Why Do Dogs Throw Up So Much?
When you own a dog for more than a few days, you will deal with your pup vomiting. If it’s just once, it’s an inconvenience. If it happens pretty regularly, it can be upsetting for pet owners. When we don’t know why our dogs vomit, it can be rather worrisome.
The truth is that often when we think our dogs are vomiting, they’re actually regurgitating. There’s more than a semantic difference in those words, one is more common than the other, and one is cause for more concern than the other.
Let’s look at the differences and when you should think about taking your dog to the vet.
Dogs Vomiting or Regurgitating?
While many people think these are synonyms, they’re not. When your dog regurgitates, he’s expelling food from his esophagus—food that hasn’t reached the stomach.
A significant indicator of whether your pup is vomiting or regurgitating is what comes out. If what your dog throws up looks pretty much like what he just ate, he’s regurgitating. It still looks like food because it never reached the stomach and its digestive acids.
Sometimes, your pup will regurgitate because he ate or drank too fast, or he may be over-excited or stressed. Occasional regurgitation should not cause alarm, although continued regurgitation can indicate a medical problem.
Regurgitation is less common than vomiting, but it’s not necessarily less serious. If your dog regurgitates just once, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, frequent regurgitation is not normal and can indicate a serious health issue.
Some breeds are more prone to congenital regurgitation, a condition in which the esophagus muscles remain somewhat under-developed. These breeds include:
- German shepherds
- Great danes
- Irish setters
- Labrador retrievers
- Some breeds of schnauzers and terriers
Acquired regurgitation results from problems with the esophagus or the throat and can come from:
- Gastric reflux
Again, if regurgitation happens infrequently, your dog’s health probably isn’t in question. If it’s happening regularly, you’ll need to take him to the vet.
When your dog vomits, he is throwing up food from the stomach. It’s been at least partially digested and can come in many colors and consistencies.
Also, while regurgitation usually happens quickly and without warning, vomiting will have a lead-up. Just like when people vomit, dogs know something is amiss before it happens.
They may drool, pace, or lick their lips before they vomit, and while they vomit, you will notice their stomach heaving, which does not happen with regurgitation.
Their abdominal muscles must engage in emptying the stomach, but the stomach isn’t involved with regurgitation so that you won’t see that retching or heaving.
Vomiting is much more an indicator of health issues than regurgitation because, as when humans vomit, it’s an indicator that something is wrong.
If your dog vomits once every now and then, perhaps he ate something that disagreed with him, but if it’s happening with regularity, that’s not normal and should get checked out.
He might have eaten something dangerous, as there are foods that dogs should never eat, though because they’re dogs, they don’t know what’s on that list.
The vast majority of instances of dogs vomiting results from gastrointestinal issues. Causes of regular vomiting in dogs include:
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Ingestion of toxic substances
- Intestinal parasites or obstructions
- Non-food items in the digestive tract
- Organ failure (kidney, liver, pancreas)
Color and Consistency
We may be able to diagnose our pup’s issue by examining the vomitus. Different vomit colors can tell us at least partially what’s going on in the animal’s innards.
If your dog’s vomit is yellow, it most likely contains stomach bile. The stomach gets rid of that bile when it builds up too much.
This can happen simply because the dog has gone too long without eating, or it might be that something else made the pup vomit, but his stomach was empty.
Dogs that vomit yellow in the morning have probably gone too long without eating, and you should adjust their feeding schedules.
Often an indicator of severe nausea, clear vomit usually consists primarily of water. The presence of water in vomit means your pooch can’t even keep that down, and he has thrown up enough already that all that’s left is the water he has been drinking since the vomiting began.
Red or Pink Vomit
Red or pink indicates blood in the vomitus, which reveals a serious problem. It could indicate bleeding from an ulcer in the digestive system, blood clots, tumors, or even that the dog has ingested rat poison. Red or pink vomitus means you need to get to the vet immediately.
Most often, brown vomit is just regurgitation because the food the dog ate and hasn’t yet digested was brown when he ate it. But if the vomit doesn’t look like food, the brown can indicate that your dog has eaten poop, or the brown could actually be dried blood.
Gall bladder disorders can produce green vomit, as can eating grass. The latter will most often be green and have grass in it.
Many people believe that dogs eat grass when they don’t feel well, but there isn’t any scientific evidence behind this. The fact is that dogs are omnivores, so sometimes they eat meat, and sometimes they eat plants. Occasionally, they eat basketballs, for heaven’s sake.
No matter why your dog vomits, the frequency of when it happens is important, too. If your dog ate some trash, he might throw up once or twice, go lie down, and be back to normal tomorrow because he expelled the offending piece of non-food.
But if your dog vomits regularly, that could indicate a serious medical problem such as a failing organ or a disease. If your dog has been vomiting for more than 12 hours, you need to take him to the vet. Other causes for alarm include:
- Accompanying weight loss
- An enlarged abdomen
- Dry heaving
- Projectile vomiting
- Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea
- Vomiting in a puppy or an elderly dog
Any one of these can serve as an indication of serious medical issues that could be life-threatening.
Your dog depends on you for his health and safety, so if he regurgitates or throws up for long periods, he needs to get checked out.
However, isolated instances of either can happen occasionally and do not serve as cause for alarm. If your dog does either, bite the bullet and examine what came out of him.
After you’ve cleaned it up, keep an eye on the pup, and if all is well, he’ll bounce right back. You can go back to your happy lives together and wait for the inevitable next time he decorates your carpet because let’s face it, dogs throw up. It’s one of their things.