Dog Vomiting: When You Should Worry

When your dog is frequently vomiting you might wonder if it's just a passing stomach upset or if it's something more serious. Vomiting is the forceful ejection of food or liquid through the mouth from the stomach. Severe vomiting can deplete your dog's body of electrolytes and fluids. Some cases require hospitalization to prevent complications of dehydration. Occasionally, coughing from severe respiratory disease can cause gagging, which can be mistaken for vomiting.

Causes of Vomiting

Vomiting in dogs occurs for a number of reasons. These include infection, ingestion of chemicals or drugs, inflammation and metabolic disorders. Less serious causes of vomiting include car sickness, overeating or changes in food.

Infections, especially viruses, can have vomiting as a main symptom. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are susceptible to canine parvovirus infection, a severe disease which can lead to death. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection, can also cause vomiting. Parasitic infections, particularly those in the digestive system, can irritate the stomach and intestines, leading to vomiting.

Inflammation of certain organs can present as vomiting. Pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, uterine infections, and prostrate infections can all cause vomiting in dogs. Problems of the kidneys and liver, and poorly regulated diabetes are metabolic causes of vomiting.

Ingestion of foreign substances such as drugs, pesticides and antifreeze or indiscriminate eating of objects like rocks, clothing or large bones can irritate or block the intestinal tract, leading to vomiting. In addition, tumors in or near the intestinal tract can also cause vomiting.

When to Be Concerned

Most dogs will have an occasional vomiting spell now and then, primarily due to eating something that does not sit well in their stomachs. Vomiting accompanied by other signs, or vomiting which becomes chronic, should prompt you to contact your veterinarian.

Contact a veterinarian immediately if the following is seen in a vomiting dog:

  • Severe vomiting that comes on suddenly
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Suspected foreign body ingestion
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Pain (abdominal or otherwise)
  • Seizures
  • Blood in the vomit

To assist the veterinarian in diagnosing the cause, the vomit should be examined for blood, parasites or any other foreign material. Check your dog's or child's toy box for any missing items. If your dog loves to chew on clothing or furniture, investigate for signs of recent chewing activity and possible swallowing of chewed items.

Other items to note in preparing to discuss the issue with the veterinarian:

  • Amount of material vomited
  • Consistency of vomit (food, liquid, foam)
  • Color of vomit
  • Frequency
  • Appetite
  • General health