Why is my dog vomiting? And is it an emergency?

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  • There are many reasons as to why your dog could be vomiting and it can be worrying when you first see it – we’ve all been there. Before vomiting, dogs are likely to pace, pant drool excessively and lick their lips, plus they’ll probably have a reduced appetite, and painful and distended abdomens – and then you’ll hear the retching. Let’s face it, there is nothing that gets you out of the chair or bed quicker than a heaving dog! But why are they being sick?

    There are so many reasons that dogs vomit, including (and not limited to)…

    • gastrointestinal bug
    • possible poisoning
    • pregnancy
    • travel sickness
    • overeating
    • eating too much grass
    • eating livestock poo
    • heatstroke
    • drinking too much water
    • anxiety
    • illnesses, such as pancreatitis, liver problems, kidney failure or bloat
    • intestinal parasites
    • contagious diseases, such as parvo or distemper
    • diet change
    • medication reaction

    Morning sickness

    Like humans, dogs can suffer from morning sickness, usually in the early and latter stages of her pregnancy. To combat this, feed her later in the morning and offer smaller meals more often as opposed to her regular large ones.

    Travel sickness

    This is quite a common ailment in lots of dogs. You can use herbal remedies and pheromone sprays, such as Adaptil (available on Amazon), to help with this. Travel sickness pills can be given on the advice of your vet if the problem is severe. Always make sure that your dog is secure in the car as having too much room to roll around will not help the motion sickness.

    Adaptil Transport Spray | Amazon.co.uk
    Contains a synthetic copy of the ‘dog appeasing pheromone’, which a mother naturally releases to calm and reassure her litter. Can be sprayed on bed or blanket.

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    This can be very dangerous. It’s important that you do not allow your dog to overexert itself in hot weather, ingest too much water (either from swimming or drinking) and you keep it out of the sun and the car on hot days. Use one of the best dog cooling coats to maintain their body temperature. If your dog has been exposed to too much sun, look for a rapid heart rate, drooling and either bright red or very pale tongue and gums. Get to the vet as soon as possible.

    Kurgo Cooling Coat | Amazon.co.uk
    This jacket reflects the sun to keep the heat away and, after being soaked, it evaporates water to cool the dog’s chest area and neck.

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    This is not talked about a great deal, but a highly anxious dog can have the same emotions we do. This results in a racing heart, nervous energy, pacing and the feeling of nausea. Anxious dogs can soil their bedding, the area in which they are left or even out on a walk if they are fearful of dogs or a place. Vomiting and diarrhoea are your dog’s way of expressing their distress. Your vet can help with anxiety medication in severe cases, but you can try some calming products, such as Serene-um Drops (available on Amazon) or melatonin and pheromone calmers (such as Adaptil) in the first instance, together with a good routine to help make the dog feel safe.

    Adaptil Calming Spray | Amazon.co.uk
    This spray contains a synthetic copy of the “dog appeasing pheromone”, which a mother naturally releases to calm and reassure her litter.

    View Deal

    VetIQ Serene-um Drops | Amazon.co.uk
    These natural drops control the underlying emotional state to calm your pet so behaviour learned from stressful situations can be corrected through retraining.

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    What to do if your dog is vomiting

    One of the first things to look at is the difference between regurgitation and being sick due to illness or poisoning. Vomiting is not uncommon and, occasionally, healthy dogs will be sick for no apparent reason and then continue with their day as if nothing happened. This type of vomiting is usually nothing to worry about. Once you’ve cleaned it up, look for clues as to what’s caused the sickness.

    If your dog has been eating too much grass or your dog has been eating too much horse poo, which is usually the case with my dogs, this is fairly common so you don’t need to panic. Sometimes drinking too quickly, travel sickness, pregnancy, and anxiety, can all cause sickness, but in all these circumstances, the dog will generally revert to their normal self once they have been sick.

    If you know your dog is greedy and a scavenger, this can cause vomiting after eating. Eating too fast and taking in too much air is dangerous as it’s one of the main causes of bloat, which distends the intestine. Bloat symptoms can be easy to miss – it can be mistaken for a stomachache or thought that the pacing is related to attention seeking or wanting to go out. Generally, a dog will lay down and tuck his legs under trying to scratch its stomach and find it difficult to settle. If you see these signs, you must call your vet as this usually requires an operation.

    If you know your dog is an outrageous glutton, try to counteract this problem with one of the best slow feeder dog bowls. These can be bowls with knuckle-type mounds in them or patterned mazes so the dog cannot get the whole head in and inhale. It slows them down and takes them longer to eat their food, which means they takes in less air. Raising the food off the ground with an elevated dog bowl used to be recommended, particularly for the larger dog breeds, although this is now not proven as a total cure or aid.

    Slow Feeder Dog Bowl | Amazon.co.uk
    This anti-gulping slow feeder is designed to slow eating and prevent them choking. It’s got anti-skid pads on the bottom and can be used for wet or dry food.

