Help! Why is My Puppy Vomiting? (Know the Fundamentals)
Seeing your puppy throw up for the first time can be disconcerting. After all, your little guy is usually bouncy and energetic; seeing him slow down and vomit may lead you to think the worst. How alarming is this action, and what can you do to help out?
A Brief Video Overview of Puppy and Dog Vomit
Puppy or dog vomit can be a surprisingly complex issue, from its origins to its treatment. This video does a solid job of covering the basic elements of a vomiting episode from start to finish. At the very least, this video may help you stem the tide of panic you may feel upon seeing your puppy throw up for the first time.
The Common Nature of Canine Vomiting
If you’re new to the dog ownership game, the first thing you need to realize is that you’re going to see your puppy vomit as he grows. In fact, you may see your pooch throw up a whole lot. This is due to the way a dog is built.
A dog’s predisposition toward vomiting is well-developed within their brain, and they use the action as a defense mechanism of sorts. This mechanism drills down to the time before dogs were pets; when they were roaming the earth as scavengers.
Back in the day, if a dog stumbled upon something that looked like it may be edible, they'd give it a try. If it wasn't, the brain's vomiting center would activate, and the pooch would throw it right back up. This scavenger nature is still part of a dog's DNA, which is why you have to monitor carefully what a puppy gets into, lest he dig into something really bad.
What Causes Vomiting in Puppies?
Obviously, the most common cause of vomiting has to do with something a puppy ate. This could be because he ingested something that doesn’t agree with his tummy. It can also be caused by eating too much food too fast; something that may be remedied by strictly controlling his food intake.
While these causes of vomiting are mild, a lot of the other reasons why vomiting occur point to something much more serious. For instance, the dog's scavenger roots may lead him to devour a toxic substance. It can also lead to the eating of a foreign object his stomach can't break down, like a toy.
Vomiting can also be a sign that a dog is suffering from some kind of systemic or gastrointestinal disorder. These issues could range from intestinal parasites such as worms to serious GI-related medical conditions such as bloat. In a lot of these cases, vomiting will be accompanied by diarrhea.
Vomiting could also be an indicator of an extreme medical issue that exists outside of the gastrointestinal tract. Acute liver failure, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and cancer are just some of the issues that can be directly linked to a pup throwing up.
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Oddly enough, a puppy may end up vomiting because he has an empty stomach. It sounds a bit odd, but it’s one of the most common reasons why you’d catch your pup vomiting. The tell-tale sign of this type of vomit is if he’s throwing up a frothy, yellowish white liquid when he wakes up in the morning.
The Three Types of Throwing Up
Before you start to draw conclusions on why your pup may be throwing up, you should note that there are three different kinds of throwing up you may see. Knowing the differences between the three could help you eliminate some of the guesswork and get a better bead as to what’s afoot with your pup’s tummy.
The most common throw up practice is vomiting, which is indicative of rudimentary illness such as an upset stomach or more serious issues up to and including gastrointestinal tract issues. If your pup is vomiting, you may see him drool first. You’ll then start to see a heaving motion emanating from his stomach muscles, and you’ll finally see a mess on your linoleum.
The second type of throwing up, regurgitation, is typically a sign that he’s either overindulged or eaten too quickly. Your dog’s body motions won’t be nearly as intense as they are when he vomits – it really just kind of pours out rather effortlessly. Your pup may even start nibbling at the spillage in this situation.
The third type of throw up is gagging or retching. This is the most serious version of throwing up, as it can be a sign that he’s trying to expel something that’s either lodged in his stomach or his throat. It could also be a sign of heart, lung, or esophageal problems.
If a puppy is gagging, he won’t be able to keep any food or water in his mouth – it will just fall out if he tries. Regardless of age, you’ll notice a whole lot more muscle movement around his chest than his tummy, as these muscles will be working overtime to dislodge whatever may be stuck.
How Do I Know How Serious Things Are?
There are several factors involved in a pup throwing up that can indicate the severity of the situation. Some of these are pretty obvious, while some are very subtle in nature. Most of the time, however, the seriousness can be determined by observation.
If you’re lucky to catch your dog eating something that eventually makes him vomit, you should be able to deduce the severity of the situation based on the root. For instance, if he binged on an unfortunately-placed plate of microwaved burritos, you won’t need to panic. If you saw him grabbing hold of a chocolate bar, it’s a whole different ballgame.
If you didn’t see what your pup ate, then inspecting the vomit for blood is a solid indicator of what may be going on. Yes, it sounds gross, but it could be something that spells the difference between life and death for your pooch. If you see blood, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
Repetitive vomiting is also a key sign of something more serious happening in your puppy. If your little guy’s throw up is persistent, you’d be wise to look for additional symptoms that may indicate other serious problems. Diarrhea and extreme lethargy are tell-tale signs that something more pressing is happening.
A Trip to the Veterinarian – What to Expect
As soon as you determine your puppy’s vomit isn’t just a one-time occurrence, you need to get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. In severe cases, such as if he ingested something poisonous, don’t wait until the vet is available – get your pooch to an emergency pet clinic immediately.
When you bring your dog to the vet, it’s a good idea to collect a vomit sample and bring that along with you if at all possible. Your vet will be able to examine the vomit for clues that you may not be able to detect, such as bile. If the vomit sample is bloody, your vet can look at its color to narrow where the issue is originating.
You can also expect the vet to carry out a pretty thorough physical exam upon arrival. This will include things like taking his temperature or checking inside his mouth for foreign objects. In some cases, x-rays and other intensive treatments may be conducted if the issue is deemed potentially severe.
Treating Vomiting in Puppies
Prevention of puppy vomiting is largely dependent on the underlying cause of the vomit. For mild to moderate conditions, a change in diet or medication to help control the vomiting may be in order. Some of these medications can include antibiotics or other drugs to help combat issues in which vomiting is symptomatic.
In severe cases of vomiting, your vet may recommend surgery. This recommendation is typically reserved for cases involving the ingestion of foreign objects or vomiting related to cancer or cancer treatments. This latter scenario is not as common in puppies as it is in older dogs.
When the trip to the vet is completed, it is important that you follow whatever treatment plan your veterinarian lays out for you to the letter. Don’t alter his diet or wane him off prescribed medication unless expressly instructed by the vet to do so.
Also, pay close attention to your puppy’s behavior in the aftermath of the visit. If he does not show signs of improvement, get him back to the vet as soon as you can for a follow-up evaluation. Don’t just assume that he’s taking longer than usual to heal.
Don’t Panic, but Don’t Delay
When you see your puppy throw up, it’s important that you remain calm and care for him in a gentle, caring manner. Your puppy may already be a bit nervous if there’s something serious going on. Him seeing you freaking out may exacerbate things.
That being said, you shouldn’t swing the other way and treat the issue like it’s no big deal. If your puppy’s vomiting resembles a bigger issue even in the slightest, don’t mess around – get to the vet right away. It may be the difference between life and death.
P.S. I haven't tried it, but a few readers have told me essential oils can help, too.