Vomiting in dogs

Dog looking depressed

What causes dogs to be sick and how to treat it

Some dogs are sick every now and then and it’s often as a result of them being greedy (either eating too much, or eating too quickly), or because they’ve eaten something they probably shouldn’t have (i.e. grass, cardboard or even other animals' poo).

Dogs, like us, are usually sick to help empty their system of anything difficult to digest, but sometimes it might be a sign of an underlying illness, health concern or an indicator that something else is going on. In these situations it’s important to know the difference between when to look after your dog at home and when to speak to your vet for advice.

Why are dogs sick?

Common causes for dogs being sick are:

  • Scavenging and eating things they shouldn’t
  • Car sickness
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • A sudden change to their diet
  • Food intolerance or food allergy
  • Eating hard foreign bodies, such as toys or bones
  • Eating something poisonous
  • Bloat
  • Adverse reactions to medicines or anaesthetics
  • Heatstroke
  • Problems with their kidneys, liver or pancreas
  • Some metabolic conditions
  • Problems with their gut i.e. inflammatory bowel disease

Vomiting vs regurgitation

Generally, vomiting tends to be more serious than regurgitation.

Regurgitation tends to happen soon after a dog has eaten something. Food may not have reached the stomach yet, or may have only just reached it, so may still be undigested and might still look similar to how it went in. The matter they regurgitate will also often come out in a sausage shape (i.e. the same shape as the tube in the dog’s throat).

Vomiting removes partially digested food from the dog’s stomach. Dogs often show signs that they are going to be sick, such as dribbling, retching and tensing the muscles around their stomach.

If my dog is sick when should I call my vet?

If your dog is unexpectedly sick as a one off, and shows no other signs, then there’s a good chance that you may not need to worry.

With many serious illnesses, early diagnosis and treatment is often incredibly helpful, so never wait to get advice. If your dog shows any of the following signs, then it may be time to call your vet:

  • If you suspect they have eaten a foreign body
  • If you suspect that they have eaten, or been exposed to a poison
  • If there is blood in their sick or poo
  • If they are vomiting frequently
  • If they keep on trying to be sick
  • If they seem to be in pain or uncomfortable
  • If they seem tired
  • If you think they are dehydrated
  • If they have a temperature
  • If they have any other effects that you’re concerned about (i.e. seizures)
  • If it’s a chronic problem
  • If they have lost weight and lost their appetite

How to treat a sick dog

One of the most common ways to help a dog that is recovering from vomiting is to feed them a bland diet (usually white rice, sweet potato, boiled chicken or white fish). If your dog has been treated by your vet then they may also give your dog a specially prescribed diet and some medication to help them feel less sick. Your vet may give your dog plenty of fluids, either to drink or via a drip, and they may need to use a variety of different treatments and investigations depending on why your dog was sick.

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page