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Dog vomiting: what to do before calling the vet

Brown dog looking ill advice
© Unsplash

Ever noticed your dog eating something strange or gobbling down their food in a matter of seconds? Truth be told, dogs often bring on sickness themselves

By Alice Lang

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:28

But sometimes, dog vomiting can be a sign of something much more serious. Here’s what to do if your dog keeps vomiting - before calling the vet.

As a human, would you go to the doctor if you were sick once and felt okay otherwise? Probably not - and it’s the same when it comes to your dog. Most of the time, your pup’s sickness will pass and there’s no need to go to the vets.

However, it’s important to know what to do when your pooch is sick and to understand when dog vomiting is more than just a case of tummy upset. That way, you can get them to the vets as soon as possible if needed.

“Dogs tend to drool, lick their lips, and swallow excessively when they feel nauseous” explains Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, “Some may eat grass, possibly to relieve gastric irritation, or to make themselves sick. When your dog is sick you’ll typically see strong abdominal contractions.”

Why is my dog vomiting?

There is a multitude of possibilities as to why your pooch is vomiting.

Hopefully, it’s something as simple as dietary indiscretion. This is when your greedy pup helps himself to food in the rubbish bin or gobbles up leftovers in the kitchen, which don’t agree with his stomach.

Another common and perfectly innocent cause of dog vomiting is motion sickness. Although this is a rather unpleasant feeling for your dog, it’s not a sign of something sinister.

But what if your dog's vomiting is caused by something more serious? Let’s take a look at some other possible causes:

  • Foreign bodies in the gastrointestinal tract. This could be bones or toys
  • Liver failure, kidney failure, pancreatitis or inflammation of the gallbladder
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Poisoning or ingestion of a toxic substance
  • An infection
  • Infected uterus
  • Parasites
  • Certain types of cancer
Dog vomiting
It's important to monitor your dog's symptoms if they've been sick©Relaky on Unsplash

What to do before calling the vet if your dog is vomiting

We already know that if your dog experiences a random episode of vomiting with no other symptoms, there’s probably no need to call the vet.

Take precautions

Did you know that dogs hide illness or weakness instinctively? Even though your pooch might outwardly appear okay, it’s important to take a few precautions as soon as you suspect they’ve been sick.

  1. Remove all your dog’s food and water for at least a couple of hours.
  2. Take a look around the house. Is one of your dog’s favourite toys or another object missing? Has the rubbish bin been chewed into? Is anything out of place in the house? If so, your pup might have consumed a foreign body and you should go to the vet. If it’s still in his stomach, they may need to induce vomiting to remove it.
  3. Double check there’s no obstruction. Put your hand in your dog’s mouth gently, at the top of his throat. Is he wheezing or breathing abnormally? This is a sign of an obstruction. Head to the vet.
  4. Have your dog’s gums changed colour? If they’re paler than usual, it’s a sign that their symptoms could be getting worse - call the vet.
  5. If no obstruction is obvious and their gums are normal, make sure to reassure your dog that they’ve done nothing wrong. Keep them warm and comfortable as they recover - a cuddle should do the trick!
  6. After 2-3 hours have passed, give your dog a few tablespoons of water at a time.
  7. After around 10 hours, feed your dog 2-3 tablespoons of bland food such as rice or chicken, once every hour. If your dog is acting normal and no further vomiting takes place, there’s no need to worry. You can feed them as normal the following day.

Be aware of dehydration in puppies

Puppies tend to suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea more often than adult dogs. The precautions you should take and the possible causes of puppy vomiting are similar to that of older pups.

However, you should be particularly aware of dehydration. Young dogs can become dehydrated rapidly, so if they vomit more than once in a day or they’re acting particularly unwell, it’s best to get to the vet promptly.

Monitor the symptoms

Maybe your dog is acting out of character or another round of vomiting has occurred, despite following the precautions? If so, it’s important to monitor your dog’s symptoms. If dog vomiting is paired with one or a few of the following, it could be a sign of a serious medical problem.

  • Severe, continuous vomiting
  • Vomiting sporadically over a long period of time
  • Vomiting up blood
  • Attempts to vomit with nothing coming up
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss, fatigue, or fever
  • Seizures
  • Change in appetite or increase in thirst
  • Abnormal behaviour

If you see any of the symptoms mentioned above, get your pet to the vet as soon as you can. Dr Justine A.Lee explains to the Pet Health Network, "Your veterinarian will need to start with a thorough physical exam (focusing especially in the mouth and the abdomen), blood work and/or x-rays. Depending on how severe it is, your vet may recommend fluids under the skin with an anti-vomiting injection (e.g., maropitant) or hospitalization for intravenous fluids and more aggressive therapy."

She continues, "Remember, when it comes to vomiting, the sooner a medical problem is identified, the sooner we can treat it and often the better (and less expensive) the outcome!"