Vomiting is only a symptom, not a disease in itself.
There are many different diseases and disease processes that can cause vomiting in dogs.
If your dog is vomiting, especially if he is vomiting persistently or severely, finding the proper treatment relies on finding the cause of the vomiting.
Gastrointestinal causes of vomiting in dogs
There are many diseases that affect that gastrointestinal (GI) tract that can cause your dog to vomit. These diseases range from mild and self-limiting in their nature to life-threatening. They may be accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea, lack of appetite, dehydration and more depending on the individual disease and severity of the illness.
Commonly encountered causes of GI vomiting include:
- dietary indiscretion (also sometimes known as “garbage can enteritis”)
- food intolerance/food allergies
- parasites (roundworms, hookworms, Giardia, coccidia, etc.)
- viral infections (canine parvovirus, coronavirus, canine distemper, etc.)
- bacterial infections (Salmonella, E. coli, etc.)
- foreign bodies
- intestinal obstruction
- intussusception (telescoping of the intestines which causes a functional obstruction)
- tumors/growths in the GI tract
Non-GI causes of canine vomiting
While it is easy to always assume that vomiting is caused by gastrointestinal disease, this is not always the case. Systemic diseases can also cause vomiting, often as a result of toxins which build up in the bloodstream.
There is a relatively long list of systemic diseases that can potentially cause vomiting. While there is not room here to list all of them, these are some of the most common:
- kidney disease/kidney failure
- liver disease/liver failure
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- pyometra (infection of the uterus)
- diabetes mellitus
- Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal gland)
Diagnosing Vomiting in Dogs
In cases of mild vomiting, absolute diagnosis may not be necessary as the disease may be self-limiting. In these cases, fasting for a few hours followed by feeding a bland diet may be all that is necessary for recovery.
However, if vomiting is severe and frequent or accompanied by other serious symptoms, pursuing an accurate diagnosis will be necessary. If there is doubt about how serious your dog’s symptoms are, pursuing diagnosis immediately, rather than attempting the fasting/bland diet approach, may be advisable.
The basic diagnostic approach for vomiting is likely to include one or more of the following:
- fecal examination, checking for parasites and ova (eggs) of parasites
- a Giardia Elisa test on the feces
- a basic blood screen consisting of a complete blood count and blood chemistry profile, including blood electrolyte measurement
- abdominal radiographs (x-rays) and/or an abdominal ultrasound
Additional testing may or may not be necessary, depending on the results of these tests.
Different Types of Dog Vomit, and What They Indicate