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    When should I be worried?

    So how do you tell when vomiting is a cause for concern? Your dog is likely to be OK if they vomit once without any other symptoms. However, if your dog also exhibits other symptoms, such lethargy, constant drooling, lack of appetite and unwillingness to move or engage, this is cause for concern. If your dog cannot poo, wants to eat but then is sick immediately after, these are signs that your dog could have done the following:

    1. Swallowed a foreign body – there are a lot of dogs who swallow socks, eat tennis balls, sticks or ingest parts of toys they have bitten off. They become stuck in the gut and cannot move up or down, causing a blockage. Left too long, this will become toxic in their intestines and lead to sepsis and death if not operated on.

    2. Raided the bin – should your dog eat a chicken carcass, for example, that has been left in the bin this can lead to devastating consequences. Rotten and mouldy food and remnants of household substances can also be a danger.

    3. Ingested toxins or poisons – this can include plants, household substances and foods that are harmful to dogs. Peanut butter being one – a lot of the peanut butter on the shelves contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs, and so you’re safer to purchase one of the best safe peanut butters for dogs. Chewing gum also contains xylitol. I know of a dog local to me who sadly died after eating a piece of discarded chewing gum from the floor due to the toxicity of the xylitol in it.

    4. Gastrointestinal upset – the dog world also has bugs that go around, including sickness bugs. Sometimes it may be necessary to seek anti-sickness pills from the vet combined with a bland diet for a few days and probiotics. These types of bugs are normally accompanied by diarrhoea. In some cases, blood can be present in the poo or vomit and will require antibiotics, too.

    5. Allergic reaction – dogs can have allergic reactions to medications and food. It will be obvious as there is a physical response within minutes.

    6. Viral diseases and bacterial infections – viruses can be airborne or transmitted when sniffing infected poo, while bacterial infections, can be picked up when drinking from stagnant water. This can cause upset stomachs and an elevated temperature, which will make your dog feel very sorry for itself indeed. Dehydration can also be a concern in this instance

    Most of these causes and symptoms can come on quickly, vomiting occurs several times, within the course of several hours. It is always best to seek medical intervention in these cases.

    More serious health problems that can cause vomiting

    Sometimes sickness can be signs of a more serious problem or underlying health issue, such as:

    • Diabetes – signs include excessive thirst, lots of sleeping and headache in the dog
    • Kidney and liver failure, which is usually accompanied with excessive drinking and lethargy and, in the case of liver failure, jaundice
    • Pyometra (womb infections)
    • Cancer, which often causes weight loss if it is in the internal organs, but symptoms may not present until it is in a very advanced stage
    • Pancreatitis, which is accompanied by abdominal pain
    • Colitis
    • Parvovirus and distemper

    Many of these problems can be treatable if your vet is consulted within a reasonable time period, and it is up to you to give the vet as much information as possible. This is easy if you can see there has been a smash-and-grab bin raid or there are chewed up packets of medicines or sweets, but it may not be so easy if they have eaten part of a plant or licked something off the floor.

    Vomiting in puppies

    Young pups and juveniles that vomit to excess frequently should never be ignored. The vaccinations that guard against the worse dog diseases, such as parvovirus and distemper, may not have been administered yet and both these diseases have a high mortality rate in the young dog – even with veterinary intervention.

    I do not allow any unknown dogs or unvaccinated dogs on my premises when I have a litter. I also ensure that prospective owners and visitors stand in a tray of antibacterial water, plus wash and anti-bac their hands before they are allowed near my puppies. A young dog loses its mothers immunity at six weeks, so there is a real risk of contracting these diseases before their first vaccination. Likewise, puppies that are not wormed can have parasites in their stomachs, which is usually prevalent in their stools, but can cause vomiting, too – especially the helicobacter parasite. Personally, I will take any young dog under eight months straight to the vets if I experience episodes of vomiting. The young ones can dehydrate and go downhill extremely rapidly if not cared for by a vet.

    Can vomiting be prevented?

    In non-medical instances, there are things you can do to prevent your dog being sick, including…

    • providing travel sickness remedies that help them cope with journeys
    • removing water for 10 seconds or more before placing it back down again if your dog is hot, has run and exercised excessively, so that they do not gulp too much too quickly
    • stop them eating excessive amounts of grass and horse or livestock poo
    • make sure that your rubbish bin is secure and out of reach, especially if you have put cooked bones and carcasses in there
    • make sure your dog is wormed when necessitates but remember that sometimes wormers can cause sickness , too
    • do not let your dog overheat or leave them in cars on hot days
    • make sure your dog does not over exercise and, if necessary, make sure they have a cooling coat
    • keep medicines and household cleaning agents out of their reach
    • keep all harmful foods and plants sectioned off or out of harm’s way

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