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Why Your Dog is Throwing Up

Just like humans, dogs get sick and throw up from time to time. When your pet is sick and throwing up, it can be distressing and messy. Dogs vomit for a variety of reasons, many of which are not serious. However, sometimes vomiting can be a sign that something is extremely wrong with your pet, and you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Vomiting vs Regurgitating

Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth, as a result of the stomach muscles rapidly contracting. Sometimes vomiting is confused with regurgitation, which is when food or drink is expelled from the esophagus or mouth before it reaches the stomach. Regurgitation usually occurs as a result of choking or esophageal disorders.

How to Tell When Your Dog is About to Throw Up

Just as humans tend to know that they need to vomit, so do dogs. Knowing when your dog is about to throw up can make it easier to get them outside in time. Dogs often exhibit behavior to suggest they’re about to throw up, which can include licking their lips, drooling and swallowing excessively. They may also appear to be taking deep breaths.

Reasons for Vomiting

If you’ve ever owned a puppy, then you know how hard it is to train them to only eat their dog food and treats. One of the biggest causes of vomiting in dogs stems from their willingness to eat almost anything that they lay their paws on.

When dogs eat something that they shouldn’t, or if something disagrees with their stomach, your dog’s body will protect itself by vomiting to expel the item.

Nausea and vomiting is also a common side effect of motion sickness, which your dog could be experiencing, if they have been running around in circles and become dizzy, or if they are unaccustomed to travelling by vehicle.

However, vomiting can also be indicative of a number of serious conditions, including:

  • Addison’s disease

  • Diabetes mellitus

  • Exposure to toxins

  • Food allergies or intolerances

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers or gastroenteritis

  • Head trauma

  • Infections (bacterial, viral or fungal)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Intestinal obstruction, which could be cause by a tumor, displacement or foreign body

  • Kidney disease

  • Liver disease

  • Pancreatic disease

  • Parasites

  • Side effect of taking certain medications

  • Some varieties of cancer

When to Seek Veterinary Assistance

If your dog is relatively bright and alert and only has one vomiting episode, veterinary assistance is probably not necessary. However, if your dog has vomited more than once, or exhibits any of the following symptoms, then you should contact your veterinarian to gain further advice. Concerning signs to look for include:

  • Blood in the vomit

  • Vomit that is green

  • Projectile vomiting

  • If your dog is heaving and trying to be sick, but nothing is expelled

  • A bloated or swollen stomach

  • Fever and/or chills

  • Diarrhea

  • Decreased urination

  • Gums that are pale or yellow

  • Lethargy/depression

  • Your dog appears to be in pain

You should also contact your vet if your dog is not up to date with all his vaccinations, is a puppy, or if you believe he has eaten something toxic or poisonous.

Your vet will probably ask you a number of questions over the phone which will help him to establish how severe the vomiting is, and how quickly your pet should be seen.

Visiting Your Veterinarian

If your dog requires an appointment with your vet, you can expect to be asked a number of questions about his condition. In order for your vet to make an accurate diagnosis and start the correct course of treatment as soon as possible, it would be helpful if you could answer questions such as:

  • When did the vomiting start?

  • How long has your dog been vomiting / How many episodes of vomiting has your dog had?

  • What does the vomit look like? What color is it?

  • Is there any reason to believe that your pet has ingested a toxic substance or foreign object?

  • Are there any other concerning symptoms and if so, what are they?

Your veterinarian will use these answers, along with general information about your pet to establish a cause of vomiting. In some instances, imaging tests such as x-ray or CT scan may be necessary.


Although vomiting is not always a sign of something serious, prompt identification of the cause and the right treatment can help your pet feel well again. If you have any questions or concerns, you should always contact your veterinarian for advice and support.

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