For humans, vomiting means something is up with the body. We are sick, we ate something bad, we drank too much, we’re pregnant, etc. It’s a pretty safe to say that if you are throwing up, something’s wrong and it warrants a doctor’s visit. But with dogs, rushing to the veterinary office every time he pukes up a blade of grass will cost you a lot of money and might just get you labeled as one of those “crazy pet parents.” Dogs do vomit and regurgitate, but not for the same reasons we do. And sometimes it does warrant a vet visit, but not every time. Learning the difference can save you some time and money.
You should know the difference between regurgitation versus vomiting
Regurgitation happens when undigested food or fluid moves back up the esophagus and out the dog’s mouth. You will not see any chest heaving with regurgitation, as the material has not made it into the dog’s stomach yet and your dog is not nauseous. It’s a common behavior that dogs do for many reasons. Some of the reasons your dog may regurgitate something are:
* Ate or drank too fast
* Didn’t chew their food up enough (so the pieces are too big to go down), in this case your dog will most likely immediately eat what they regurgitated
* They aren’t sure if what they just ate was safe (survival instinct)
These most likely do not warrant a visit to the vet’s. (Think about how many times your dog regurgitates grass!).
Vomiting happens when your dog’s stomach is upset. There will be heaving and nausea involved and the material that comes up may be partially digested. They may throw up bile as well. Vomiting is usually more serious than regurgitation.
What if my dog is vomiting bile only?
As mentioned above, your dog may throw up bile along with whatever else they ate. But what about dogs that just throw up bile? Bile is created in your dog’s liver, stored in their gallbladder and then released into the small intestine. If your dog’s stomach is empty, that bile can cause it to be upset and they will vomit. If your dog does this, feeding him a few pieces of his kibble can help. I know a dog that throws up bile if his owner doesn’t feed him within a half hour of his normal breakfast time – his stomach is just sensitive.
So when do I go to the vet?
For the vast majority of cases, regurgitating is a normal dog thing and is perfectly safe. However, if you think your dog regurgitated something that was dangerous and you think they may have eaten some of it early, you may need to take them to a vet. Also, if your dog regurgitates frequently, say at almost every meal, it can be a sign of a genetic condition. Great Danes, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundland, Chinese Shar-Pei, Miniature Schnauzer and the Wire Fox Terrier are pre-disposed to the medical disorder of regurgitation and it can be associated with other medical issues, including cancer, so it definitely warrants a vet visit.
There are definitely times when you should take your dog to the vet when you see vomiting. First, check what your dog threw up. If it doesn’t look like something edible (like part of a toy) or there is blood in the vomit, they should see a vet. Put the vomit in a plastic bag and take it to the vet – it can help them diagnose the problem.
Even if the vomit looks fine, check for other signs that your dog is unhealthy:
* Weight loss
* Loss of balance
* Loss of appetite
If your dog is acting “off” in any way or has other symptoms, it’s probably a good idea to go to the vet then as well.