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Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Nausea in Dogs

Nausea in dogs and cats is a very common problem. In fact, nausea is one of the most common symptoms vets see in pets. This symptom can occur by itself, but is also very common just prior to the act of vomiting. In humans, nausea is referred to as “feeling sick to your stomach” or “queasy” and is associated with a feeling of discomfort and unease in the stomach. In dogs, nausea is harder to define, since pets can’t tell you that they are “sick to their stomach.” In many instances, it is unclear that there is an issue until the dog vomits.

The most common symptoms of nausea in dogs are lack of appetite, licking, restlessness, and excessive drooling. Nausea can make some dogs restless during which time they will pace and appear unable to get comfortable. This is common just prior to vomiting. Other pets with nausea may lie in the same spot while drooling.

Overview of Canine Nausea

Nausea is a nonspecific symptom, which means there are many different possible causes. Common reasons for canine nausea include eating too fast or overeating, changes in diet, eating something indigestible or spoiled, licking something with an unpleasant taste (such as cleaning chemicals or topical flea prevention products), motion sickness, side effects of some medications or post anesthesia, and any disease or condition that can cause vomiting. Application of eye drops can cause nausea in some dogs. Ingestion or licking of cleaning materials can range in danger from being caustic, toxic, or just having a disagreeable taste.

Nausea in dogs can be caused by different conditions of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and/or intestines) or it can be secondary to a disease from a different system, like cancer, acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or various infectious diseases, including parvovirus. The variety of causes can make finding the root cause of nausea a challenge.

At one time or another, your dog may have episodes of vomiting before which they probably had a period of nausea. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem or it may be a sign of something very serious. It can also be an acute problem with a sudden onset or a chronic problem associated with other symptoms such as decreased appetite, vomiting, and/or weight loss.

An occasional, isolated episode of nausea with or without vomiting is usually normal and not a reason for major concern.

The severity or concurrence of other signs will determine whether specific diagnostic tests are recommended. Important considerations include the duration and frequency of the nausea, so it is important to monitor these things. If your dog vomits once then eats normally with no further vomiting, or has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own. If the nausea and vomiting continues after your dog eats, if your dog acts lethargic, or doesn’t want to eat, then medical attention is warranted from your vet. Learn about specific home care instructions in Home Care for the Vomiting Dog.

Common Signs of Nausea in Dogs

Nausea in dogs is demonstrated by excessive drooling and licking and can be a symptom of many different underlying health problems.

Common signs of nausea in dogs and cats may include:

Other signs or symptoms that can be associated with nausea may include:

Diagnosis of Nausea in Dogs

The diagnosis of nausea is based on the signs listed above and observation of the sequel to nausea, which is vomiting of food and/or bile. When vomiting occurs, it is important to evaluate the contents of the vomit for clues as to why your dog is nauseated. For example, look in vomit to identify bile, food, grass, mulch, toys, candy wrappers, or other foreign material that you may or may not know that your pet ingested. Any of these abnormal findings could help you identify the cause for the nausea.

There are many different reasons nausea can occur in dogs. Optimal therapy for any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of nausea and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause.

Questions or tests your vet may consider include:

Treatment of Nausea in Dogs

Feeling nauseous is no fun for humans or dogs. Common treatments for canine nausea may include one or more of the following:

Home Care for Nausea in Dogs

Follow-up with your veterinarian for re-examinations of your dog as recommended and administer any medications they prescribe. To be safe, do not administer any medication without the approval or recommendation of your vet. If your dog experiences an inadequate response to previous medical measures, a further workup may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the nausea.

Additional home care recommendations for dogs with nausea include:

Prevention of Nausea in Dogs

Prevention of nausea in dogs and cats is aimed at minimizing your pets exposure to trash (bones, food products), foreign material (socks, strings, etc.), medications, or toxins. Walk your dog on a leash to reduce exposure to foreign or toxic materials that may be located outside. Dogs with a history of motion sickness can be treated with medications such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), meclizine (Bonine®) and dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®). Some pets can also overcome motion sickness by conditioning them to travel. Learn more about Motion Sickness in Dogs. Sudden food changes can also cause symptoms of digestive upset. When you change dog food, do it gradually. Mix in a little of the new food to your dogs current diet, then gradually mix in more over the course of a week. Ensure you are feeding a high quality AAFCO-approved dog food. Monitor your dog’s appetite and general health as well. If your dog is overeating, feed smaller and more frequent meals to prevent further nausea.

We hope this gives you more information on nausea in dogs. If you believe your pup is nauseated, seek consultation with your veterinary hospital or after-hours emergency clinic.