Symptoms and Signs of Vomiting in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Effects of Vomiting – From the Dog’s Point of View

Vomiting is a fairly common condition in dogs, which happens more frequently in canines than in other domestic animals. It is the result of an active central nervous system reflex, which can be triggered by a number of different things. Vomiting can cause dogs to become dehydrated and can also lead to nutritional imbalances, electrolyte disturbances, muscle weakness, tremors, inflammation and irritation of the esophagus and aspiration pneumonia. Vomiting is stressful and unpleasant for the affected animal. It usually is preceded by nausea, profuse salivation, licking of the lips, repeated swallowing, retching and forceful, uncomfortable abdominal contractions. Dogs that sense the impending need to vomit often become anxious and will seek attention and reassurance from their owners.

Symptoms of Vomiting – What the Owner Sees

Vomiting is not the same thing as regurgitation. Vomiting involves active abdominal effort, usually described by a dog’s owner as “retching,” which happens immediately before their dog “throws up” its stomach contents. Regurgitation is a much more passive process; it is the involuntary and spontaneous backflow of undigested food from the esophagus out through the mouth, with no forceful abdominal contractions. Vomiting typically starts with contraction of the muscles of the stomach and abdominal wall. The pressure inside the abdominal cavity rises rapidly, and then the lower esophagus relaxes, which lets the contents of the stomach travel up through the esophagus and out through the dog’s mouth. Many owners notice that their dogs vomit from time to time. This is normal. However, frequent bouts of vomiting are not normal. Recurrent vomiting, or vomiting that is accompanied by bloody or mucoid diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, depression, pain, fever or confusion, warrants a trip to the veterinarian. If a dog is unable to hold down even small amounts of food or water, something is wrong. The dog may be suffering from an intestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, poisoning, bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus) or some sort of bacterial, viral or fungal infectious disease.

Dogs at Increased Risk

All dogs are subject to vomiting. Young dogs are predisposed, because they are more likely than older dogs to ingest foreign objects or develop an infectious disease that affects their digestive tract. Dogs that are on a course of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or chemotherapeutic medications also have an increased risk of vomiting.

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