Top 5 causes of vomiting in dogs

10 JUNE 2019

This article is written by Dr Elise Barry BVSc, one of Pet Circle's in house veterinarians.

Dog owners should be familiar with common conditions that can lead to vomiting in their pet. It's also important to understand the difference between regurgitation and vomiting. Regurgitation is a passive process. The ingesta that is brought up is undigested and looks like the original food that was eaten. Regurgitation will occur directly after eating.

Vomiting is an active process where you will see your dog's sides heave and its stomach and upper intestinal contents forcefully expulsed. Vomiting occurs hours after eating and the contents can contain yellow bile (from the intestines), liquid or foam (saliva & stomach acid) and chunks (partially digested food). The vomitus also has a funky sour scent to it.

Colour is another important component to note in your dog's vomit. In some cases, the reason for the vomiting can be diagnosed by having a close look at the digested material. Rat bait can turn your dog's vomit green, bits of chewed up toys could signal a partial blockage and the presence of fresh red blood or coffee ground-like material (digested blood) are considered serious complications.

The top 5 causes of vomiting in dogs are:

  • Dietary indescretion
  • Diet Change
  • Toxin/poison
  • Infectious agent (parasite/virus/bacteria)
  • Organ failure/disease

1. Dietary indiscretion

Some dogs are known for being garbage guts. They will eat indiscriminate food or objects whether it is rotting, another animal's faeces or even ingest entire objects (toys/bones) which can lead to gastroenteritis (stomach and intestinal inflammation) and vomiting. Some objects can even become stuck in the stomach or intestines and require emergency surgery for removal.

2. Diet change

Dogs can also vomit if there is a sudden change to their diet. New food may be introduced too quickly causing vomiting. Owners should always follow the 4-day guide to introducing new foods. This involves feeding one quarter of the new diet on the first day with three quarters of the old food. On the second day half and half three quarters new food and one quarter old on the third day. And finally, on the fourth day the dog can be fed the new diet alone. This is just a guide and some dogs will need more gradual transitions.

3. Toxin/poison

Many household items can poison your pet and lead to vomiting and serious disease. Some of the list include common household insecticides, rodenticides (rat bait), chemical cleaners (house/lawn), prescription medication, plants (like azaleas and rhododendrons), food (chocolate, avocado and xylitol an artificial sweetener).

4. Infectious agent

Infection caused by parasites (like intestinal worms), viruses or bacteria are also common causes of vomiting in dogs. It is always important to ensure your dog's parasite prevention and vaccinations are up to date as some of these conditions may be contagious or fatal.

5. Organ failure/disease

Another common cause of vomiting is organ dysfunction. Diseases like pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), kidney or liver failure, plus hormone dysfunction (endocrine disease) can all lead to vomiting.

Vomiting is a serious symptom of disease and if it is persistent or frequent or in conjunction with any other signs (like inappetence or lack of energy) then your veterinarian should be contacted.

If your dog is prone to tummy upset (and your vet has ruled out serious disease) take a look at our sensitive stomach diets.

Shop all Sensitive Stomach Foods for Dogs