Fortunately, most of the time, your dog’s vomiting is not an indication of anything serious. The occasional bout of vomiting could be simply due to the need to expel something from the stomach that ought not to have been eaten in the first place – your dog’s stomach becomes irritated because he has ingested something that wasn’t good for him.
Signs That Your Dog Is About to Vomit
If you are like most people, you would probably prefer that your dog vomit outdoors. There are certain signs that can alert you to impending vomiting. Your dog may drool, swallow loudly or excessively, or lick his lips before vomiting. He may also induce grass, although the reason for this is not really known. Some experts theorize that it is done to induce vomiting – if you needed to make yourself or someone else vomit, you would use an emetic like syrup of ipecac, and dogs go for the grass as a natural emetic. Other experts believe that grass is eaten simply to ease the discomfort of an upset stomach.
When your dog is gearing up to vomit, you will also notice contracting in the abdominal area. This is how you distinguish vomiting from regurgitation, which is the expelling of undigested food without any abdominal effort. Occasional regurgitation is not a cause for concern, but if it becomes chronic, you should consult your vet to find out if your dog is having esophageal issues, or a problem somewhere else in the digestive system.
What Does Persistent Vomiting Mean?
Persistent or prolonged vomiting could indicate any one of a number of serious problems. The most obvious, of course, would be exposure to some sort of toxin. However, it can also indicate pancreatic cancer, head trauma, ulcers, a reaction to medication, or a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract.
If vomiting is persistent, you should immediately take steps to help your dog.
Dealing with Persistent Vomiting
The first thing you should do is remove all the food that is usually available to your dog – the last thing you want to do is put anything else in an already irritated stomach.
Next, you need to check your dog for shock. If he is in shock, he will likely display very pale skin and gums, and may be behaving unlike himself – a dog that is usually very active, for instance, may seem listless and lethargic, whereas an ordinarily laid-back dog may seem nervous or even irritable.
Finally, check for dehydration. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dark urine, and skin that seems to have lost its elasticity.
If your dog is in shock, dehydrated or both, this is not something that you can handle on your own. You need to take him to the vet right away.
Dealing with Occasional Vomiting
If your dog is not in shock, and is not dehydrated, you can usually treat the vomiting at home. First of all, withhold food for a twelve-hour period, and restrict water intake. Instead of water, give your dog some ice cubes to lick, and two or three tablespoons of water every 30 minutes. This helps to keep his mouth moist.
Once 12 hours have passed, you can give water, but introduce food slowly, and offer a bland diet. A good mix is one part of ground chicken to five parts of cooked white rice. Start off with just a couple of teaspoons to make sure that your dog is able to keep the food down. If it doesn’t come back up, give a bit more of the bland diet every couple of hours. Then, if you are satisfied that the vomiting has stopped, you can go back to your dog’s regular diet the next day.
Diagnosing Serious Vomiting
If it seems as though your dog is vomiting more often than usual and you are concerned about the frequency, you should take your dog to the vet. He or she can use x-rays, fecal analysis and urinalysis, bloodwork, ultrasounds or a barium study to try to determine the cause of the vomiting. If you can, you should bring a sample of the vomit along with you.
You will never be able to prevent all instances of vomiting – as I pointed out earlier, dealing with vomit is just part of owning a dog. You can reduce the likelihood of vomiting, though, by following these tips:
- Avoid sudden dietary changes.
- Don’t give your dog any toys that could be swallowed, or chewed to bits and then ingested.
- Don’t leave garbage where your dog can get into it.
- Never give bones – you may have heard that some bones are safe for your dog, but that isn’t true. Some, like knucklebones, are less dangerous, but the fact is that any type of bone can splinter and cause gastric discomfort, or worse.
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Occasional vomiting on the part of your dog is to be expected, and usually you can treat it at home with dietary restrictions and sometimes a natural supplement. If it persists, though, don’t take chances with your best friend’s health – see a vet.