Why Is My Dog Vomiting?
Causes of vomiting and when to worry
Herbert, a three-year-old Brussels Griffon, isn’t feeling well. He had a great day with his owner, playing at an off-leash dog park and walking through the forest. He took a nap in the garage when he got home, and then came in when his owners called him for dinner. Herbert’s family thought it was a bit strange when Herbert showed no interest in his dinner, and they became worried three hours later when he threw up three times and didn’t want to leave his bed. Herbert was taken to his local veterinary emergency clinic for assessment around midnight.
The Work Up:
Herbert was lucky that it wasn’t too busy at the emergency clinic and he was able to see a veterinarian quickly. The vet had a lot of questions about where Herbert had spent his afternoon because there was a concern that he could have eaten something he wasn’t supposed to. His owner did remember pulling what looked like a dirty napkin from Herbert’s mouth at the dog park but didn’t see him eating anything else. At one point Herbert did disappear into an area of bushes and had to be called several times by his owner before he came out. It was also confirmed that there is a garbage can and recycling bin in the garage that Herbert could have theoretically gotten into, but he’s not usually the type of dog who gets into the garbage. He also does go to doggy daycare, but the staff hadn’t reported anything out of the ordinary the day before.
Herbert had a normal heart rate and respiratory rate with no fever. He appeared depressed in the exam, and the vet assessed that he seemed mildly dehydrated. Since it was possible that Herbert had consumed something inedible when he chewed the napkin, or even swallowed part of a toy at doggy daycare, the veterinarian recommend abdominal radiographs (x-rays) to check if there was anything lodged in Herbert’s stomach or intestines. While it is not possible to see every type of object on an x-ray, certain objects show up clearly—bones, metals, some plastic, and rocks, for example. For fabrics or softer plastics, the veterinarian generally looks for other signs, such as how full the stomach is (keeping in mind when the dog last ate a meal) and the gas pattern within both the stomach and the intestines. In Herbert’s case, since he hadn’t eaten anything since his breakfast that morning, the expectation was that his stomach would be empty, which it mostly was. Herbert also had bloodwork done, including a screening test for pancreatitis. The results were consistent with mild dehydration, and a few electrolytes were abnormal likely due to the vomiting, but otherwise his results looked quite normal.
Luckily for Herbert, since there was no evidence that he had anything stuck within his stomach or intestines, he didn’t have to stay overnight at the emergency clinic. Because he seemed mildly dehydrated, he was given subcutaneous fluids under the skin between his shoulders. The veterinary technician explained to Herbert’s owner at the time of discharge that they were able to put roughly the equivalent of a bowl of water under his skin, which helps in cases where pets don’t feel like drinking on their own. He also received an anti-nausea injection under his skin, which would work to stop him for vomiting for 24 hours. This gives the gastrointestinal tract a chance to normalize, and hopefully would increase Herbert’s appetite. Herbert was also sent home with a couple of cans of an easily digestible wet food, with instructions to mix it with plain white rice. In any case of upset stomach, it is usually helpful to feed small bland meals throughout the day, instead of two larger meals. Cooked white rice is a safe option that dogs generally enjoy eating.
Since several causes of vomiting were ruled out by testing, it was assumed that Herbert might have eaten something at the dog park or in the forest, such as a plant or some garbage that upset his stomach and caused him to vomit. Following his fluids and anti-nausea medication, Herbert felt a lot better, and his appetite returned to normal the next day.
When to Contact Your Veterinary Clinic
- Vomiting accompanied by loss in appetite
- Vomiting accompanied by low energy
- Vomiting more than once within 24 hours
- Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea
When You Can Wait
- If your dog has vomited once but then proceeds to eat normally
- If your dog has vomited once but is acting like his normal, happy self
- Your dog’s gums are pink and moist, and he’s drinking a normal amount of water
- Swallowing items that they are not supposed to, such as toys or socks
- Eating plants in the garden
- Dietary sensitivity
- Bacterial infection