January 11, 2021 5 min read
If you've owned a dog for any period of time, you know a sound we're all familiar with - the retching that comes right before your dog throws up. If you're like most people, your first instinct is to be annoyed at the fact that you're going to clean it up, but your second thought is concern. What could have made your dog throw up, and do you need to be concerned (or is it serious enough that you should take your dog to the vet)?
The good news is that odds are pretty good your dog is fine and the worst thing you have to worry about is cleaning up a bunch of dog vomit. Of course, if you have any concerns the best place to turn is always your dog's veterinarian (especially if your dog has thrown up multiple times or is showing any other signs of illness or distress). But with that in mind, let's look at why dogs may vomit and what it might mean.
When a dog is vomiting, it's a clear sign that something's wrong. That something, though, can range broadly - it could be that he's just eaten something that disagrees with him or has eaten too quickly. On the other hand, it could also mean that he's swallowed something dangerous or has some other medical condition.
So what might cause vomiting? A few things:
This is obviously quite a list, but you can consider a lot of the context about your dog and what she has eaten and done lately to help narrow it down.
First, clean it up! Then give your dog a pat on the head and remind him he's a good boy and it's not his fault he threw up even if it was in the house.
After that, consider some of the things that might have caused it. Since what your dog has eaten is likely related to gastrointestinal distress, consider diet and anything else your dog might have ingested. Has he eaten anything besides his dog food that might have upset his stomach? Did his dog food change recently (sudden changes in dog food are hard on a dog's digestive tract, so it's best to slowly change over the course of a few days, putting in a bit more of the new food and less of the old food each day)? Is it possible he ate a toy, sock or something else that he shouldn't have? If it seems like there's a likely food-related culprit (and it's not anything too serious, like your dog getting into a bag of grapes), then things will likely be just fine.
The other big thing to consider is whether the dog throwing up is an isolated incident or whether there are other signs that you should be concerned. Did your dog throw up just the one time, or were there multiple instances of vomiting? Is your dog pooping regularly, and is the stool normal? Is your dog showing any other symptoms of illness like lethargy? Is your dog drinking water normally? Does your dog resume eating normally after vomiting? In general, the more potential symptoms of illness you see, the more you should be concerned and thinking about calling your vet.
The most common thing you'll see when a dog throws up is bile, a yellowish, mucus-like substance. While it's frankly pretty gross, it's also normal - bile comes from the liver and gallbladder, and it's part of your dog's normal digestive system, helping to break down some foods plus absorb nutrients. All dogs need to have bile for proper digestion, but if they build up too much of it they may throw some of it up.
So why might your dog vomit yellow bile? A few reasons.
First, hunger - when your dog's stomach is empty for too long, bile can build up. With nothing for it to help break down in the stomach, it instead irritates the stomach lining. If this goes on for too long, the stomach gets irritated enough to cause vomiting, and since the only thing in the stomach is bile, that's what comes out.
The good news is this is a relatively easily solved problem - make sure you're giving your dog enough food, and if you are, space out her meals a bit more. Dogs often vomit bile in the mornings, and if you're seeing that then you should give your dog a snack before bed, so there's something in her stomach.
The second possible culprit is allergies. If your dog eats something he's allergic to, he may throw up as a result, and there may be bile with it. The way to avoid this is just to keep an eye on your dog for several hours after you've introduced any new food into his diet. If he starts vomiting, you should stop feeding that food and talk toy our vet. Bear in mind that dogs can also develop allergies over the course of their lives, so even if your dog has eaten something for years, he may still become allergic later in life.
The last possibility is a medical condition - this can be anything from pancreatitis to gastrointestinal diseases. We won't go too far into the weeds here, because if you're dealing with a medical condition, you should definitely be talking to your vet.
We hope this has helped to clarify a bit about what it might mean when your dog throws up. The one thing we want to stress as much as possible is that if you're concerned about your dog's health, the best place to go is your vet. When it comes to throwing up, if it happens once, especially if you can suss out a likely cause, it's probably not a concern. But if, on the other hand, you're seeing multiple signs of gastrointestinal distress or anything else that adds to the vomiting to make your concerned, get professional help. It's never worth risking your dog's health if you're worried.
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