Anyone who has had a dog has heard that dreaded noise – the sound of a vomiting dog. Why they always have to aim for the carpet is one of those age old questions dog owners ask themselves every time they are forced to clean up the mess and why do they always have to do it twice – isn’t one mess enough to clean up?
There are three stages in the vomiting process: nausea, retching and the final vomiting. The main concern for the health of a vomiting dog are dehydration causing an imbalance in electrolyte levels, a disparity in the balance of acid to base levels in the body and aspirated pneumonia.
Vomiting is one of the main reasons why owners take their dogs to the veterinarian. Dogs can vomit yellow bile, food, clear and/or foamy liquid, blood and grass or a combination of the above. Periodic vomiting is not a reason for concern as long as the dog has a healthy appetite, maintaining an ideal weight and their energy levels are normal. A dog that is suffering from chronic or repeated vomiting, whether or not it is combined with diarrhea, inappetence, weight loss or lethargy, should be seen as soon as possible by their doctor. Dogs also suffer from many of the same minor digestive complaints as humans including flatulence and gas, heartburn and ulcers. Although not as serious as vomiting, let the vet know if your dog’s medical history includes any of these minor ailments.
If a dog is feeling queasy or unwell, they can voluntarily regurgitate or throw up. Whether the voluntary regurgitation is from eating too much all at once or a build up of bile on an empty stomach causes the dog to eat grass until they vomit the noxious yellow acid up, the result is the same. If your dog suffers from frequent bouts of acid stomach (more then a few times a month) and is becoming a chronic problem, try feeding smaller meals more frequently so not as much bile can develop between meals. Even a biscuit between meal times can make a difference.
The other main cause of vomiting in an otherwise healthy dog is eating something they should not have, whether that is a toxin of some sort, food too high in fat or too rich or an allergy to the food. In many cases, the dog will bring up the offending object and be fine from that point on. However, it is common for enough of the toxin to be digested that immediate veterinary assistance is required. In this case, bring the stomach contents with you to the hospital in case it is possible for the vet to find what it was that made the dog so sick. A night in the hospital under observation is normally suggested as is intravenous to help support potentially compromised kidneys.
Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea can be caused by a number of conditions – gastritis, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, Irritable Bowel Disease, etc. If blood is present in either the vomited material or the fecal matter, a visit to the vet is mandatory.
Treating Dog Vomiting
The initial treatment for any case of repeated vomiting or vomiting mixed with diarrhea is to withhold food and water for twenty-four hours, allowing the stomach and digestive tract to calm down once again. In severe cases, such as pancreatitis, food and water can be withheld for up to five days while fluids, glucose, electrolytes and medication are administered intravenously. Often treatment comes before a full diagnosis as it is important for the pet to be put on intravenous fluids, for example, if it is suffering from dehydration.
Diagnosis may come in many forms – blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, barium swallow and endoscopy may all be used. What may surprise you is the first course of treatment is often the administration of anti-parasitics – deworming medication. Gastric worms can cause vomiting with or without diarrhea so it is a fast and easy place for the vet to start in an non-emergency situation.
There is one type of vomiting that is also an emergency situation but is not actually messy - unproductive vomiting. A dog’s stomach can twist or flip on itself, the blood supply to the digestive tract is cut off, leading to bloating, toxic conditions and eventual death. This condition is often called torsion or bloat but the clinical term is gastric dilation or voluvus. This is a potential fatal condition requiring immediate surgery to correct so if your dog goes through the retching motion but nothing comes up, get them to the vet immediately.
Due to the number of reasons why a dog may vomit, it is extremely important to work with your veterinarian for a correct diagnosis and course of treatment. Chronic vomiting, even if it is not frequent, can cause a myriad of medical problems and, for the well-being of your furry best friend, steps should be taken to get the condition under control.