Vomiting in Dogs


Overview of Vomiting in Dogs

At one time or another your dog may have a bout of vomiting. Usually he’ll have eaten something disagreeable, eaten too much or too fast, exercised too soon after eating or any number of non-serious conditions. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem. Or it may be a sign of something very serious.

Vomiting (emesis) is the act of expelling contents from the stomach through the mouth. It’s a reflex act, involving a triggering stimulus (such as inflammation of the stomach), the central nervous system and abdominal muscles that work together to expel the contents from the stomach. There are multiple causes of vomiting. An occasional, infrequent isolated episode of vomiting is usually normal.

Vomiting is a symptom that 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 (such as from cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, or infectious diseases). This can make the diagnosis of the cause of the vomiting a challenge.

Vomiting can be defined as acute (sudden onset) or chronic (longer duration of one to two weeks). The severity or concurrence of other signs will determine the recommendation of specific diagnostic tests. Important considerations include monitoring the duration and frequency of the vomiting. If your pet vomits once then eats normally with no further vomiting, has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own. If the vomiting continues after your pet eats or if your pet acts lethargic, or doesn’t want to eat, then medical attention is warranted.

What to Watch For

  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Loss
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Ineffective vomiting
  • Diagnosis of Vomiting in Dogs

    Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of vomiting and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Initial therapy should be aimed at 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; 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. These can 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 with a contrast material such as barium or aqueous iodine), can help to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Ultrasonography is an imaging technique that allows visualization of abdominal structures by recording reflection (or echo’s).
  • Endoscopy – may be useful to diagnosis or remove certain foreign bodies that are in the stomach. Endoscopy can also be used for examination of the stomach and a portion of the intestine (and potentially obtain biopsies of abnormal areas).
  • Laparotomy – This is an exploratory surgery that involves the looking into the abdomen for evaluation of abnormalities
  • Treatment of Vomiting in Dogs

    Treatments for vomiting may include one or more of the following:

  • Eliminate predisposing cause (exposure to trash, change in diet, eating plants, etc).
  • An acute episode of vomiting in a playful pet, in the absence of other physical abnormalities, may be treated symptomatically without hospitalization (outpatient treatment). Outpatient treatment 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.
  • Pets that have abdominal pain, diarrhea and act lethargic or have any other physical abnormality, may be treated with hospitalization. Hospital therapy may include intravenous fluid administration, 24-hour monitoring, and drug therapy. This is often combined with diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Sick pets may require referral to an emergency or 24 hour hospital that offers around-the-clock care.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Follow-up with your veterinarian for re-examinations of your pet as recommended and administer any veterinary prescribed medications. If your pet experiences inadequate response to prior measures, a further workup may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the vomiting.

    Treatments of vomiting are dependent on the cause. Symptomatic therapy of an episode of vomiting includes withholding food and water for three to four hours. If your pet has not vomited by the end of this time, offer small amounts of water (a few tablespoons at a time). Continue to offer small amounts of water ever 20 minutes or so until your pet is hydrated.

    After the small increments of water are offered, gradually offer a bland diet. 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 can be made of boiled rice or potatoes (as the carbohydrate source) and lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese (as the protein source).

    Return to regular dog food should be gradual over one to two days. If vomiting continues at any time or the onset of other symptoms are noted, call your veterinarian promptly.

    If your pet is not eating, acts lethargic, the vomiting continues or any other physical abnormalities mentioned above begins, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your pet needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your pet is having the clinical signs mentioned above expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. Recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

    Prevention is aimed at minimizing your pet’s exposure to trash (bones, food products), foreign material (socks, strings, etc) or toxins. Leash-walk your pet to minimize exposure to foreign material that may be located outside. Monitor your pet’s appetite and general health, as well.


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