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It’s normal for dogs to throw up every once in a while. But what if your dog has vomited several times, or you think he may have gotten into the trash and eaten toxic table scraps?
Since severe vomiting can cause your dog to lose essential electrolytes and fluids – and may be an indication of some serious health problems – it’s important to be aware of the possible causes of his vomiting and to know when it’s time for a visit to your veterinarian.
What Could Be Causing My Dog to Vomit?
There are many reasons your dog could be vomiting. The two main causes of vomiting, according to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, are primary (gastric) causes due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract; and secondary (non-gastric) causes due to diseases of other organs, which cause toxic substances to accumulate in the blood and stimulate the vomiting center in your dog’s brain.
Vetinfo.com notes that these are some of the more common reasons a dog may be vomiting:
Viral, bacterial or parasitic infection
Intestinal tract tumors
Ingestion of toxins
Eating foreign objects such as rocks, clothing or large bones
Changes in diet
When Should I Call My Vet?
If your dog only vomits once and he otherwise seems bright and alert, it’s probably not necessary to call your vet, according to Holly Nash, DVM, MS, on peteducation.com. But if your dog vomits more than once or seems to be ill, give your vet a call.
“It will be helpful for your veterinarian to know when the vomiting started, how many times your dog has vomited, what the vomit looks like and if your dog is uncomfortable,” Nash advises.
You should call your vet immediately if your dog shows any of these symptoms, according to Nash and vetinfo.com:
Sudden, severe vomiting
He appears to be trying to vomit, but nothing comes out (“dry heaves”)
Bloated or swollen abdomen
Pale or yellow gums
He seems to be in pain
There’s blood in his vomit
You should also call the vet if you think your dog has eaten something toxic or poisonous, or if your dog is a puppy and has not yet received all his vaccinations.
How Will My Vet Determine the Cause of My Dog’s Vomiting?
It is important for your vet to diagnose exactly why your dog is vomiting in order to determine the appropriate treatment.
Vomiting vs. regurgitation – “Vomiting is the ejection of contents of the stomach and upper intestine; regurgitation is the ejection of contents of the esophagus,” writes Washington State University. If your dog is regurgitating, the undigested food is usually expelled without effort. But if he is vomiting, he heaves and retches, expelling food that’s partially digested. Food normally passes quickly through the esophagus on its way to the stomach. But if your dog’s esophagus muscle loses tone, it dilates, preventing food from moving to his stomach. This causes your dog to regurgitate food soon after eating it.
Appearance of the vomit – A diagnosis can be determined based on whether the vomit is just fluids or contains food; the color of vomit; and whether the vomit contains blood or bile.
Degree and severity – This is indicated by your dog licking or smacking his lips, drooling, swallowing or gulping. You should also take note whether your dog vomits around mealtime or after drinking water. The severity of the vomiting – how often it occurs and whether it is projectile – should also be considered.
Medical history – The more information you can provide about your dog, the easier it will be for your vet to make a diagnosis. Be prepared to let your vet know about your dog’s vaccinations; the type of wormer he has received and how frequently; any contact with other dogs; his diet; whether he’s recently had access to garbage or toxins; and any medications he is taking.
She will probably weigh your dog and take his temperature, check his heart and respiration, palpate his abdomen, check for dehydration and perform a rectal exam.
She will look inside his mouth to check for foreign objects such as string, which can “wind around the base of his tongue, with the rest of the object extending into the stomach or small intestine,” according to Washington State University.
In some cases, your vet may recommend a fecal flotation, which, according to Nash, checks for parasites such as intestinal worms. If your vet suspects a bacterial infection, she may perform a fecal culture and sensitivity. “In cases of certain viral diseases, such as parvovirus, other tests on the feces may aid in the diagnosis,” Nash writes.
Your vet may also perform blood work, including a complete blood count and chemistry panel. X-rays may be taken if your vet suspects your dog may have a tumor, foreign body or other internal problem. Other imaging such as a barium study or ultrasound, or an examination using an endoscope or colonoscopy, may be recommended.
For some diseases, it may be necessary for your vet to perform a biopsy and examine it microscopically.
Peteducation.com has a comprehensive table showing various possible causes, diagnosis and treatment of your dog’s vomiting.
How Can I Treat My Dog’s Vomiting?
The treatment your vet recommends will depend on the reason why your dog is vomiting.
If your dog has intestinal worms, your vet will prescribe a wormer.
If your dog is dehydrated, he may need to be given fluids intravenously.
If the vomiting is caused by bacteria, your vet may prescribe antibiotics.
Unless your dog has ingested a toxin or has a bacterial infection, your vet may prescribe medication to help stop the vomiting.
You will typically need to withhold food for 24 to 48 hours, and provide your dog with small and frequent amounts of water to drink. “Then, a bland diet such as boiled hamburger and rice is offered in small amounts,” writes Nash.
If your dog stops vomiting, you can feed him ”small amounts of a bland low-fat food three to six times daily for a few days,” according to Washington State University.
In some cases, you may need to permanently change your dog’s diet. Your dog may need to avoid certain ingredients, or you may need to add fiber to his diet or decrease the fat, according to Nash.
Next Week: HOW TO Stop Your Dog from Eating Poop
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.