We have all at some point in time been woken up to the sound of our dogs heaving up their stomach contents onto the carpet. While thankfully these episodes are few and far between, if your dog is vomiting regularly, this can be indicative of a problem.
Why do dogs vomit?
The vomiting reflex is a natural ingrained response of the body to protect itself from substances ingested into the gastrointestinal tract that may cause damage. Often the body will recognize the material in the stomach as ‘bad’ for example moldy food, or a toxin. The brain receives the signals from the stomach and releases chemicals to start the process of vomiting. The same process happens if the stomach is too full, or is irritated by the contents of the stomach, for example, a build-up of acid in the stomach.
What does ‘normal’ vomit look like?
Normal vomit usually contains a mixture of fluid such as water or yellow-green bile and food material. Your dog may also vomit up yellow foam.
If blood or dark black-brown material that looks like coffee grounds is present, this is abnormal and needs a vet visit urgently. If any non-digestible material is vomited such as parts of a dog toy, seek help as there may be more material stuck inside your dog.
What are the treatments for vomiting up bile?
Before starting treatment, it’s important to know the cause of vomiting. There are many causes of vomiting, and a veterinarian may run blood tests or an ultrasound exam to try and work out the cause.
Some conditions like bilious vomiting syndrome (hyperlink to the article could your pet have bilious vomiting syndrome) and pancreatitis are managed with changes to your feeding schedule and if needed, the volumes of food fed at one time. Feeding small meals little and often, around four times a day with an easily digestible protein source can help the stomach to settle and reduce the chances of vomiting. Feeding early in the morning and late at night can also reduce vomiting. This is important when considering the cause of bilious vomiting syndrome is a build-up of bile with nothing to digest in the stomach. If there is always food in the stomach or a constant trickle of food, the bile has a function throughout the day.
If the vomiting is a short-term problem, there are prescription foods such as Royal Canin gastrointestinal diet or Hills I/d diet that can be fed to help soothe sore tummies. Another alternative, which can only be fed for a few days as it is not nutritionally balanced is small frequent meals of chicken and rice. Chicken and rice is easily digested by the gastrointestinal tract
It is no longer recommended to withhold food for 24 hours (or longer) if your pet is vomiting. The gut needs a constant supply of energy from food, or it can start to die off. Continue to offer small amounts of food regularly and offer a variety of food to see if your pet prefers one option over another. Just your presence encouraging your dog to eat can be enough to get them to have a few mouthfuls of food. It is important when pets are sick that they still get nutrition into their bodies as this will speed up their recovery rate.
There are medications that a veterinarian can prescribe to stop or reduce vomiting. Cerenia and Ondansteron are both powerful antinausea medications that can be given in injection and tablet forms and usually last for around 24 hours.
A medication called Metoclopramide has dual benefits. It reduces the sensation of nausea for your dog, making them less likely to vomit, but also increases the motility of the gastrointestinal tract to help move fluid and food through, aiding digestion.
Gastroprotectants may be given to help soothe your dogs tummy. Gastroprotectants either reduce the flow of acid in the stomach or create a protective lining on the stomach and intestinal walls to allow for healing to occur. It’s important with gastroprotectants to read the dosing instructions carefully, as often these medications need to be given separately to other tablets.
I have some Metoclopramide / Ondansetron at home for my own use, can I give this to my dog?
We do not recommend using human medications on dogs without consulting a veterinarian. The dosage for people and dogs is different, and it may mask more serious problems such as an obstruction of the bowel if you treat vomiting at home with these tablets.
When should I be concerned about vomiting in my dog?
If your dog has yellow vomit or yellow foam more than 3 times in 24 hours, or more than 3 times in a week, or if there is blood or coffee grounds-like material in the vomit, veterinary help needs to be sought.
Can my dog die from vomiting?
Vomiting can cause dehydration very quickly in dogs, which can be life-threatening. Some causes of vomiting such as a stomach ulcer or a foreign body lodged in the intestinal tract can cause death if not treated. Thankfully these conditions are less common but are a good reminder that a health check with the veterinarian is always recommended if you are concerned.
Is it okay to let my dog eat the vomit again once they have vomited?
No, clean up the vomit as soon as your dog has vomited. The body chooses to get rid of this material for a reason, so if they re-ingest this, they could be consuming toxic or harmful material again. Offer your pet a small drink of water after they have vomited, but do not let them drink large volumes.
Is it ok to let my dog eat grass as a natural way to get them to vomit?
We do not advise you to let your dog eat grass as a way to induce vomiting, as too much grass can cause obstructions or impactions of the gastrointestinal tract. There are other reasons dogs will eat grass, including unbalanced diets so it can be a sign of other problems not relating to needing to vomit.