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When Is Dog Vomiting Normal, and When Is It a Serious Concern?

Dog vomiting can point to a minor problem like motion sickness or a serious one like a foreign object in the digestive system. Here’s how to approach the symptom.

A bulldog sleeps under a blanket on a leather sofa.

Dog vomiting can point to a minor problem like motion sickness or a serious one like a foreign object in the digestive system. Here’s how to approach the symptom.

As a dog owner, you hate to see your beloved canine companion in distress or discomfort. That's why it can be stressful when you see your dog vomiting. Why is it happening? Is it something serious? What should you do?

The truth is that vomiting is very common among dogs. Vomiting itself is not a disease — it's a symptom. Vomiting can happen for a wide variety of reasons, some of which are more serious than others. 

Part of being a good pet owner is knowing what can cause vomiting in dogs and knowing when to be concerned. Then, you can take the appropriate action. 

Let's look at dog vomiting versus regurgitation (they're not the same thing), what causes vomiting, and how to deal with it. That way, you'll be ready to tackle your dog's vomiting head-on. 

Vomiting vs. Regurgitation

Dog vomiting: sad Labrador lying on the floor

Sometimes, the terms "vomiting" and "regurgitation" are used synonymously and interchangeably. The fact is, though, these are two different things entirely.

  • Regurgitation happens when your dog's esophagus pushes swallowed food back out of the stomach and into (and out of) your dog's mouth. The esophageal muscles pushed the food back out, not the stomach muscles, and digestion never started. 
  • Vomiting, conversely, means that food is pushed back out of your dog's stomach by the stomach muscles. That food may have been partially or completely undigested.

When your dog regurgitates food, it will probably look about the same as it did when your dog ate it (gross, we know). Vomited food, however, will usually look quite different. It’ll be mushier, it will probably smell sour, and it may take on a yellow color (caused by bile from your dog's stomach). 

Why does regurgitation happen? Usually, it's because your dog ate too much, ate too fast, or because they're stressed. Regurgitation is almost never a medical emergency. 

If you think your dog is regurgitating food because they're stressed, try Native Pet's Calming Chew. This can help ease generalized anxiety, improve sleep, and relax the muscles to help your pooch feel better.

What Are the Causes of Dog Vomiting?

Dog vomiting: sad dog lying on the bed

Vomiting is a symptom of many illnesses, diseases, and health issues. Some are extremely common, and some are quite serious.

Some of the potential causes of dog vomiting include:

Dietary Indiscretion

Let's face it: Your dog loves eating. And sometimes, they ingest too much food or foods that they shouldn't eat. Dietary indiscretion is one of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs. Let’s say your pooch chowed down on too many dog treats or got into the garbage and ate fatty table scraps. They may develop an upset stomach that leads to vomiting.

Take note that too much fatty food at once can lead to a life-threatening case of acute pancreatitis. That's why you should never feed your dog too much fatty food, and keep a close eye on your dinner table and on the garbage to make sure your dog doesn't get into something they shouldn't. 

Motion Sickness

Did you know that your dog can get motion sick, just like you? This often happens when your pup rides in a car. The pup can start to feel nauseous and may throw up as a result.

If your dog gets motion sick every time they ride in a car, talk to your vet about medication that can help your pet to feel better. Otherwise, just stop feeding your dog for several hours before a car ride, keep rides short, and crack a window during the ride for some airflow during the ride. 

Foreign Object Ingestion

Your dog might eat something that blocks their gastrointestinal system, like a large rock, and starts to cause serious problems. This can also cause vomiting. An intestinal blockage is a dangerous health issue, so if you know or suspect that your dog ingested a foreign object, call a vet right away.


Bacterial infections, viral infections like parvovirus and distemper, liver disease, ulcers in the stomach, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease... The list of possible diseases that can cause dog vomiting goes on. If there isn't another obvious underlying cause for your dog's vomiting, have your pet examined at the vet's office to look for particular diseases.


Known medically as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV, bloat is a serious condition that occurs when your dog's stomach fills with food, fluid, or gas and distends, or when the stomach twists. This twisting puts pressure on the surrounding organs, reducing blood flow to them. This can be life-threatening. A dog with an untreated case of bloat can even go into shock and die.

Symptoms like retching, restlessness, excessive drooling, obvious distress, and rapid breathing can accompany dog vomiting (or attempted vomiting) in a case of bloat. Rush your dog to the pet emergency room if you suspect they’re suffering. 

Bloat is most commonly seen in large-breed dogs with deep chests like Mastiffs, Great Danes, Boxers, German Shepherds, and Newfoundlands.

Intestinal Parasites

Parasites like roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, and others can infest your pet’s intestinal tract and start causing problems. Luckily, most intestinal parasites are easy to get rid of with veterinary care. Talk to your vet about a dewormer medication, and keep your dog on a worm preventative moving forward to prevent infestations.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are another possible cause of dog vomiting. This occurs when your pet is allergic to an ingredient in their dog food, like beef, chicken, pork, dairy, wheat, or soy. Their body rejects the ingredient, resulting in vomiting. Other possible symptoms include itchy skin, diarrhea, and even weight loss. 

Talk to your vet if you suspect a case of food allergies is behind your dog's vomiting. You'll probably need to work together to conduct a food trial, removing certain foods periodically to find out what your pet is reacting to. Then, you can avoid that ingredient as time goes on.

Try giving your dog Native Pet's Allergy Chicken Chews if your dog suffers from allergies. They provide an all-natural antihistamine to prevent itchiness and can even help with long-term immune system support.

How to Treat Dog Vomiting

Sick dog lying on the vet's table while getting an ultrasound

The above list of possible causes of dog vomiting is not exhaustive — there are many more health problems that could cause a dog to throw up. How do you know if your dog's vomiting episode is a cause for concern or if your dog might have just eaten too fast or is feeling a little motion sick? 

If your dog vomits once and doesn't continue to vomit, keep a close eye on them for the next several hours. Offer them a bit of water, or feed them a bit of a bland diet consisting of small pieces of boiled white-meat chicken and white rice. 

If your dog is experiencing repeated, chronic vomiting, or if you notice other symptoms like loss of appetite, abdominal pain (your dog reacts to the stomach being touched), drooling, or repeated diarrhea, it's time to call the vet. 

Once your dog is at the vet's office, some medical tests can help determine the cause of your dog's vomiting. These tests include bloodwork, stool samples, biopsies, and X-rays to check for foreign bodies. From there, the problem can be diagnosed and treatment can be started.

How to React to Dog Vomiting

Husky getting checked by a vet

Here's the rule of thumb to follow when you have a vomiting dog on your hands: If it happens once and then stops, your dog is probably fine. Keep an eye on them, and consider feeding a veterinarian-recommended bland diet at the next meal to help soothe their stomach. Ask your vet if the bland diet should continue being fed depending on your dog’s condition.

If your dog's vomiting is chronic, or if you notice other symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, appetite loss, weight loss, or obvious distress, your dog needs veterinary attention. Get them to the vet's as soon as possible. If your dog has a sensitive stomach and you’d like to maintain their good gut health, try Native Pet’s Probiotic Powder. It helps create a thriving environment for healthy flora and can help prevent upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs.

Would you like to learn more about your dog's health and wellness needs? Visit the Native Pet blog for more articles like this one.
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