Vomiting in dogs – what should you do?

For our dogs, regurgitating the contents of their stomach is a sort of protective function. It is their body’s attempt to get rid of something harmful. This regurgitation is known as vomiting. 

Similar to the symptom of diarrhoea, vomiting itself is not an illness, but an indication that there is something wrong somewhere in the body. Vomiting up the contents of their stomach once is no reason to panic. However, it is important that you clarify what triggered the vomiting. Only then can you decide whether you need veterinary support. 

My dog has vomited – do I need to go to the vet?

We generally make a distinction between acute and chronic vomiting. Acute vomiting occurs suddenly and lasts for a few days at most. In contrast, chronic vomiting lasts for several weeks. 

In any case, please go to your trusted veterinarian if the vomiting occurs frequently and persistently rather than just once. Additional symptoms such as diarrhoea, itching, increased temperature or apathetic behaviour at the same time also indicate a more serious problem. You should be especially careful with puppies, immunocompromised older dogs and dogs with relevant pre-existing conditions. The loss of fluid increases the risk of dehydration. As a first step, always make sure that your dog has enough fresh water available to them.

In any case, please seek veterinary advice as soon as possible if your animal vomits faeces, as this is s sign of a dangerous intestinal obstruction. Quick help is similarly necessary if your furry friend repeatedly retches without vomiting about 1-2 hours after eating and their belly is bloated. These are signs of life-threatening gastric torsion, which must be treated as soon as possible. First and foremost: if in doubt, please go to the vet!

Possible causes and triggers of vomiting in dogs

  • Eating grass (especially on an empty stomach)
  • Too much food/water
  • Not chewing their food enough
  • Eating something they shouldn’t
  • Stress
  • Travel sickness
  • Food allergy/food intolerance
  • Side effect of medication/not tolerating medication
  • Parasite infestation
  • Viral or bacterial infection 
  • Swallowing a foreign body
  • Poisoning
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Gastric torsion
  • Physical illness (e.g. inflammation of the kidneys, liver, etc.)

What happens exactly when a dog vomits?

With time, you will almost certainly get to know the signs that your dog displays just before they throw up. Most animals become restless and smack and lick their lips. The typical posture is a lowered head and a curved back. Initially their mouth is closed, with their lips curling slightly upwards. Then their abdominal muscles and diaphragm contract several times to create excess pressure in the abdomen. Lastly, they open their mouth and expel the contents of their stomach into the open air. 

The process is very physically demanding for the animals. They also lose a considerable amount of fluid, which has to be replenished. Pay attention to what the vomit looks like. This can help you work out the cause. Can you see undigested food? What colour is it? Are there any foreign objects in it? Does it perhaps smell particularly distinctive? Ideally, you should photograph the vomit or take a sample to the check-up with the vet. 

Back to normality

If your pet has vomited, then it is often advisable to not give them anything to eat for 12 to 24 hours until their stomach has calmed down again. If the dog vomits again after this time, please seek veterinary help. 

Otherwise, bland food – rice and cooked chicken – provides a good transition back to normal food. It is better to feed a few smaller portions to start off with. If these don’t cause any problems, you can slowly but surely switch back to the usual food. You should never feed your dog bland food for too long as, while relieving the digestive system is beneficial, the food does not contain the necessary nutrients in sufficient quantities.