You likely have several pet-specific cleaning products in your closet for cleaning up after your dog’s vomiting accidents, because dog vomit is one of the less alluring parts of dog ownership. Our veterinarians in south Austin at Oliver Animal Hospital want to provide information about why your dog vomits, and what conditions should cause you concern.

Know the science behind your dog’s vomiting

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents caused by contraction of the gut and abdominal musculature. This occurs when the vomiting center, located in an area of the brain called the medulla oblongata, is stimulated by one or more of four sites.

  • Gastrointestinal tract — Factors such as infectious diseases, foreign bodies, and blockages can trigger a response.
  • Vestibular system — Abnormalities in the inner ear can trigger a response.
  • Chemoreceptor trigger zone — This area of the medulla oblongata receives input from drugs or hormones that can trigger a response.
  • Cortex and thalamus — These areas in the brain can trigger vomiting in response to severe anxiety or pain.

Distinguish your dog’s vomit from regurgitation

Your dog may expel something from their mouth that is not vomit. As opposed to the forceful expulsion seen in vomiting, regurgitation involves a passive expulsion from the esophagus. Whereas vomit is typically sour smelling, partially digested food, regurgitation is undigested food. Knowing whether your dog is vomiting or regurgitating is necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Conditions that could result in your dog regurgitating include inflammation, or esophageal and mega esophageal ulcers. Regurgitation occurs when the esophagus distends, allowing food to accumulate inside a pocket.

Assess your dog’s vulnerability

A puppy or a senior dog is more at risk for developing severe complications from vomiting. Puppies are not fully vaccinated, and therefore lack an adequate ability to mount an immune response against certain diseases. Parvovirus and canine distemper can be life-threatening for your puppy, who will often initially present with vomiting. Puppies are also more vulnerable to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnutrition from vomiting bouts. Geriatric dogs are prone to serious conditions, such as kidney disease and liver failure, that can cause vomiting, and are also more susceptible to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Assess your dog’s vomit

Different characteristics of your dog’s vomit can provide information about the cause of the problem.

  • White, foamy vomit — If your dog is producing white, foamy vomit, they have excess acid and gas in their stomach.
  • Yellow vomit — Yellow vomit indicates that your dog’s stomach is probably empty. A digestive fluid called bile causes the yellow color and can irritate their stomach.
  • Wormy vomit — Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, can be found in vomit, especially if your dog has a heavy infection.
  • Bloody vomit — If your dog is producing bloody vomit, they are bleeding somewhere along their gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding close to the mouth is bright red, while bleeding closer to the rectum is darker, and may be granular in appearance.

Know when your vomiting dog needs veterinary attention

If your dog vomits once and then acts normally, without exhibiting any other signs, they likely do not need to be rushed to the hospital. You should seek veterinary care if your dog is:

  • Showing other signs while vomiting — Other signs, such as lethargy, fever, pain, diarrhea, or a distended abdomen, signify that your dog should be seen by a veterinary professional.
  • Vomiting blood — If your dog is vomiting blood, this indicates a serious issue. Conditions that could cause your dog to vomit blood include ingesting rat poison, clotting disorders, and ulcerations along their gastrointestinal tract.
  • Non-productive retching — If your dog is trying to vomit with no success, they could have an intestinal blockage or be suffering from bloat. These conditions can be life-threatening if not promptly addressed.
  • Poison or toxin ingestion — If you suspect your vomiting dog has ingested a poisonous or toxic substance, you should immediately call Oliver Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control.
  • Persistent vomiting — If your dog has been vomiting for several days, they could be affected by a serious condition, such as kidney or liver failure, or cancer, and need veterinary care.

Prevent your dog from vomiting

While several conditions that cause your dog to vomit cannot be prevented, you can take certain steps to protect them from other causes.

  • Veterinary care — Keep your dog current on all vaccines to protect them against infectious diseases that can cause vomiting. Regular wellness exams are also recommended, to diagnose conditions such as kidney or liver disease while they can still be managed.
  • Dietary concerns — Any sudden change to your dog’s diet, including receiving table scraps and food from dumpster diving, can result in an upset stomach. Several common foods, such as grapes, onions, and xylitol are toxic to dogs, and should never be given to your dog.
  • Dangers of foreign bodies — Ensure you keep small objects away from your dog. Items such as rocks, bones, and small toys can be ingested and cause an intestinal obstruction. Toys that can easily be torn apart or broken also pose a danger. 

We hope we have helped you to know how to discern a benign vomiting issue from a serious concern. If your dog is vomiting, do not hesitate to contact our team at Oliver Animal Hospital.