Some dogs will eat anything, and if you don't believe us, check out this viral Twitter thread on dogs that ruined Thanksgiving for their owners. Things can get a bit messy after the initial shock of realizing that an entire pie has disappeared...when your pup gets into the pantry, there's a high likelihood that they will throw up. It's a nasty but necessary side effect to get that bad stuff out of their system.
But what should you do if the vomiting is excessive, or if you're not entirely sure what they ate? When is it time to get concerned and bring them to the vet? To find out more about dogs and regurgitation, we spoke to our resident "Ask a Vet" Dr. Walt Ingwersen.
The first step, says Dr. Ingwersen, is to identify the reason for your dog's reaction. Some common reasons for a sick dog include a change in food, treats or medication. If there's been a shift in what your dog has consumed on a regular basis, that could disrupt their digestion. "If it's something as simple as a dietary change, simply revert back to a normal diet or eliminate what is causing the vomiting." (Read more about what Dr. Ingwersen has to say about food that's grain-free, raw, wet or dry, and for dogs with allergies).
Eating grass is another common cause of dog vomiting. It's largely thought to be a normal behaviour that's either caused by boredom or a nutritional deficiency. Some people believe that dogs eat grass to make themselves throw up, but there's not much evidence to support that theory. A study on a grass-obsessed poodle did show, however, that a high-fibre diet could stop a dog's desire to graze. Grass itself shouldn't be an issue for dogs, but beware of toxic herbicides and pesticides that people sometimes use on their lawn.
There are some human foods that are incredibly toxic for dogs to ingest. Chocolate is the most common example. It contains the toxic molecule theobromine, which is difficult for dogs to digest. As a general rule, the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and seizures.
Other types of candy, even peanut butter, can also be a risk if it contains the ingredient xylitol. Commonly used as an artificial sweetener, xylitol can be found in both sugar-free and non-sugar treats. It's a major concern because even in low doses it causes low blood sugar, liver failure and seizures.
Medication (prescription or over-the-counter) and cannabis are two other toxic substances that your dog could have serious side effects from. Make sure to keep all medicines and drugs stored safely out of snout reach. Learn more about dogs and cannabis here.
If your dog has ingested something toxic, you should see a veterinarian immediately.
Post-vomiting, if your dog is happy, healthy and running around, you're probably in the clear. To help with the symptoms, let your dog's stomach rest for 12 to 24 hours. After that time period, you can introduce food in smaller amounts. If they're eating kibble, you might want to add water to the bowl so that it's a bit mushy and easier on their stomach.
You also want to make sure they're drinking water, but not too much because that can make them sick again. "In the short term, rest and rehydration should work," says Dr. Ingwersen.
However, if your dog is sluggish or depressed and doesn't want to eat or drink, it could be a bigger issue. "The most concerning thing would be a bloat abdomen which can be a sign of gastric dilatation or torsion. If you can see that the dog's stomach is bloated, bring them to the vet right away," says Dr. Ingwersen.
In addition to the previously mentioned issues of ingesting toxic substances and symptom of bloating, you should see a veterinarian if your dog has been vomiting for an extended period of time. If it's continual over 24 hours, book an appointment.
You should also book an appointment if the vomiting returns after you've tried things like stomach rest, reintroducing their food or serving them a bland diet of rice and lean ground hamburger. This can be an indication that there's an underlying concern causing the vomiting that shouldn't be ignored.
The most common cause for continual vomiting from a dog that's otherwise bright and alert is swallowing a foreign object. "Maybe they've eaten a toy, a sock, a stone...at that point, further diagnostics, like an x-ray are needed to find out what's going on," says Dr. Ingwersen.