Many dogs that are taken to a veterinarian because they are vomiting have a benign condition that will resolve on its own, usually caused by some sort of dietary indiscretion. Other dogs are suffering from regurgitation, which is an entirely different problem with different causes and treatments. If a dog has been vomiting repeatedly for a number of days, its veterinarian will take a thorough history from its owner and will perform a complete physical examination. She probably will recommend taking blood and urine samples, to get a good snapshot of the dog’s overall health. This will include a complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile (including assessment of sodium and potassium levels) and a urinalysis. Fecal samples can provide additional diagnostic information.
Depending upon the results of the initial evaluation, it may be appropriate to take abdominal radiographs (X-rays), which can reveal foreign bodies, intestinal obstruction, bloat/gastric dilatation and volvulus or loss of intestinal detail. Abdominal ultrasound can help to identify masses or other internal abnormalities. Advanced blood tests can be run to assess liver, pancreatic, thyroid and adrenal gland function. These should include adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation testing and an evaluation of the dog’s blood-clotting profile. Radiographic contrast studies of the entire gastrointestinal tract can be performed to evaluate intestinal motility disorders and stomach (gastric) outflow problems. If these diagnostic tools do not disclose the cause of the dog’s vomiting, the veterinarian may recommend an exploratory surgery, known as a laparotomy, to take a look around inside the animal’s abdomen and to take biopsy samples of questionable tissues. This exploratory procedure is increasingly being done endoscopically, which is a much less invasive surgical technique.