Why Do Dogs Try To Throw Up



Dog owners fear the wrenching sound of a dog throwing up. Oddly it seems to mostly happen in the evening and on the rug. All dogs try to throw up at points in their lives and it is very common. The stress of your dog throwing up is also immeasurable as it is not always possible to know what is leading to the vomiting. Your immediate reaction may be to run your dog to the veterinarian, and in some cases that is the right idea. There are many reasons why a dog will throw up, and at times there are signs that he may be preparing to throw up. There are also some ways to know why he is vomiting simply by investigating the vomit. If a visit to the veterinarian is needed, she can run tests and offer several solutions to your dog’s throwing up.

The Root of the Behavior

If your dog is trying to throw up, his body undoubtedly has a reason. However, it is important to first discern if he is in fact throwing up or simply regurgitating. Prior to vomiting, your dog will typically exhibit pre-throw up signs such as drooling, contracting his abdomen, and retching. Dogs will often eat grass prior to throwing up to coat their esophagus because they know it is coming. Vomiting often contains chunks of food or bile or a combination of the two. Vomiting also comes from a heaving motion of his sides and does not normally occur shortly after a meal. Regurgitation is more of a passive action, with the esophagus pushing back up whatever your dog has just ingested. Often, regurgitation occurs shortly after your dog has eaten too much or too quickly. Somewhere in between is bilious vomiting syndrome, which can occur when bile leaks from the small intestine into the stomach. This can happen when your dog has eaten a lot of grass, drank a lot of water, eaten a larger meal that is higher in fat than normal, or he has not eaten in a long time.

Before rushing your dog to the vet, you can actually take a look at his throw up to try to discern the severity of the situation. Dog vomit can be granular or chunky. If you see granules that resemble coffee grounds, then food has been digested and there is blood in his vomit. If the vomit has chunks, then he has not even had a chance to digest his food. This likely indicates he just ate too quickly or was too active after eating. Both granular and chunky vomit tends to be from ingestion problems. Liquid vomit that is foamy, clear or slimy that also has a yellow tinge too it is a sign of a completely different medical problem and has no connection to anything actually being ingested.

Dogs are eating machines, and it is impossible to watch your dog at all times. It is only a matter of time before he ingests something he shouldn’t such as spoiled food, an inedible object, grass, or too much water, all of which can make him want to throw up. He may also want to throw up because he has an inflammation of the intestinal tract or stomach, called gastroenteritis. He could want to throw up because he has an intestinal obstruction from a tumor, organ displacement, or foreign object. He could be suffering from parasites, a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, drug side effects, a head trauma, inflammatory bowel disease, liver or kidney disease, Addison’s disease, or pancreatic disease. Throwing up could also be a sign of gastrointestinal ulcers or hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. It is also common for dogs to want to throw up after excessive exercise or from motion sickness while riding in a car.

Encouraging the Behavior

Throwing up is normal for dogs, but it is always a good idea to monitor his behavior as well to know if a trip to the veterinarian is in need. If after he vomits and he goes back to eating and drinking and has normal bowel movements, he is most likely fine. If his vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea, lethargy, weight loss, dehydration, blood in his vomit, an increase or decrease in thirst or urination, then you need to take him to the veterinarian. If your dog vomits more than once per day or vomits over several days, a trip to your veterinarian is warranted. Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog based on his age and breed, medical history and physical examination. Be prepared to tell him everything you know your dog has ingested and other things he may have access too that could make him sick such as diapers and cleaning materials. She may also suggest some diagnostics tests including fecal examination, ultrasound, blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, and perhaps even exploratory surgery. While some of these may seem expensive or invasive, it is difficult to diagnose the source of throwing up. Without the dog to tell you what is going on, and with such a long list of possible explanations, your veterinarian cannot miss any opportunities to help your dog.

Once your veterinarian does find the cause of your dog’s desire to throw up, she will be able to properly treat him. If he has a foreign object lodged in his stomach or small intestine, surgery may be necessary. The same holds true if a cancerous tumor is discovered.  Bacterial infections and parasites can be dealt with by using medications. One major side effect of vomiting is dehydration and the loss of electrolytes, so replenishing those is important.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Whether you need to take your dog to the vet or not does not change a good portion of his recovery needs. It is recommended to withhold water and food for 6-8 hours if your dog does not seem capable of holding anything down. After the fast, introduce small amounts of water every five minutes or so. If he can hold the water down for 12 hours, then begin to give him bland boiled chicken and rice in small, spaced out meals. Once he is able to hold down his food for a few days, you can resume his normal dietary routine. It is important to evaluate his diet, as having too large of meals, too fatty of meals, or eating foods that he may have sensitivities and allergies to may all be adding to his desire to throw up. Do not give your dog toys that can be swallowed or chewed into small pieces that could upset his intestinal lining. Do not drastically change his food or give him too many table scraps. Make sure you avoid foods that are toxic to dogs including garlic, onions, xylitol, grapes, macadamia nuts, raisins, and chocolate. Keep your dog out of the garbage and limit him scavenging items while out on walks.


A dog wanting to throw up is very common and is often perfectly natural. Most dogs will vomit if they eat or drink too fast, too much, or exercise after eating. Motion sickness is common in dogs too and can cause him to throw up. If your dog’s vomit is clear and slimy or goes on repeatedly over a duration of time, it is important to take him to the vet to identify the source or the problem and treat him. Slowly introduce water 6-8 hours after he stops vomiting, and bland chicken and rice 12 hours after he can hold the water down. After holding down solids for two days he can resume his regular meal.