Dogs can vomit for a wide range of reasons, from eating something they shouldn’t, also known as a “dietary indiscretion,” to a much more serious illness. And while it’s not the most – ahem – appetizing of topics, dog owners need to be able to decipher what might be happening. So, let’s look a little more closely at this common symptom and explore what it can mean for your canine companion.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitation
There’s a key difference between vomiting (technically, ejecting matter from the stomach and upper intestines) and retching (ejecting matter from the esophagus.) Vomiting involves abdominal heaving, when a dog stands with his back arched and his stomach muscles contracting, and regurgitation does not.
Regurgitation usually occurs when a dog eats too fast, and what is brought up hasn’t even reached the stomach yet, so you’ll often see food that is fairly intact. Vomit, on the other hand, can look several ways, each of which tells you something about what’s going on in your pet’s body. Yellow, white, brown, foamy, chunky, mucus-like, clear liquid – there are many varieties of vomit that can indicate your pet’s stomach is upset.
Grass is a common ingredient in dog vomit. Sometimes, especially after a dietary indiscretion, your dog might eat grass in order to relieve nausea. That can help bring up whatever causes the upset, but your dog can also accidentally ingest pesticides or parasites.
When to Call Your Primary Care Veterinarian
If your dog vomits after a meal or at a random time of day or night, it isn’t necessarily an emergency. It’s still a good idea to call your veterinarian, but generally, provided there are no other symptoms, if your dog can keep water down and he’s generally acting like himself, they may just advise you to skip his next meal to give his gastrointestinal system a chance to settle down.
The biggest concern with vomiting is dehydration, so most cases where you should seek veterinary care revolve around ensuring your pet doesn’t get dehydrated. Senior dogs and young puppies can become dehydrated more quickly, so always exercise more caution with them.
Contact your primary care veterinarian for advice or a visit if your dog is:
- Projectile vomiting
- Vomiting blood
- Vomiting pieces of a foreign object like a toy
- Cannot keep water down
- Refuses small amounts of food
- Vomiting multiple times a day
When to Call the Emergency Animal Hospital
However, if your dog is exhibiting these signs and your primary care veterinarian isn’t available, then call your nearest emergency animal hospital, like The COVE, immediately, as they could indicate life-threatening illness:
- Vomiting with bloody diarrhea
- Lethargic or shaking after vomiting
- Retching without bringing anything up (a sign of GVD or bloat, which is life-threatening)
- They ate something toxic or a foreign body that could become an obstruction
Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution, so if you’re not sure if your dog’s vomiting requires emergency care, call a veterinarian for advice. If it’s after your primary veterinarian’s normal business hours, we recommend contacting a telemedicine service like Vetster, which offers 24/7 consultations from the comfort of your own home. It could help you avoid a visit to the ER, or they can direct you on when it’s time to call The COVE about bringing your pet in.
Please understand that if you do visit, depending on the patients we are already treating, you may be asked to wait. We must always prioritize the most urgent cases first, including those who arrive after you do.
Seeing your dog vomit can be scary, but by itself, it doesn’t necessarily indicate severe illness or injury. Knowing what to watch for and when to call your veterinarian – or the emergency team at The COVE – can make all the difference.