Dogs vomit for much the same reason as humans after all we are all mammals and not that much different then our four-legged friends. Why do we vomit? Because we ate something bad or that did not agree with our systems, we have contracted a virus or we have a parasite living in our digestive tract or we have a medical condition that needs some attention.
Dogs are not any different. In fact, they are simpler in that they cannot reach for a bottle of Tums or Pepto if they have an upset stomach, potentially masking important symptoms. If they feel the need to vomit, our canine companions will eat grass to induce vomiting instead of masking the problem, a system that actually makes more sense.
The more difficult question is what you do if your dog vomits and the answer is highly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the episode.
The most common vomit is the grass eating kind. The dog has not eaten for a while, their stomach is upset because of too much acid causing bile and they just want to get it out of their system. They eat some grass, vomit twice and a few minutes later, they are chowing down on their breakfast. Simple and as long as it is only an occasional occurrence, not a big deal.
Vomiting that accompanied with mild diarrhea but otherwise the dog seems perfectly happy and full of life is more then likely caused by eating something that does not agree with them. Maybe that liver treat was just too big and too rich for their systems, much like us eating a giant fast food burger with matching the super sized fries and milkshake. If their energy level is good and their temperature is normal, give them water only for eight hours so their stomach has a chance to calm down and monitor their condition. If they continue to vomit or they develop a temperature, they need medical attention. If they are fine after eight hours, try a small meal of their regular kibble and see if that stays down. If it does, the dog is fine, if it does not, it is time for a visit to the vet.
Vomiting accompanied with insistent diarrhea, lethargy or a temperature requires immediate medical attention. Puppies and older dogs are extremely susceptible to illness as well as dehydration caused by the vomiting and diarrhea. Take them to their vet at the first indication that the vomiting session is maybe more serious then you first thought it is not worth taking a chance with their life. Viruses and parasites such as Giardia are often the cause of the distress and early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference to how quickly your dog recovers.
Unproductive vomiting the dog is retching but nothing is coming up is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention. The most common cause is Gastric Torsion, a condition where the dog’s stomach has flipped over either 180 or 360 degrees. This is more common in large dogs that have a deep chest and narrow waist like a German Shepherd or Standard Poodle but it does not mean that it is not seen in other breeds. This condition requires immediate surgery or else the dog will die.
Dogs do suffer from conditions such as Irritable Bowel Disease, gastric ulcers, pancreatitis, hiatal hernias, chronic gastritis, liver and kidney disease, malabsorption and maldigestion disorders, eosinophilic enteritis, colitis, hypoadrenocorticism and congenital megaesophagus to name a few causes of chronic vomiting. Most of these conditions are accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea, a change in energy and weight levels, etc so make sure to mention to your vet if anything else has changed since the vomiting began.
A vet will start with the mostly likely cause what they are eating. Food allergies can cause vomiting in some dogs and it is a common starting point to diagnose an otherwise healthy dog that suffers from chronic vomiting with mild diarrhea. From there, a complete blood and urine panel as well as a fecal exam can help narrow down the potential causes for the vomiting. X-rays can rule out congenital megaesophagus, evaluate liver and kidney problems, and possibly show a hiatal hernia.
In chronic cases, if the frequency of the vomiting increases or if it is accompanied with other symptoms, get your dog in to see the vet the same day. An emergency is a case of unproductive vomiting or projectile vomiting, vomiting accompanied by a fever, diarrhea and/or listlessness.
Dogs vomit sometimes, same as humans do. Sometimes it is a one-time occurrence and they go about their business as usual. Other times it is serious and requires intervention. Use common sense when deciding on whether your dog requires medical attention put yourself or your child in your dog’s situation and would you hesitate to seek medical help. No? Then why would you delay for your pet?