Few things in dog parenthood come close to the horrifying sound of your pup hacking, heaving, and retching or the sight of her tiny stomach contracting over and over again. Is the little tyke coughing, choking, suffocating, spewing out her organs?
Nope, that’s just how dogs throw up.
When your pup is throwing up, it can sound and look very painful— and it is. Granted, vomiting is as common in dogs as in humans (maybe less, thanks to their non-alcoholic diets). It doesn’t matter if you’re spoiling them with the best puppy food or keeping an eagle’s eye on their scavenging snouts while out on walks— it’s bound to happen every now or then.
But your young puppy throwing up is a little more cause for concern. Since their immune systems are still developing at this age as they complete their vaccination course, they’re prone to more illnesses. Hence, vomiting could be indicative of an underlying disease.
So, when should your puppy throwing up food set off your alarm bells? Moreover, what should you do to help soothe your pup immediately after, and when is it time to ring up the doctor? Let’s find out.
Is Throwing Up Normal In Puppies?
Puppies are always exploring the world and will likely ingest a few undesirable things. So, a few sporadic vomiting episodes are pretty run-of-the-mill. Switching them to a bland food diet for two days is all it takes to help them recover.
However, when vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms and persists day after day, it might be time to take more serious action. You’ll know you’re due for a vet visit when:
- Your puppy won’t stop throwing up.
- Your puppy is throwing up, but it’s just clear liquid.
- There is blood in the vomit.
- Your puppy exhibits other symptoms, including lethargy, fever, diarrhea, etc.
- Your puppy is throwing up food she eats or has stopped eating completely.
- You know your puppy ate something she shouldn’t have.
Throwing Up vs Regurgitation
Sometimes, it may seem like your puppy is throwing up when she’s actually just regurgitating.
Regurgitating is a passive motion that throws out food content from the esophagus that didn’t fully make it to the stomach. It’s like when babies spit up food; there’s no retching or gagging; it’s like someone pressed the “eject” button, and the undigested food plops right out, sometimes accompanied by coughing. It’s not uncommon for a little bit of water to come out as well.
On the other hand, vomiting involves forceful and painful contractions of gut muscles to expel stomach contents.
The reason that your pup regurgitates is essentially that the chewed up food is unable to make it to the stomach. There can be several reasons behind this, both medical and non-medical:
- Eating food too quickly or taking big bites
- Eating too much food in a short period
- Foreign obstructions in the throat
- Hard-to-chew food
- A disease called Megaesophagus, whereby the esophagus becomes enlarged and food can not move through it
The Causes of Acute Vomiting in Puppies
Acute vomiting in puppies refers to sudden bouts of vomiting that are one-off. For example, your pup may vomit a few times in succession, and maybe a few more over the next 24 to 48 hours, but then they’re done.
The usual suspect for acute vomiting is the ingestion of toxic materials. This could include scraps from the trash, rotting bones along the sidewalk, or a helping of delicious-yet-toxic-for-dogs chocolate cake.
However, there could be other reasons behind acute vomiting as well, and the list is long:
- Intestinal parasites lead to gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting and diarrhea.
- A sudden diet change that doesn’t agree with your puppy.
- Reaction to other treatments where the prescribed medication produces side effects of nausea and vomiting.
- Accidental intoxication, most commonly alcohol or cannabis. It could also be any of your prescription medications that were left lying around.
- Medical problems such as bloat, pancreatitis, kidney failure, liver failure, or bacterial and viral infections.
Acute vomiting is typically self-resolving and does not require you to rush your pup to the vet. As long as she stops vomiting and returns to her regular diet within two days, neither of you have anything to worry about.
The Causes of Chronic Vomiting in Puppies
If your puppy’s vomiting episodes have become more frequent and persist for longer than 48 hours, then there is some underlying health issue at play. As such, chronic vomiting can be symptomatic of:
- Intestinal obstructions or inflammation
- Uterine infection
- Liver disease
- Kidney or liver failure
To make matters worse, chronic vomiting in puppies is often accompanied by other symptoms, including lethargy, dehydration, fever, blood in vomit, abdominal pain, poor appetite, and weight loss.
