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canine health problems

Why is my dog throwing up?

Even a healthy pup can puke sometimes, but it’s better to be safe and figure out exactly what is causing your dog’s nausea.

Updated August 24, 2021

Created By

Emily Johnson ,

There are many reasons why your pup could be throwing up. And while it can be a fairly common symptom in dogs, it could also be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition. This is why it’s important to determine early on if they should be seen by a vet.

Signs you should take your dog to the vet immediately

If your dog is vomiting multiple times in one day or for more than one day in a row, they need immediate vet attention. You should also seek veterinary care if your dog shows the following symptoms accompanied by vomiting:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in frequency of urination
  • Change in thirst
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Unusual or severe lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Pale or white gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

👉 Think your dog swallow something poisonous? Call the Animal Poison Control Center.

Sometimes vomiting in dogs is normal

There are cases where vomiting can be somewhat normal for dogs. It’s not unusual for pups to want to rid their GI tract of something harmful or unwanted that they may have eaten. This is usually seen as a one-off vomit and no other symptoms, with your dog acting relatively normal the whole time. It’s also common for a dog to throw up after eating too much or too quickly, known as regurgitation.

Common causes of vomiting in dogs

  • Consuming improper foods. Garbage, fatty foods, table scraps
  • Dog bloat. Air-filled stomach cuts off blood from the hind legs and abdomen
  • Ingesting foreign objects. Bones, rubber balls, stones, hair, sticks
  • Intestinal parasites. Roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms
  • Viral infections. Distemper, parvovirus, coronavirus
  • Bilious vomiting syndrome. Vomiting bile due to excess stomach acids in the mornings or evenings
  • Diseases. Diabetes, cancer, stomach ulcers
  • Ingesting poison. Rat poison, antifreeze, pesticides, household drugs (like acetaminophen and aspirin)
  • Motion sickness. Overwhelming unusual stimuli in a moving vehicle causing nausea
  • Stress, excessive excitement, or anxiety. Muscles can tense or heart rate can accelerate and the body reacts to the unusual feelings
  • Bug bites. Having an allergic reaction to a tick bite, ant bite, bee sting, etc. 

Along with the above, acute and sudden vomiting in dogs may also be a symptom of:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Diet change
  • Medication reaction
  • Heat-stroke

Causes of chronic vomiting in dogs

Usually, a dog who vomits once but proceeds to act normally otherwise will recover without problem. However, it is strongly recommended that chronic vomiting, or vomiting accompanied by additional symptoms, is evaluated by your veterinarian in order to rule out potentially dangerous underlying causes.

Chronic vomiting in dogs may be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including:

  • Infectious diseases (ex. tick-borne diseases)
  • Dietary allergies
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Metabolic disease (such as kidney or liver failure, pancreatitis, diabetes, Addison’s disease, etc)
  • Cancer

👉 If vomiting continues on an ongoing basis, it’s important to have your dog seen by a vet to determine possible underlying causes. 

What does the look and color of vomit mean?

We know it’s gross to look at, but the color of your dog’s vomit can provide some clarity on what could be going on inside their body or whether there’s an underlying issue to be concerned about. That being said, any of the conditions we mentioned above can cause vomit to be any number of colors, so you can’t rely on color as the only gauge of what could be going on.

Clear mucus. Clear vomit generally consists of saliva or water and may include a foamy substance. In most circumstances, the dog may have drunk too much water or drank too quickly. Your pup also could have eaten something clear that couldn’t be digested. Dogs with post nasal drip from an upper respiratory infection or have kennel cough may also vomit clear mucus.

White (usually white foam). Typically this is foam, which could be nothing or could be gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV or bloat), a serious medical emergency condition. Bloat is rapidly progressive and life-threatening, owners need to head to an emergency vet immediately. On a less serious side, it could also be caused by gastritis. It usually includes bits of grass, especially if your dog hasn’t eaten in a while. They could vomit two or three times, but otherwise, be normal.

Yellow. Vomit that’s yellow or green usually contains bile, a substance that is produced by the liver and that assists with the digestive process. Sometimes dogs will occasionally vomit bile if they go too long without eating or if they are vomiting on an empty stomach.

Bright green or teal. Your dog may have eaten rodent poison and you need to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Bright red. Bright-red vomit indicates that your dog is vomiting blood. This can be a signal of gastrointestinal diseases, inflammation of the stomach (gastroenteritis), a traumatic injury, or ingestion of poisons. A small amount of blood isn’t usually an emergency, but you should still make your vet aware.

Dark brown or black. Dark-red, dark-brown, black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds can mean your dog is vomiting digested blood, which changes the color from bright red to dark. 

