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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Dog Vomiting: Everything You Need to Know

Updated: January 10th, 2022

Summary

Learn possible reasons why your dog is vomiting, when to worry, what you can do at home, and how to clean up the mess.

No one likes it when their dog is vomiting. It’s gross, and could mean he’s sick.

So, when do you need to worry about your dog vomiting?

Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

The most common cause of vomiting in dogs is eating something that they shouldn’t have. Garbage, an entire turkey carcass, underwear… the list is endless.

And while it isn’t pleasant, it is usually transient and nothing to worry about. Your dog will throw up once or twice, but should otherwise seem happy and healthy.

Other potential causes of vomiting include:

  • Eating or drinking too quickly
  • Diet change
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Acid reflux
  • Medication side effect
  • Bacterial infections
  • Toxins and poisons
  • Bloat
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver failure
  • Some viruses
  • Cancer

While cancer can cause vomiting, it is a fairly uncommon cause. The time to start wondering if your dog’s vomiting is related to cancer is if he is also losing weight rapidly.

Dog Vomiting: When to Worry

An isolated incident is usually nothing to worry about. But if your dog continues to vomit three or four times in a day, or throws up once a day several days in a row, it is time to call your vet.

Call your vet if:

  • Your dog throws up 3-4 times in a day
  • Your dog throws up several days in a row
  • There is blood in the vomit
  • Your dog is trying to vomit but nothing comes up
  • There are other symptoms of illness as well as vomiting

The other time to be concerned is if your dog is acting sick or has other symptoms as well as vomiting. Here are some symptoms to be concerned about:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distended or swollen abdomen
  • Pale gums
  • Losing weight

If your dog shows any of these symptoms and is also vomiting – even just once – it is time for a vet visit. Vomiting PLUS diarrhea is an emergency because your dog can get dehydrated really quickly.

Dry heaving without throwing anything up is also an emergency – this can indicate bloat, a condition where the stomach fills with gas and can twist.

Also, any time that YOU are concerned about your dog throwing up is an okay time to call your vet and ask for advice.

Dogs with Cancer and Vomiting

While vomiting is not a common sign of cancer, it is more worrying if your dog with cancer throws up.

This could be due to the havoc that progressing cancer wreaks on the body, but it can also be a side effect of cancer treatments and medications.

If your dog with cancer vomits, think about any changes that were made recently. Ask yourself:

  • Did he start a new medication?
  • Did he just have a chemo treatment?
  • Or did you change his diet or add a new supplement?

All of these things can cause vomiting. Call your vet or oncologist with your observations.

If your dog is already on an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medication like Cerenia, any vomiting is worrying. This means that whatever is causing your dog to feel sick is overriding the medication.

How to Treat Dog Vomiting

For mild cases of vomiting in an otherwise healthy dog, vomiting can often be managed with fasting and feeding a bland diet for a day or two.

Start by withholding all food and only offering small amounts of water at a time for several hours. If your dog does not throw up, offer a small serving of something bland, like boiled chicken or plain cooked rice. If he keeps that down, he can have a little more in another hour.

If your dog is sick or has been vomiting persistently, he needs to be seen by your vet to figure out what is going wrong. Exact treatment will vary depending on the cause, but your pup will probably get subcutaneous (under the skin) fluids to help with hydration and an injection of Cerenia to stop the vomiting and help him feel less pukey.

Ondansetron (brand name Zofran) is also sometimes used to stop vomiting in dogs, but Cerenia is FDA-approved for dogs and generally works better. Cerenia is also available in a tablet form that you can give at home.

Antacids for Dog Vomiting

Excess stomach acid can sometimes give your dog acid reflux, especially when her stomach is empty. Some dogs will throw up a small amount of yellow bile first thing in the morning – this is a common sign of acid reflux.

Over-the-counter antacids, such as Pepcid, Pepto-Bismol, omeprazole, or even good old Tums can help keep your pup’s stomach acid under control. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving one of these medications, to make sure that you are giving the right dose and that it won’t interfere with any of your dog’s other meds.

An even easier solution that works for many dogs is to give her a snack! Even one biscuit just before bed and/or first thing in the morning can help to keep a little food in her stomach and prevent that upset tummy.

Tips for Cleanup

As a dog owner and a vet tech, I’ve cleaned up my fair share of dog puke. Here are some of my favorite tips for cleaning up the mess.

Catch the vomit. If you hear that tell-tale urp noise, either move your dog to the nearest hard floor or toss a towel or large bowl under her face. Tile and laminate are much easier to clean than carpet, and towels can be tossed in the washing machine.

Rinse rugs and towels before putting in the washer. Your washing machine isn’t going to like chunks. Scoop up any semi-solids into the trash, and then rinse rugs and towels in the tub, sink, or outside with a hose before popping them in the washing machine. This will also help to prevent any clothing in that load from being stained by bile.

Pick up solids first. Pick up any solid or semi-solid vomitus with paper towels or a rag and dispose of them in the trash. I will confess that if my dogs throw up food and want to eat it back down, I usually let them.

Blot, don’t wipe. Getting the liquid vomit out of your carpet is the tricky part. Wiping or scrubbing can force vomit particles deeper into the carpet and make the mess worse, so stick to blotting. Blot with a clean paper towel or cloth, and repeat until the cloth comes back clean. A slightly damp paper towel can also help to get up extra mess.

Fight odor and stains with a cleaning spray. Once the area has been thoroughly blotted and is mostly clean, I like to spritz with a carpet-safe cleaner and repeat until the stain is totally gone. I really like the Nature’s Miracle cleaning products, but we also have a variety of natural cleaners available in our online shop and Molly has a recipe for a carpet-safe vinegar spray.


Follow the instructions on the bottle for any premade cleaning products, and always spot-test before dousing your whole carpet.

Steam cleaning can help too. I had a senior dog with pancreatitis and mild urinary incontinence, and my carpets were taking a beating. Many hardware stores and even some pet supply and department stores will rent out carpet cleaners for a reasonable price so you can give your entire carpet a good thorough cleaning. I took the plunge and bought a Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Max Clean Pet Pro Full-Size Carpet Cleaner, and have been very happy with it. Tip: vacuum the carpets thoroughly first so you don’t gum up the carpet cleaner with dog hair.


Dr. Nancy Reese, DVM, PhD gives her insight on vomiting in dogs during this interview with Dog Cancer Answers:

You can read the full transcript on the episode page.

Please subscribe to, rate, and review Dog Cancer Answers in Apple Podcast or on your favorite pod-catcher. It really does help the show!

Paws and wags,

Kate

PS: Feel free to share this article or the podcast itself with your veterinarian and their staff.

Have a Great Question for Dog Cancer Answers Veterinarians?

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Resources

Homemade Cleaning Supplies That Are Safe for You — and Your Dog With Cancer

Cerenia: An Option for Dogs with Vomiting

Natural Cleaners

 

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