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Understanding Vomiting in Dogs

Posted November 13, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Gross title, I know, particularly for those of you not in a medical profession. It takes a strong stomach to read about vomit, but I hope you can bear through it for the sake of your dog. It just may prove beneficial later.

“Normal” Versus “Abnormal” Vomiting
It’s normal and reasonable for most dogs to vomit a few times a year. The cause may be a passing virus or ingestion of something that the gut deems “unagreeable.” Unexplained vomiting that occurs more frequently, however, is abnormal and deserving of medical attention.

Dog in bedOne would think that stepping out of bed barefoot into a puddle of yuck, or new white carpeting decorated with bile stains would initiate a veterinary visit anyway. Yet many people make the mistake of ignoring vomit as long as the animal appears normal otherwise. They justify the vomiting with excuses such as:

  • “He eats too fast.” Baloney! The normal stomach expands just fine whether dinner is consumed over seconds or hours.
  • “He vomits because he eats grass.” This is a classic ‘chicken versus egg’ conundrum. Do dogs vomit because they eat grass or do they eat grass because they feel the need to vomit? Some dogs are grazers. They enjoy munching on greenery and do so without vomiting. This I consider normal. What is abnormal are those dogs who, in response to their nausea or gut discomfort, develop a yen for eating grass, leaves, twigs, dirt, and whatever else Mother Nature is serving. Click here to learn why dogs eat such strange things.
  • “Vomiting is normal in dogs.” No, it is not!

Causes of Vomiting
Vomiting is a super non-specific symptom — I could list at least a few dozen diseases/abnormalities capable of causing dogs to vomit. While it is always tempting to think something must be awry within the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestines) when vomiting occurs, one will frequently miss the diagnosis wearing such blinders. Abnormalities within the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, and pancreas can cause vomiting as the primary symptom. Vomiting can also also be associated with some hormonal imbalances.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vomiting in Dogs
The diagnosis of vomiting begins with you providing a thorough history for your veterinarian. Include details such as:

  • Frequency
  • Time of day
  • Material found in the vomit
  • Anything unusual that might have been ingested
  • Normal diet
  • All other symptoms observed

Next comes a thorough

Related symptoms: 

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Nancy has more than 30 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified veterinary specialist in internal medicine as well as a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2014.