Spend enough time around dogs and you’re bound to notice that they vomit rather frequently. An occasional “upchuck” is simply part of being a dog. Their indiscriminate appetites often lead them astray, with predictable results.
Owners do not need to rush to the veterinarian every time a dog vomits. Many cases can be successfully treated at home with dietary therapy. Knowing what and when to feed is the key to success.
When a dog has just started vomiting, you need to get a feel for just how sick he or she might be. If any of the following apply to your dog, call your veterinarian immediately:
- Your dog is very young, very old, or has another health condition that could compromise his or her ability to withstand even a mild episode of vomiting
- Your dog is in pain or is quite depressed/lethargic
- Fresh (red) or partially digested (coffee ground-like) blood is visible in the vomit
- Your dog is trying to vomit but nothing is coming up
- Profuse diarrhea is also present
- Your dog has projectile vomiting
- The vomit is bright green in color (some types of rodent poisons are dyed green to help with their identification)
But if your dog is a healthy adult who doesn’t seem too disturbed by the fact that he or she has vomited a few times, attempting home treatment with this five step plan is a reasonable option.
- Keep fresh water available at all times but do not try to force your dog to drink or offer any unusual liquids (broth, Pedialyte, Gatorade, etc.).
- Do not feed your dog for 12 to 24 hours.
- Once your dog has not vomited for at least 6 hours, you can offer a small meal. A bland, easily digestible food such as cooked white rice mixed with boiled white meat chicken (no bones or skin) is ideal, but you can also use a small portion of your dog’s regular diet.
- If your dog does not eat, pick up the meal and try again a few hours later.
- If your dog’s condition fails to improve over the course of 24 to 48 hours or worsens at any point, call your veterinarian.
Some dogs suffer from chronic, intermittent vomiting. In other words, they vomit a couple of times a week or so but otherwise seem quite normal (no significant weight loss, diarrhea, etc.). In these cases, owners have two options:
- If your dog vomits only on an empty stomach (e.g., first thing in the morning before being fed), he or she may have bilious vomiting syndrome. Try offering more frequent, smaller meals.
- Some dogs develop an intolerance or allergy to ingredients used in many dog foods. Switching to a hypoallergenic dog food can help. Keep in mind that over-the-counter foods that claim to be hypoallergenic may contain traces of the ingredients that trigger your dog’s symptoms. Veterinarian-prescribed options are typically held to stricter quality control measures. Home-cooked diets made from recipes designed by veterinary nutritionists are another option.
When vomiting fails to respond to at-home treatment, it becomes important to diagnose the underlying cause. Make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog’s condition does not improve with dietary modification.
Dr. Jennifer Coates