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Your Dog Is Vomiting: When Is It Time to Visit the Vet?

Info on dog vomit

Your dog throws up, but then she’s back to her old self. Or, your dog has vomited repeatedly, and seems lethargic and uncomfortable—is it time to call the vet? On this week’s Facebook Live video with Veterinary Referral Center of Central Oregon, Dermatologist Dr. Jen Bentley sat down Dr. Leanne Dileo to talk about what to do when your dog is vomiting. Dr. Dileo recently joined the ER team at VRC, and was ready to field all the questions the audience threw out about all that worrisome throw up.

Watch the Dog Vomit Discussion

“Why is my dog vomiting?”

The number one reason a dog vomits is dietary indiscretion: they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have, such as a toy, rocks, wood chips, trash, or people food off the counter. About half the time, Dr. Dileo notes, owners don’t know exactly what caused the digestive distress (unless the dog is a “repeat offender”—she herself has one of those).

Another reason a dog may be throwing up is because they don’t do well with long stretches between meals. One dog owner shared that he managed his boxer-bulldog mix’s regular noontime vomiting by splitting up food over three mealtimes.

Other Reasons for Dog Vomiting

Other, less common reasons for vomiting include a list of systemic diseases such as liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or an infection that’s causing your dog’s stomach to be upset. Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, can occur when your dog has eaten too much fatty food—steak or fatty meats, cheese, and other fatty people food. This condition can be quite painful, in addition to causing your dog to throw up.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, or GDV, is a life threatening condition wherein a dog’s stomach gets extremely bloated and turns on itself, limiting circulation in the abdomen. Dogs with deep chest cavities, such as Great Danes and German Shepherds, may be particularly prone to GDV. If your dog is retching without producing any vomit, call your vet immediately.

“My dog’s vomiting bile, not food. Is it worse than if it were just food?”

According to Dr. Dileo, what a dog throws up depends on what’s in their stomach. Bile-only vomit is not necessarily worse, it just means there wasn’t any food in there. Bile indicates acid in the stomach, but acid is naturally occurring in the stomach and necessary for digestion.

“What can I expect from a visit to my vet when my dog is vomiting?”

Your vet will likely want to run some bloodwork, which can help identify or rule out causes for the vomiting such as systemic diseases like pancreatitis and liver disease. Blood tests can hint at the presence of endocrine issues, as well as diagnose dehydration.

Your vet might want to take X-rays , too, to determine if there is a blockage.

“How do I know if I should take my dog to the vet for his vomiting?”

If your dog vomits once and seems perfectly normal afterwards—has an appetite and plenty of energy, for example—there is probably little cause for concern. If your dog is lethargic, vomits repeatedly, and just doesn’t seem well, it’s time to call your vet and get an exam.

“What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen as far as what a dog has eaten and thrown up?”

“I had a dog,” said Dr. Dileo, “who ate a whole raw pizza, and raw dough is dangerous, so we did actually have him throw up at the hospital…and he threw up the pizza whole still, so that was pretty impressive.”