Vomiting in Dogs

What to Do When Your Dog Throws Up

Droopy jowled English Bulldog with bloodshoot eyes rests his head on the floor.
photo by Christopher Hall/Moment/Getty Images

Is your dog throwing up? There's no need to panic. While it's important not to ignore vomiting in dogs, it's not usually a dire emergency. However, vomiting is still something you need to address. Learn about vomiting in dogs so you can help your canine companion feel better soon.

Why Do Dogs Vomit?

Vomiting may occur in dogs for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others. Dietary indiscretion is a common reason for vomiting in dogs (like getting into the trash or eating table scraps).

However, vomiting may also be caused by something more serious, such as toxin ingestion, gastrointestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, and more.

Vomiting is one of the most common signs of illness reported by dog owners. It may or may not be accompanied by diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy. It is not only important to understand why dogs vomit. You should also know how to respond when your dog is throwing up.

What To Do When Your Dog Vomits

An episode or two of vomiting is not necessarily cause for alarm. Do you call your doctor every time you get sick to your stomach? Of course not. However, it is important to take extra precautions when a dog is sick because dogs cannot tell us how they really feel. In fact, dogs often hide their illnesses as long as possible, acting like they feel fine when they really don't.

If your dog vomits, first have a look at the substance that was vomited up.

Is it food? Bile? Mucus? Foamy white stuff? Water? Is there blood? Are there pieces of toys, clothing or other inedible material? It's a good idea to keep and foreign objects yo find in a baggie; your vet may need to see them. Make a note of the appearance of the vomit in case you need to remember later.

After a dog vomits, it's generally best to withhold food for a couple of hours and observe. If lethargy, diarrhea or other signs of illness accompany the vomiting, make a note of this too. NEVER give over-the-counter or prescription medications without your vet's advice.

If any of the following circumstances apply, you should  contact your vet immediately:

  • Vomiting is frequently repeated for several hours in a row.
  • You suspect your dog ingested a toxin.
  • Your dog shows extreme lethargy or unresponsiveness.
  • Excessive amounts of blood are seen in the vomited material (mild blood spotting is not an emergency, but call the vet if it continues).
  • Your dog is on medication that may cause vomiting (stop giving the medication and call your vet).
  • You suspect your dog ingested a foreign body, such as a toy or clothing.
  • Your dog's abdomen has a bloated appearance (it could be GDV aka "bloat" or something else serious).
  • Your dog's abdomen seems painful.
  • Your dog's gums are pale, white, bluish or gray in color.
  • Your dog is having trouble breathing.
  • If you are in doubt, just call the vet!

If your dog vomits one time and acts completely normal, you can probably resume your normal feeding routine within 6-12 hours or when the next meal is due.

Just keep watching for vomiting and other issues.

If your dog vomits again at the next meal, but the vomiting does not continue after a few hours, try offering your dog a small amount of bland food. For a bland diet, vets generally recommend boiled chicken with plain white rice or boiled ground meat with plain white rice. Be sure to drain off any fat. Do not add salt or seasoning. Offer a couple of tablespoons of this mixture. If your dog will not eat, don't push the issue. Try again in a few hours. If your dog eats and keeps the food down for an hour, try feeding a little more food. Repeat this until the next day. If vomiting does not recur and your dog's appetite is good, you can start to gradually add back your dog's normal food to the bland diet mixture.

If the vomiting occurs a few times throughout the first day and it is still happening the next day, contact your vet for advice.

If your dog will not eat for two days in a row, you should contact the vet even if the vomiting has stopped. Diarrhea sometimes occurs during or after vomiting episodes. Call the vet if the diarrhea does not begin improving by the next day.

Occasional vomiting (less that once a day) is not considered normal either. If your dog vomits "off and on" for more than a week or two, you should schedule an appointment with your vet for a physical examination. Additional testing may be recommended.

IMPORTANT: If your dog vomits every time he eats or drinks for longer that one day, take him to the vet. This may be a sign of a gastrointestinal obstruction (like a foreign body) or other serious illness.

As always, communication with your veterinarian is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy. When in doubt, call the vet!