Symptoms and Causes of Nausea in Dogs

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nausea in dogs

Nausea in dogs is a very common problem. This symptom can occur by itself but is also very common just prior to the act of vomiting. In humans, nausea is also 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 dogs can’t tell you they are “sick to their stomach.” In many occasions, 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 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 dogs with nausea will lie in the same spot 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, and any disease or condition that would cause vomiting.

Nausea in dogs can be caused by disorders of the gastrointestinal system (stomach and/or intestines) or it can be secondary to a disease from a different system cancer, acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or various infectious diseases. 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 he 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.

**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. Learn more about what you can do at home for the vomiting dog.

Canine Nausea – What to Watch For:

Common signs of nausea in dogs may include:

Other signs that can be associated with nausea may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving (this can be associated with an emergency condition called “bloat”).
  • Dehydration (persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration)
  • Abnormal behavior or physical abnormalities associated with prolonged vomiting such as the presence of lethargy (reluctance to move), abdominal pain, lack of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting or other physical abnormalities.

Diagnosis of Nausea 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. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination, including abdominal palpation. Medical history will most likely include questions regarding the following: exposure to trash; vaccination history; diet; appetite; general health; associated vomiting and character of vomitus (frequency, progression, presence of blood duration of vomiting); weight loss; past medical problems; medication history and presence of other gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend a number of laboratory tests which may include a complete blood count (CBC), a serum biochemical panel, and a urinalysis.
  • Fecal examination (to determine presence of parasites or blood)
  • Plain radiography (X-rays) or contrast X-rays (X-rays performed after your dog is given a contrast material such as barium or aqueous iodine) which can help to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Ultrasonography is an imaging technique that allows visualization of abdominal structures by recording reflection (echoes) of inaudible sound waves to determine the size and shape of abdominal organs, it can also detect changes in the consistency or texture of organs.
  • Endoscopy may be useful for diagnosis or to remove certain foreign bodies in the stomach. This technology can also be used for examination of the stomach and a portion of the intestine and to obtain biopsies of abnormal areas noted during the exam.

Treatment of Nausea in Dogs

Common treatments for canine nausea may include one or more of the following:

  • Eliminate the predisposing cause (e.g. exposure to trash, change in diet, stop any medications that may be contributing to the nausea, etc.) can help. Patients who eat too quickly or overeat can be treated by feeding small portions at a time or by using feeders designed to slow eating.
  • An acute episode of nausea with or without vomiting in a playful dog, in the absence of other physical abnormalities, may be treated symptomatically without hospitalization (outpatient treatment). This may consist of subcutaneous fluids, injectable antiemetics (drugs used to control nausea and vomiting), and a follow-up appointment if the symptoms are not resolved immediately.  A drug commonly used to treat nausea is Maropitant (commonly known by the brand name Cerenia). This drug comes in both injectable and oral forms. Many times a dog is given an injection and sent home with the oral pills.
  • Dogs with abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy or any other physical abnormality may be treated with hospitalization. Therapy may include intravenous fluid administration, 24-hour monitoring, and drug treatment. This is often combined with diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Sick dogs may require referral to an emergency or 24-hour hospital that offers care around the clock.

Home Care and Prevention of Nausea in Dogs

Follow-up with your veterinarian for [[AWT|5679|re-examinations]] of your dog as recommended and administer any medications they prescribe. 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.

  • Treatment for nausea is dependent on the cause. Symptomatic therapy of an episode of nausea and vomiting includes withholding food and water for 3 to 4 hours. If your dog has not vomited by the end of this time, offer water a few tablespoons at a time. Continue to offer small amounts of water every 20 minutes or so until your dog is hydrated.
  • After the small increments of water are offered, gradually offer an easily digestible food. Small frequent feedings of a bland digestible diet such as Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D, Iams Recovery Diet, Provision EN, or Waltham Low Fat are usually recommended. Homemade diets of boiled rice or potatoes (as the carbohydrate source) and lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese as a protein source are also recommended. Here are instructions on how to make a bland diet at home.
  • Medications to reduce stomach acid may be recommended. A common and safe medication commonly used at home is famotidine (Pepcid). For dosage and medication information, go to the Drug Library article on Pepcid.
  • Gradually return your dog to regular food over 1 or 2 days. If vomiting continues at any time or you note the onset of other symptoms, call your veterinarian promptly.
  • If your dog is not eating, acts lethargic, vomiting starts or continues, or any of the other physical abnormalities mentioned above begin, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your dog needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your dog is having the clinical signs mentioned above, expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. These recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

Prevention of nausea in dogs is aimed at minimizing your dog’s exposure to trash (bones, food products), foreign material (socks, strings, etc.) or toxins. Walk your dog on a leash to minimize exposure to foreign material that may be located outside. 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.


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