Is your dog vomiting? How to help if they start throwing up

Is your dog vomiting? How to help if they start throwing up

After your dog vomits, knowing what to do next can be difficult. Is it the result of a simple upset stomach after eating too much, too quickly, or is it the sign of something more serious? Since your pup can’t tell you how they are feeling, it’s important to pay attention to their signs and symptoms. Follow these steps to help your best friend feel much better in no time.


Do

Do check the vomit

From a veterinary standpoint, the first thing I tell people when they say their dog has vomited is to look at what was thrown up. Although a little unpleasant, knowing if it was mainly food, water, or bile can provide a lot of information about the severity of the case. In addition, the time of day the vomiting occurred is also important to consider. For example, vomiting when the stomach is empty has more serious implications than if your pet simply vomited up food after eating. If it occurred in the morning, your dog may have ingested something other than their food during the night without your knowledge, or there may be another issue. If it was after a large meal, your dog may have just eaten too quickly, which is not a large cause for concern. Share these details with your veterinarian to help them properly diagnose your pet.

Do immediately take away all food and water

As soon as your dog vomits, immediately take away all food and water. And don’t forget to put the toilet seat down! Your dog will be very thirsty, but make sure they aren’t able to drink anything right away. It may be instinctual to want to offer your pet something to eat or drink, but it is important to allow their stomach to fully settle. Adding anything else to the stomach, even water, could prolong the vomiting. If your dog does not vomit any more within an hour, then you can offer small amount of water, then food. If vomiting reoccurs, discontinue all again, and call your veterinarian.

Do consider your dog’s age

Another detail that could have a large impact on determining the cause of the vomiting is your dog’s age. In puppies, the most common causes can be disease (like Parvovirus if your pet has not been properly vaccinated) or even foreign body or toxin ingestion. We all know how curious puppies can be, which can cause trouble for their stomachs if they eat something other than food. If we’re lucky, the puppy will vomit it up. However, if you pup is still acting sick or sluggish and you are concerned they ingested something dangerous, alert your veterinarian. Besides foreign body ingestion, an intestinal blockage caused by a condition called intussusception is another much more serious issue that could be the cause of frequent vomiting in puppies. Treatment almost always requires surgery, but is often successful as long as it is quickly addressed.

Once dogs leave the rambunctious puppy phase, they are much less likely to eat things they know they shouldn’t. For adult dogs, the most common cause of vomiting is a simple gastric upset, such as after eating too much food too quickly or eating people food that is more rich or fatty than they can tolerate or digest well. However, frequent vomiting can be a sign of gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach. This could be a symptom of a serious condition, including internal parasites, liver failure, kidney failure, or a number of other diseases.

Do contact your veterinarian if vomiting persists

Most of the time, vomiting is not a major problem, but if it persists, there could be a serious issue at hand. As always, if you are concerned about your dog’s health, immediately contact your veterinarian. Only they can properly diagnose your pet.


Don't

Do not alter your dog’s diet

When feeding your dog, try to be as consistent as possible with his or her diet, since dietary indiscretion is the biggest cause of vomiting. Humans are able to eat many different types of food without any problem, but dogs’ digestive systems are built on monotony — the more regular the diet, the better. Make sure you are feeding them a reputable brand of dog food formulated specifically for their stage of life. If you do need to change your dog’s food, such as when transitioning them to a senior formula, make this a gradual change. Mix the two foods together for about a week to help prevent an upset stomach, which may cause vomiting.

Do not offer your dog anything to eat or drink for at least an hour

You should only offer your dog anything to eat or drink if an hour or two has gone by without any additional vomiting. After this time has passed, it is ok to offer one or two laps of water. If they’re able to hold the water down after another hour or so, offer something very bland to eat, such as a few bites of baby food or white rice, so that the stomach is not stressed any further. Following these steps, you may allow your dog to resume normal eating habits. As long as your pup goes back to eating regularly with no other vomiting or other symptoms, consider it a simple case of gastric upset. No harm, no foul.

Do not give your dog people food

Sure, we’ve all been tempted to feed Fido scraps from the table, but doing so causes more harm than good. Dogs simply cannot well digest the variety of food that we eat. Any sudden change to your dog’s diet is often the biggest cause of vomiting. Sticking to a routine diet for your dog is the best way to prevent an upset stomach.

Do not feed your dog what you wouldn’t eat yourself

If you wouldn’t eat it, neither should your dog. Never feed your dog the fat off your meat or any sort of animal bone, regardless of size or thickness. For a dog, eating a bone is like eating ground glass, since it could cause internal lacerations. There are plenty of treats and man-made toys available offering the same chewing satisfaction without the consequences. For specific recommendations, ask your veterinarian.


Summary
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Although vomiting is most commonly due to simple gastric upset related to food intake, it could also be a symptom of a serious disease or condition. By keeping these dos and don’ts in mind, you will give your dog the best chance to live a long and healthy life. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment.


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Margaret (Peggy) J. Rucker, D.V.M.President-Elect, Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA)

Margaret (Peggy) J. Rucker, D.V.M. is the incoming president-elect of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) and a veterinarian at Southwest Virginia Veterinary Services in Lebanon, Virginia. She graduated from the University of Geor...

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