Why Does My Pet Vomit? 10 Causes for Concern

Updated on: January 05, 2023
There are many reasons why your cat or dog may vomit. Some of those reasons are causes for concern; others are not. It is important to know what is causing your pet to vomit, so you can determine whether it requires a trip to the veterinarian or if you can care for your dog at home with natural solutions.

There are many reasons why your cat or dog may vomit. Some of those reasons are causes for concern; others are not. It is important to know what is causing your pet to vomit, so you can determine whether it requires a trip to the veterinarian or if you can care for your cat or dog at home. 

Sometimes, vomiting can happen due to a change in diet or from a pet inhaling its food. Other times, vomiting can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition, so determining the vomiting’s cause is vital to your pet’s health.

10 Reasons Why Your Pet is Vomiting

Here are some common reasons why your pet could be vomiting:

  • Bloat — Large and giant dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat than are small dogs. Bloat is when the stomach becomes twisted, which can happen for various reasons, such as surgery, rapid eating, or stress. The gut microbiome and autoimmune system play a significant role in bloating, and inherited conditions can affect if or how much your dog suffers from bloat. Proper food and nutrition (supplementation) are crucial in controlling bloating in your pet. Contact your veterinarian if your dog shows signs of bloat, which include abdominal pain, an enlargement of the abdomen, dry heaving, excessive drooling, rapid breathing, or restlessness. An affected dog may whine if you press on its belly. (1)

  • Diet change — An abrupt change in your cat or dog’s diet can cause vomiting. Any time you change your dog’s food, you should allow time to adjust. If your dog isn’t showing any other signs of distress, you may be able to manage the vomiting situation on your own without veterinary intervention. You can try to withhold food for a few hours until the pet’s stomach settles. Be sure to maintain a supply of fresh water. Another way is to mix new food with old food and gradually add less of the old food, giving your pet time to adjust. (2)
  • Food intolerances — There’s a fine line between food intolerances and food allergies. They both have similar symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and itchy skin. If your cat or dog has a food allergy, it will react soon after eating even the smallest amount of that food. Reactions can be severe, like anaphylaxis, wheezing, and trouble breathing. With food intolerance, your pet may vomit, but a food intolerance won’t involve the immune system or make breathing difficult. In other words, food intolerance is not life-threatening. Although you shouldn’t give your cat or dog any food that it cannot tolerate, consuming that food won’t have a devastating effect. (11, 3)
  • Gastrointestinal distress — There are several ways your cat or dog can experience digestive distress, such as from acid reflux, gastritis, parasites, and ulcers. Any of these conditions can make your dog vomit. If your dog is panting, dehydrated, shaking, dry heaving, or experiencing excessive vomiting, please immediately call your veterinarian, as these are signs he is in distress and may need attention. (12, 4)
  • Heatstroke — Because your dog can’t sweat, he cools himself by panting. If your dog pants excessively, vomits, shakes, shows uncontrolled movements, or collapses, call your veterinarian immediately, as these can be life-threatening. If you notice your dog showing early signs of heatstroke, take it to a shaded area, offer cool water, douse its body in cool water, and call your veterinarian to be on the safe side. (5)
  • Ingestion of non-food items — We’d all prefer that our cats or dogs eat only the healthy food we provide. That, unfortunately, isn’t always the case. Dogs are curious and sometimes ingest something that isn’t food. If you suspect your cat or dog ate something foreign, look for signs such as gagging, choking, vomiting, lethargy, refusal to eat, or a painful or distended abdomen. If you suspect your pet ate a non-food item, call your veterinarian immediately, as this can be a life-threatening situation. (6)
  • Ingestion of toxic substances — Sometimes, our pet's curiosity gets the best of them, and they ingest things that can be quite harmful to them. Many household items are toxic to cats and dogs. The most common among them are alcohol, antidepressants, bleach, chocolate, drain cleaner, furniture polish, gasoline, laundry detergent, oven cleaner, rodent poison, raisins, and tobacco. If you suspect your cat or dog may have consumed any of these items, keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, choking, shaking, or lethargy. It is crucial to call your veterinarian immediately if you notice your dog exhibiting any of these behaviors or if you see proof that your cat or dog got into one of these items. (7)
  • Parasites — Cats and dogs love to play outside in the fresh air. This is great for their health and well-being. Unfortunately, parasites are in the soil, water, and other objects that your cat or dog may consume while he’s out playing. You won’t even know it has happened, but if at any point you notice your dog scooting, vomiting, having diarrhea, experiencing a distended abdomen, or showing sudden weight loss, parasites could be the culprit. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your cat or dog could have parasites. (8)
  • Parvovirus — Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts. Dogs can contract the virus through close contact with other infected dogs or with their feces. It is a treatable condition if caught early. If your dog shows signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, or dehydration, contact your veterinarian immediately, as early detection is key. (9)
  • Viral infections — Pets can become infected through virus particles in the air or the secretions of infected cats or dogs. Infected pets typically develop diarrhea, fever, coughing, runny eyes, runny nose, seizures, and vomiting. It is important to be sure they are drinking water to prevent dehydration. A virus will run its course, but you can support your pet until it recovers by offering healthy food and lots of fluid. If your pet won’t drink or its symptoms are worsening, contact your veterinarian. (10)

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Symptoms for Concern

Not every ailment or problem requires a visit to your veterinarian. But if your cat or dog experiences any of the following symptoms, call your local veterinarian right away. It’s better to be on the safe side when it comes to the health of your pet. 

  • Abnormal gum color 
  • Anxiety
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Constant coughing
  • Coughing up foamy liquid or blood
  • Crying out in pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Dragging back legs
  • Lethargy
  • Panting constantly
  • Unable to walk or stand

What Can Harm My Pet if Ingested?

The following items are highly toxic to dogs. If you suspect your dog has consumed any of the following, call your veterinarian immediately. If you’re unsure of what your dog consumed, it’s best to be safe and place a call to your veterinarian.

  • Chocolate
  • Fertilizers
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Household cleaners
  • Human drugs
  • Insecticides (glyphosate)
  • Mouse or rat poison
  • Xylitol (sugarless candy or gum)

Natural Remedies for Non-Serious Vomiting

If you suspect your dog has consumed something it shouldn’t have, but it isn’t showing signs of distress, there are some things you can do to help flush its system and help it feel better.

Carbon-based binders — Humic acids make up bioactive carbons and are known for their ability to remove harmful toxins from the body. The unique properties of humic acids allow them to bind to and remove toxins, yet leave the good substances in the body alone. Humic acids come from the soil, are good for removing toxins, and are healthy and good for the body. (13)

Electrolytes — If your dog is not currently vomiting, you can try giving it electrolyte beverages in small amounts to see how it tolerates them. Replacing electrolytes is important to the health of your dog. Contact your veterinarian for the proper amounts to give. (14)

Fasting — Fasting for several hours to a full day can give your dog’s gastrointestinal system time to settle before reintroducing food. Supplying water only during fasting can help reduce or eliminate vomiting. (15)

Ginger — Ginger is safe for your dog in small amounts. Ginger has antioxidants that can support your dog when it is experiencing nausea and vomiting from bloat, gastrointestinal problems, and motion sickness. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on the appropriate amount of and type of ginger product that is right for your dog. (16)

When your cat or dog vomits, it’s not always necessary to contact your veterinarian. If you see signs that there may be something more serious going on, call your veterinarian for advice. We all want what is best for our pets, and knowing when veterinary care is needed can ensure you’ll be able to provide what’s best for your best friend.

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