🚨 If your dog is vomiting like this, it can be a sign of stomach ulcers, an intestinal blockage, or another serious condition and they should be seen by a vet.

Light to dark brown. Brown vomit can be anything from chocolate ingestion, mud or dirt ingestion, an intestinal blockage, or even poop ingestion. Chocolate and an intestinal blockage are emergencies and should be seen by a vet immediately. If your dog has eaten mud or dirt, it’s typically not an emergency. Coprophagia, or poop-eating, isn’t an emergency but should be discouraged because your pup could pick up a disease by doing it.

Difference between throwing up and regurgitating

It’s important to determine whether your dog is actually vomiting or if they’re regurgitating. Vomiting forcefully brings food, fluid, and other stomach or intestinal contents up and out. Dogs usually show signs of nausea prior to vomiting, similar to what we do. This could be excessive drooling, heaving, and contractions of the abdomen.

Regurgitation, on the other hand, expels undigested food and fluids — it usually occurs a very short time after eating or drinking (typically within an hour). Signs of regurgitation are difficulty breathing and coughing, and the contents usually look undigested and have the cylindrical shape of their esophagus.

Settling a dog’s upset stomach at home 🏠

Here are a few ways to help your pup’s tummy:

Bland diet — Feeding a “blah” diet to your dog makes it easier for them to digest a meal when they have an upset stomach. The most common recipe is 2 cups of cooked white rice mixed with 1 cup of plain, boneless chicken breast, but there are plenty of other options for starches and proteins. 

👉 This should be a temporary solution to help your pup’s stomach, it’s important to note that this isn’t a balanced diet for your dog in the long term. 

Dietary changes — Give your dog’s stomach a break and have them skip a meal or two while their GI tract heals. They can fast for 24 hours without issue and it could help your pup’s stomach recover more quickly.

Hydration — Wetting your dog’s food or giving them small amounts of bone broth is an easy way to keep your pup hydrated. It’s also good to bring water with you if you travel and to keep your dog’s bowl clean to encourage them to keep drinking. Ice cubes are another good way to hydrate without flooding their stomach with too much water at one time, which could potentially make them feel worse.

Canned Pumpkin — Pumpkin is an excellent remedy for upset stomachs. It has a low glycemic index (meaning it’s absorbed slowly by the body) which can be soothing on a GI tract. Just make sure it’s 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which contains a lot of sugar and spices. You can ask your vet for guidelines on how much pumpkin you should give based on your individual dog.

Pepto-Bismol — Pepto-Bismol might help with your dog’s upset stomach and diarrhea, but there are negative side effects that can potentially occur. Pepto-Bismol’s active ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate, can turn your dog’s stool black, which mimics melena (digested blood in the stool) and can cause more concern.

How to prevent your dog from throwing up

There are a few ways to help prevent your dog from acute vomiting, such as:

Avoid dietary changes — Changes to your dog’s diet, whether it’s new treats,  a new kibble, or scraps from the table, can greatly affect your dog’s stomach and are commonly the culprit behind a dog’s vomiting.

Avoid dangerous substances — Dogs are notorious for getting into things they shouldn’t. Common household chemicals can be toxic for pets, such as household cleaners, antifreeze, and rodent poisons. Some plants can also be dangerous — it’s always smart to check that any houseplants or garden plants within your dog’s reach are safe and nontoxic.

Avoid indigestible items — Along with dangerous or toxic substances, dogs are known for eating items that their GI tracts can’t digest. Squeaky toys, plastic balls, bones, rawhides, sticks, food wrappers, rocks, socks, underwear, string/yarn/ribbon, and more can all cause intestinal issues and result in vomiting.

👉 Never give your pup rawhides — here are 7 of the best bones that are safe and healthy.

Frequently asked questions

Why is my dog throwing up but seems fine?

Some dogs are prone to chronic vomiting. In young dogs, it’s often due to parasites or a food sensitivity. It can also be due to certain diseases or health issues, and a vet should be consulted to determine the underlying cause. 

Can dogs get stomach bugs?

Yes! Dogs can catch stomach viruses, also called viral gastroenteritis

What are the signs of parvo in a dog? What does parvo vomit look like?

Parvovirus has many symptoms, including: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, often bloody
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Extreme weakness and collapsing
  • Hypoglycemia (seizures as a result)

There are a few characteristics that many pet owners notice with parvo vomit. Your puppy may initially vomit food, but it’ll soon turn to liquid vomit when they are no longer able to keep any food or even water down. Parvo vomit is often yellow or brown in color, and may even contain blood or foam.