Vomiting in dogs is not unusual, but it is, nonetheless abnormal. While vomiting by itself is not a disease, it is a sign of acute and chronic irritation or inflammation of the stomach. Dogs having minor stomach upsets usually vomit the irritant substance; they may vomit frothy yellow fluid later, but otherwise do not appear distressed. Persistent or frequent vomiting, particularly if the vomitus is bile-stained or bloody and is accompanied by signs of weakness, pain, fever, and dehydration, is more serious and requires veterinary treatment.
The most common cause of vomiting in dogs is eating of irritating substances, such as bones, grass, foreign objects, or spicy, decomposed, or contaminated foods. In addition, overeating or exercising immediately following a meal can cause vomiting, particularly in puppies. More serious, but less common, cause of vomiting in dogs are severe food poisoning, internal parasites, poisons, fungal toxins, intestinal obstruction, tumors of the gastrointestinal tract, shock, pancreatic disease, liver disease, kidney disease, distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, leptospirosis, pharyngitis, tonsilitis, diseases and disorders of the nervous system, and trauma. Diagnosis of the cause of vomiting can be difficult because the causes are so numerous. A detailed history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and X-rays may be of diagnostic value in cases of persistent vomiting.
If a dog vomits once or twice, but otherwise appears healthy, professional treatment is not necessary, but some investigation into the sources of the problem is desirable if this is a frequent or continuing problem. Following a vomiting episode, withhold the dog's food for twenty-for hours and limit its water supply. For occasional mild vomiting this procedure should take care of the problem. If the vomiting episode has been severe, offer a small amount of bland food, such as baby food, rice, or boiled egg after a twenty-four hour restrictions, or use a homemade diet and continue to limit water supply.
Regurgitation and Vomiting
Regurgitation is the expulsion of material (for example, food, water, saliva) from the mouth, throat, or esophagus. If a dog continuously regurgitates these materials, he may have a disease or a disorder localized to the mouth, throat, or esophagus. In this case, he needs to be examined by a veterinarian. If the animal shows signs of dysphagia (stretching or flexing of the neck during swallowing, repeated efforts at swallowing, food falling from the mouth during swallowing), a veterinarian may perform a test to determine the exact cause of dysphagia. If the regurgitating animal is not dysphagic, esophageal disorder may be diagnosed. The two main reasons of esophageal regurgitation are obstruction and muscular weakness. An esophageal obstruction is mainly caused by foreign objects, although scars, tumors and esophageal spasm may cause it, too.
Gastrointestinal Upset Diet
A homemade diet can be made from the following recipe:
- 1/2 cup cream of wheat
- 1 1/2 cups creamed cottage cheese
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- 1 tablespoon corn oil
- 1 tablespoon potassium chloride
- 2 teaspoons dicalcium phosphate
- Vitamin-mineral supplement to meet daily requirements
Cook the cream of wheat following the package directions. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Feed as required to maintain the dog's normal body weight. Special diets, such as Prescription Diet i/d from Hill's, are available from veterinarians. If no further vomiting occurs, repeat this feeding in six hours and then gradually over a few days return the dog to its normal diet. Antacids are useful but seldom necessary in cases of occasional vomiting. The human dosages given with these products should be adjusted for the dog's weight. These may be helpful provided they do not cause further vomiting when administered. Vomiting caused by overeating or exercising immediately following a meal can be overcome by feeding smaller meals or feeding more frequently, and by restricting exercise after meals.
If this home-care treatment does not solve the problem, or if the vomiting is persistent or increases in frequency, then veterinary treatment will be necessary. Be sure to bring a sample of the vomiting to the veterinarian hospital, and give the veterinarian any information that may be helpful in reaching a diagnosis. Veterinary treatment approaches will vary, depending on the cause of the vomiting. Possible treatments may include:
- Supportive and symptomatic treatment, which involves the use of antiemetics, antispasmodics and intravenous or subcutaneous fluids if dehydration is present.
- Antibiotics to treat infectious disease, throat infections, and poisoning.
- Treatment for shock
- Treatment for poisonings
- Worming for parasites
- Treatment for liver and pancreatic disease
- Treatment for kidney failure
- Surgical treatment for trauma, gastrointestinal tumors, intestinal obstruction, and foreign bodies.
- Treatment of other diseases or disorders causing the vomiting