Dog owners expect to clean up the occasional mess from their dog’s upset stomach. However, not every vomiting incident is benign. Some conditions that cause your dog to vomit should be addressed by a veterinary professional. Our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital wants to provide information about when you should be worried about your dog vomiting. You should be concerned if…

#1: Your dog is a puppy

Vomiting in puppies is especially concerning, because they can quickly lose important electrolytes and become dehydrated. Puppies are also at higher risk for infection with serious, life-threatening diseases, such as canine parvovirus. Since they are not fully vaccinated until they are about 16 weeks old, their immune system is not capable of fending off the virus. 

Parvovirus attacks the rapidly dividing cells in the bone marrow and intestine, which suppresses the immune system, and allows the disease to spread more easily. Vomiting is a common sign exhibited in parvo-infected patients, as are diarrhea, lethargy, and fever.

#2: Your dog has other signs in addition to vomiting

If your dog is exhibiting other signs, such as diarrhea, lethargy, fever, pain, or seizures, they are likely suffering from a serious condition. Possible causes include:

  • Infectious diseases — In addition to parvovirus, canine distemper can result in vomiting, and lethargy, fever, and diarrhea.
  • Heatstroke — Your dog’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees, and temperatures 105 and higher indicate heatstroke. This is a medical emergency for your dog. The extreme heat causes inflammation throughout your dog’s body, resulting in numerous issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea, respiratory distress, clotting abnormalities, shock, and seizures.
  • Pancreatitis — This is a painful condition caused by the early activation of enzymes inside the pancreas. These enzymes start to digest the pancreas and the surrounding tissues. Your dog’s signs may include vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, and decreased appetite.

#3: Your dog has bloody vomit

If your dog is vomiting blood, they are bleeding somewhere in their gastrointestinal tract. The color can help determine the bleeding site, which will be close to the mouth if the blood is bright red, and further down the intestinal tract if the blood is darker. Bright red bloody vomit is likely from the stomach or upper small intestine, and dark, granular blood indicates digested blood. Possible conditions that cause bloody vomit include:

  • Gastric ulceration — When the lining of your dog’s stomach is disrupted, bleeding occurs, frequently resulting in vomiting blood. Other signs include tarry, black feces,  decreased appetite, and abdominal pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and cancer are the most common causes of gastric ulceration in dogs.
  • Clotting abnormalities — If your dog has a condition that inhibits their blood’s ability to clot, they may vomit blood. Tick borne-illnesses, bone marrow disease, and rodenticide poisoning can all result in clotting abnormalities. Other signs include unexplained bruising, nose bleeds, and dark, tarry feces.

#4: Your dog is retching but not producing vomit

Typically, dogs will drool excessively and retch before they vomit. If your dog is indicating nausea but not producing any vomit, they could be suffering from a serious issue that requires surgical correction.

  • Bloat — Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, fluid, or food, and twists. The twisted stomach places pressure on the surrounding organs and cuts off blood supply. This condition is fatal if left untreated. Signs include dry-heaving, panting, distended abdomen, and collapse.
  • Gastrointestinal blockage — If your dog ingests a foreign object, such as a bone or rock, the item can become lodged in their gastrointestinal tract. This blockage prevents normal gastrointestinal movement, and can decrease blood flow to the affected bowel portion, causing necrosis. Signs include repetitive retching, abdominal pain, distended abdomen, and diarrhea.

#5: Your dog exhibits chronic vomiting

If your dog vomits repeatedly over days or weeks, they may be affected by a systemic illness. You may also notice weight loss or muscle wasting.

  • Cancer — Certain cancers, especially those affecting the stomach, can cause vomiting, and progress over weeks or months. Other signs include lethargy and decreased appetite. 
  • Kidney or liver failure — As these organs can no longer filter out waste products, the circulating toxins cause stomach upset and vomiting. Other signs that your dog is suffering from kidney failure include excessive thirst and urination, decreased appetite, and poor dental health. If affected by liver disease, your dog may have a decreased appetite, lethargy, and jaundice (i.e., a yellowish tinge to their eyes and mucous membranes).

#6: You suspect your dog has ingested a poisonous substance

Many common household products and foods are poisonous to dogs. If you suspect your dog has ingested a dangerous substance, contact Colony Veterinary Hospital or Animal Poison Control. They will want to know your dog’s age, breed, and weight, what was ingested, and when the incident occurred.

Most serious conditions that result in vomiting have a better prognosis if addressed promptly. Our veterinary professionals at Colony Veterinary Hospital will perform diagnostics, such as blood work, X-rays, and ultrasound, to help determine the cause of your dog’s distress. If you are worried about your dog’s vomiting, do not hesitate to contact our team to schedule an appointment, or to bring them in for immediate care.