, bland meals throughout the day.

Bland diets are available in tins (contact your vet for more information), or alternatively you can give them plain boiled rice and chicken breast or white fish. Don’t give your dog anything rich or fatty – this could make things much worse! Once your dog has stopped vomiting you can start to re-introduce their normal food again.

Plenty of water

To prevent dehydration your dog may need to drink more to replace the water they’re losing in their vomit. Provide plenty of fresh water and make sure your dog is drinking little and often throughout the day. Speak to your vet if your dog won’t drink or is drinking much less or more than usual.

While your dog is feeling poorly, it’s unlikely that they will want to do anything energetic - it’s a good idea to let your dog rest and recover for a couple of days.


Your furry friend may vomit simply for the fact that he’s gobbled too much food or consumed something unhealthy. Vomiting should be treated with the utmost importance because it may indicate something that needs regular medical help.

In some cases, vomiting can be linked to systemic and gastrointestinal disorders and this needs a thorough examination by a vet.

Some of the main reasons for vomiting in dogs include:

  • Infected uterus
  • Car sickness
  • Heatstroke
  • Bloat
  • Anaesthetic agents
  • Viral infections
  • Intake of toxic materials
  • Post-operative nausea
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder inflammation
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Presence of foreign objects
  • Diet-related causes
  • Bacterial infection

Vomiting that happens irregularly or sporadically over a sustained period can happen due to some health conditions like:

  • Systemic illness
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Cancer
  • Severe constipation
  • Intestinal inflammation


Worried About Why Your Dog Can't Hold Down Water? 2 Vets Explain What It Could Mean

It's a scenario that's all too familiar to so many dog owners: you return from a long walk with your dog, let them in the house, and as soon as you remove their leash, they head straight for the water bowl. They slurp up the water until it's nearly empty, as drool and water drips from the corners of their mouth. Finally, they stop to catch their breath, panting. And seconds later, you watch your dog throw up the water they just drank all over the floor. If this has turned into a frequent occurrence for your dog, it's time to start paying closer attention to their drinking habits. While throwing up after drinking water is common dog behavior, according to veterinarians Pete Wedderburn, DVM of BrayVet Hospital and Lindsay Butzer, DVM of Clint Moore Animal Hospital, it could also be a sign of an underlying health issue. If you're concerned about why your dog might be doing this, read on to learn more.


Watch the video: 6 Most Common WARNING SIGNS Your Dog is SICK (July 2021).