Most dog owners have jumped out of bed in the middle of the night because they heard the familiar retching sounds of a dog about to vomit—usually on an expensive rug or bedspread. Many dog vomiting episodes are self-limiting and caused by passing factors, such as a minor bug or eating something that didn’t agree with them, but vomiting can signal a more serious problem. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers Wallisville team outlines the top reasons why dogs vomit.

#1: Your dog ate something new or different

Sudden diet changes, new treats, spoiled food, table scraps, or garbage can induce vomiting in sensitive pets. Veterinarians call this phenomenon “dietary indiscretion,” which often causes “garbage gut.” Usually, this vomiting is self-limiting but may require treatment if the vomiting does not stop on its own.

#2: Your dog has an infection

Many infections cause vomiting in pets and may affect only the GI tract or the whole body,  with salmonella bacteria, canine parvovirus, or intestinal parasites (e.g., roundworms or hookworms) common examples. Infection treatment, which may involve a round of antibiotics or, in the case of parvovirus, several days in intensive care and hospitalization, usually stops the vomiting.

#3: Your dog has a primary gastrointestinal disorder

Primary GI disorders directly affect the GI tract’s health, structure, or function, and result in vomiting. Primary GI disorders include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), intestinal lymphoma, and gastric ulcers. Other signs, such as diarrhea and weight loss, may also be present. Vomiting is usually chronic or recurrent and in some cases, may be the only sign that your dog is sick. 

#4: Your dog has a food allergy or intolerance

Dogs can develop an allergy or intolerance to food ingredients at any time of life. Food allergies are generally uncommon, but more likely in pets with other kinds of allergies. A food allergy or intolerance may cause chronic vomiting or diarrhea with or without skin signs such as itching or hair loss.

#5: Your dog ate a foreign object

Dogs are notorious for swallowing foreign items they cannot digest and will develop an obstruction if the object is too large to pass through their GI tract naturally. Dogs will persistently vomit food and water that cannot pass through the GI tract normally. A GI foreign body is a pet emergency that often requires endoscopic retrieval or exploratory abdominal surgery.

#6: Your dog has bloat

Bloat is the common term for a condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus, which happens when a dog’s stomach fills up with air and twists on itself, cutting off circulation to the stomach and other GI tissues. At-risk dogs are generally large breeds with deep chests, such as standard poodles and Great Danes. Dogs with bloat appear uncomfortable and may continuously retch but produce no vomit. Bloat is an emergency that requires surgery to deflate, untwist, and tack the stomach in place.

#7: Your dog ate a toxin

Many different toxins produce vomiting as the first sign of your dog’s accidental consumption. Chocolate, xylitol, some rat poisons, prescription medications, and toxic plants are some toxins that may cause vomiting that is usually accompanied by other signs, such as disorientation, seizures, difficulty walking, or collapse. Toxin ingestions require emergency care.

#8: Your dog has a non-gastrointestinal illness

In addition to the causes above, vomiting can be a vague, non-specific sign of many other systemic diseases, including liver disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, cancer, uterine infections (i.e., pyometra), heatstroke, endocrine disorders, or brain disease. Vomiting is usually chronic or recurrent, and pets may have other illness signs that can be attributed to the underlying problem.

When to seek veterinary care for vomiting

Dogs who vomit a few times but act normally otherwise can usually be managed at home by withholding food for a few hours and then offering small, frequent feedings of a bland diet (e.g., boiled chicken and white rice or potato) for a few days. A pet who is vomiting frequently or continuously, whose vomit contains blood, or who is showing other illness signs (e.g., belly pain, lethargy, refusal to eat, diarrhea, weakness), requires urgent or emergency veterinary care. For your dog with chronic or episodic vomiting, schedule a visit with our team, because they need veterinary care to uncover the underlying cause of their vomiting.

Most dogs will have lifelong isolated vomiting episodes for varying minor causes, but our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers Wallisville team in Southeast Texas should quickly address your pet’s recurrent, chronic, or severe vomiting. Call us during normal business hours if you are concerned about your pet’s vomiting, or reach out to our after-hours triage line for help or referral when the office is closed.