Dog: Vomiting

General information

Other common/scientific names: emesis

Vomiting is a common disorder in dogs. It is important to distinguish vomiting from regurgitation because these two symptoms have different causes. Vomiting is the forceful ejection of the contents of the stomach through the mouth and is controlled by the brain. It is an active event signaled by restlessness, hypersalivation and retching. On the other hand, regurgitation is a passive evacuation of food from the esophagus aided by gravity and body position. Vomiting involves contraction of the stomach muscles and diaphragm; regurgitation does not. Regurgitation is seen with megaesophagus or esophageal disease, whereas vomiting is seen with intestinal or systemic disease.

If your dog is bright and alert and only vomits once, it may not be necessary to call your veterinarian. However, it is important to call your veterinarian when:

  • Your dog vomits several times during a day.
  • There is blood in the vomit.
  • Your dog appears bloated.
  • You suspect your dog may have eaten something toxic or poisonous.
  • Your dog has a fever or is depressed.
  • Your dog is in pain.
  • Your dog has diarrhea.
  • Your dog is a puppy and has not been dewormed.


Vomiting can be caused by a gastric or intestinal disorder or it can be secondary to an underlying disease. However, vomiting may not be indicative of a disease. Many dogs will vomit after eating grass or vomit after eating too much dog food, too fast.

Gastric or Intestinal Causes

Secondary Causes


Intestinal infections which cause vomiting can be spread from dog to dog through fecal material, respiratory secretions and urine.

Cardinal symptom



Depending on the cause of vomiting, other clinical signs may be present including lethargy, abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, fever and lack of appetite.


The diagnosis of vomiting is straight forward. However, finding the cause can be more difficult. It is helpful to know when the vomiting started, how many times your dog has vomited, the appearance of the vomit and if your dog is acting sick. A complete physical examination plus the following diagnostic tests may be used:

  • Fecal examination: used to detect parasite eggs and Giardia spp.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): used to measure the white blood cells and red blood cells.
  • Serum biochemistry: used to assess internal organ function including liver, kidneys, pancreas and intestinal tract.
  • Electrolyte panel: measures electrolytes, acid-base status and blood pH.
  • Urinalysis: used to detect abnormalities in the urine.
  • Radiography: abdominal radiographs can help identify foreign bodies, neoplasia and assess organ size and structure.
  • Upper gastrointestinal series: barium is a type of dye which is administered orally. Serial radiographs are taken to observe its passage through the intestine to check for obstruction, foreign objects or motility abnormalities.
  • Ultrasonography: ultrasonography can obtain a three dimensional image of the internal organs.
  • Endoscopy : uses a flexible tube with a lighted scope which is passed through the esophagus and into the stomach to visualize the lining and lumen of the stomach. Endoscopy can also be used to obtain tissue samples for cell identification.
  • Exploratory laparotomy: abdominal surgery performed under general anesthesia in order to visualize and inspect the abdomen and internal organs. Tissue samples can be obtained from organs and/or the lining of the intestinal tract for cell identification.


Treatment of vomiting will depend on the cause. Mild cases of vomiting without an underlying disease are treated by withholding food for 24 hours. Afterwards, a bland diet of rice, boiled chicken and cottage cheese can be fed in several small meals to allow the intestinal tract to heal. Antiemetics can be administered to help with nausea and vomiting. Dogs with intestinal parasites should be dewormed. With severe cases of vomiting, hospitalization and intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy are indicated. Intestinal obstructions and foreign body ingestion usually require abdominal surgery to remove the foreign object or correct the obstruction. Other treatments and medications may be needed depending on the exact cause of vomiting.


Most cases of vomiting in dogs are mild and resolve completely with minimal treatment. However, prolonged vomiting may be an indication of a serious disease requiring intensive treatment or possibly surgery. Chronic vomiting can also result in aspiration pneumonia where the stomach contents are aspirated into the lungs.


Vomiting due to parasites can be prevented by regularly deworming your dog. Many of the monthly medications used to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm disease also treat intestinal endoparasites. Veterinarians recommend that most dogs be given these monthly medications year round. All dogs should have an annual fecal examination performed.


Prolonged vomiting especially when accompanied with diarrhea can cause life-threatening dehydration and electrolyte imbalance especially in puppies and older dogs requiring immediate veterinary care.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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