Dogs may vomit for a variety of relatively benign reasons—to expel something they shouldn’t have eaten from their stomach, for example. But sometimes vomiting is a sign of a serious health problem. Read on to learn why dogs vomit, when you should be concerned, and what you can do to help dogs who are vomiting.
What To Watch For
First of all, it is important to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation. The latter happens passively, with undigested food coming up out of the esophagus with no abdominal effort. Usually, regurgitation is a sign of an esophageal disorder. Regurgitation must be differentiated from vomiting because the causes and treatments for the two conditions are very different.
Vomiting in dogs is usually preceded by signs of nausea such as drooling, licking lips, and swallowing excessively. Some dogs may eat grass, possibly to protect the esophagus because the grass can cover sharp objects like bone shards when the dog vomits. Vomiting is an active process. It involves obvious contractions of the abdominal wall… “heaving” for lack of a better word.
Why Do Dogs Throw Up?
Vomiting serves a vital function in dogs, many of whom have a well-deserved reputation for eating just about anything. Throwing up can be the body’s way of correcting a mistake. Most owners have witnessed their dogs eating something unsavory, only to see it come back up a few minutes later. Other relatively benign causes of dog vomiting are motion sickness and bilious vomiting syndrome. Of course, vomiting is also a symptom of many potentially serious diseases, such as:
- Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract)
- Intestinal obstruction caused by foreign material, tumors, organ displacement, etc.
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Exposure to toxins
- Some types of cancer
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Addison’s disease
- Pancreatic disease
- Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Head trauma
- Drug side effects
- Food allergies or intolerance