Chronic vomiting can be extremely draining for your pup- no pun intended. Frequent vomiting leads to an empty stomach, which is why you’ll notice that your poor pup is only expelling yellow bile.
Luckily, however, most of these symptoms are treatable. The key is nipping the problem in the bud and diagnosing the illness as early as possible. For this reason, chronic vomiting in puppies demands that you schedule a vet visit so that your vet can identify the problem.
Diagnosis And Treatments For Puppy Throwing Up Food
Diagnosing the underlying cause behind your puppy’s vomiting will involve your vet taking down a detailed patient history. This includes your pup’s vaccination status, travel history in case she picked up a bug on the road, medication history in case certain medications are causing nausea, and so on.
It also involves giving a detailed description of the events leading up to the vomiting episodes. You might also be asked to describe the contents, consistency, color, and smell of the vomit, so be observant!
If necessary, your vet might run some additional tests such as blood work, stool and vomit samples, endoscopic evaluations, urine tests, ultrasounds, or x-rays.
If the cause behind the vomiting episodes is some chronic health issue, your vet will start your pup on an appropriate medication course. In the meantime, you need to change up your pup’s regular diet.
Your puppy’s diet is a huge part of her recovery. You need to switch to frequent feedings of small amounts of a bland, easily-digestible diet to give your pup’s gut a break.
What Should You Do After Your Pet Vomits?
You should spring into action the moment you hear your pup throwing up. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to handle your puppy throwing up:
- First of all, get your puppy away from her vomit, lest she attempts to eat it.
- Let your pup finish throwing up. Sometimes, a dog will throw up a few times in a row and typically stay in its corner until it’s done.
- Inspect the vomit to ascertain why your dog threw up. We will discuss this in more detail further ahead.
- Take a picture or keep a sample for your vet to assist with the diagnosis.
- Clean it up immediately, especially if your pup threw up on the carpet.
- Offer plenty of water or replace lost hydration.
- Sit and wait to see if your pup continues to throw up over the next 48 hours. Also, check for other symptoms and monitor her behavior.
- Look for any evidence that might suggest your pup got into the restricted food. Think of anywhere you might have left a half-eaten box of cookies or an open bag of puppy food.
- Put your pup on a bland food diet, and feed her smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
How to Inspect Puppy Vomit
Inspecting your puppy’s vomit is essential for diagnosing the underlying problem and determining whether or not it was a one-off thing. Hence, you need to know what to keep an eye out for.
Here are a few indicators of your pup’s vomit and what they could mean.
- Chunky food pieces mean that your pup couldn’t keep her food down. If it happens only once, there’s no need to take action. Otherwise, your pup could be experiencing a host of problems that your vet needs to diagnose.
- Yellow vomit indicates that your pup is going too long in-between meals, creating acid reflux and nausea.
- White and foamy vomit suggests that your dog is vomiting on an empty stomach. The reasons can be multifold.
- Green pieces of grass in your pup’s vomit indicate that she is munching on leafy greens. Canines usually eat grass when their stomach is upset to induce vomiting or when their diets lack essential nutrients.
- Red vomit (not blood) indicates that your pup’s diet contains too much food color. Try switching her to a wet puppy diet instead, as it contains zero coloring.
- Brown vomit is usually accompanied by a poop-like smell, and that’s because your pup has ingested poop. If there is no smell, it could simply be due to kibble.
- Foreign objects in your pup’s poop, such as toys or fabric pieces, indicate that your pup ate something inedible. The silver lining is that no health issues causing the vomiting, but you should schedule a vet visit nevertheless to ensure that the entire foreign object is out.
Throwing up is as common in puppies as it is in human babies, and it is equally a cause of concern. It is not a diagnosis within itself but rather a symptom of some other hidden problem.
While an isolated vomiting episode or two is quite typical, long periods of throwing up should be taken more seriously. This is especially true if they are simultaneously experiencing other symptoms as well.
This is why the rule of thumb is to take your puppy throwing up food seriously and consult your vet at the very least. When it comes to puppies, there isn’t such a thing as being too careful.