Why is my dog throwing up undigested food?

Why is my dog throwing up undigested food?

One of the big responsibilities dog owners takes on when bringing a dog into their house is caring for them when they don't feel well. Many times, this involves cleaning up digestive messes such as vomiting, while nurturing their digestive system back to good health.

Our dogs are no strangers to throwing up. In fact, many times they essentially make themselves throw up by eating fibrous grass when their stomachs are upset. And everything from allergies to nutrient deficiencies to eating something they shouldn't can spark an upset stomach.

This all makes our dogs getting sick a pretty complex topic. That's why we are focusing on the times your dog is throwing up undigested food. To do that, we, of course, need to learn a little about your dog's system and vomiting in general.

Understanding Your Dog's Digestive Tract

Composed of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus, your dog's digestive tract is a complex system vital to maintaining optimal health. 

After eating, food moves into the stomach, where hydrochloric acid and enzymes break food down so the stomach contents can pass into the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed. After, it moves to the large intestine, were it's processed into poop.

Causes Of Dog Vomiting

Minor intestinal upset is the most common cause of vomiting, which can be triggered by intestinal parasites, spoiled food, allergies, and so on. Diseases such as cancer, pancreatitis, kidney disease, and liver failure can also cause our dogs to throw up their food.

Even just eating too fast can cause a dog to throw up. This brings us to our next topic. Not all throw-up is vomit.

Vomiting Vs. Regurgitating Food

The word "vomit" is frequently used by pet parents as a catchall term to describe any type of throw up or digestive mess. However, when you're trying to understand why your dog is experiencing a vomiting episode, it's important to learn the difference between vomiting and regurgitation.

Regurgitation - Many times when we think our dogs are vomiting, they are simply regurgitating their food. When a dog is throwing up undigested food, i.e. food that looks basically the same before it was consumed, they are most likely regurgitating their food. When your dog regurgitates, you may also notice some water and saliva appear along with it.

Eating too much too fast is the most common reason for regurgitation. Mechanically, regurgitated food is caused by a combination of gravity and the esophageal muscles contracting. As such, regurgitation happens fast! And there are often no warning signs!

While we know that's not something pet parents want to hear, they will be delighted to hear that regurgitation is rarely a cause for concern. And in most cases, the easy fix is to feed smaller portions in more frequent intervals.

 

Puppies frequently struggle with wanting to eat too fast, but there is a handy trick for that. Besides giving your dog smaller meals, simply put a tennis ball in their food bowl to slow them down. A puzzle dish is another excellent option. Many dogs experience motion sickness, so make sure you feed them at least an hour out before taking them on a car ride.

If a dog's regurgitation continues despite you taking action to slow their eating down, you should reach out to your veterinarian immediately as a dilated esophagus (megaesophagus) could be the cause.

Vomited Food - Characterized by salivating, lip licking, pacing, abdominal contractions, and retching, unlike regurgitation, vomiting is an active process where the abdominal muscles push the stomach contents back into their esophagus and out of their mouth. Unlike regurgitated food that looks pretty much the way it did before it was eaten, vomit is typically chunkier, slimy, and foul-smelling.

While vomiting doesn't necessarily indicate an underlying issue that requires veterinarian attention, there are many serious issues from inflammatory bowel disease to Addison's disease that can be behind it. As such, you should carefully monitor your dog and be on the lookout for any warning signs. We'll go over those in a moment.

How To Read Your Dog's Vomit

Undigested food - Regurgitated food hasn't had the time to be digested so it will look very similar to the food's original state. It may be tubular due to the structure of the esophagus, however.

Dark brown or black vomit - Dark brown or black vomit that resembles coffee grounds indicates there is blood mixed into their vomit which immediately warrants contacting your vet.

Foul odor - Vomit usually brings along an unpleasant odor, but if you notice a strong foul and pungent odor, it's time to get your vet involved as it could indicate a contagious viral infection such as canine parvovirus or necrotic tissue.

Foamy and liquidly yellow/green vomit (bile) - Bile is created in anticipation of mealtime and is often seen in vomiting episodes. When you notice that only bile is coming out without food material, it's important to look for signs of blood, as it can indicate that a foreign object is causing a blockage.

White foam - If your dog is throwing up white foam, they are likely experiencing indigestion. However, white foam can also indicate bloat or a disease such as kennel cough, so pay close attention to the frequency.

Warning Signs

Besides learning how to read your dog's vomit, there are several warning signs you should look for when your dog vomits. In all the following cases, seeking veterinary attention is heavily recommended.

Frequent vomiting - Frequent vomiting is often a result of your dog eating something toxic to them which needs to be immediately addressed.

Additional symptoms - Nasal discharge, seizures, and diarrhea are all symptoms to be on the lookout for when you see your dog vomiting as they can indicate a more serious problem is occurring.

Behavioral changes - It's normal for your dog to be quiet and a bit tired after throwing up. However, if you notice weakness, prolonged loss of appetite, weight loss, or abdominal pain when pressing on their stomach, please immediately contact your vet to let them know.

 

Signs of bloat - More common in large breeds, bloat is a dangerous condition where the stomach twists, blocking food from escaping, which causes the stomach to expand. Retching and gagging without food coming or anything else coming out is a telltale sign of bloat and should be immediately addressed as it's life-threatening.

Prevention

There are several things you can do to reduce vomiting episodes.

Regular Vet Check-ups

First, you want to keep your dog up-to-date on their vaccinations and medication as several diseases they are commonly vaccinated for can result in vomiting, including parvo and parasites such as worms. After the age of two, most dogs only need to go to the vet once a year for their regular check-up and physical exam.

Creating A Safer Environment

It's important you baby-proof your house and yard for your dog because they love getting into things they shouldn't. Make sure all the trash and garbage bags are kept away from them, as spoiled food can easily result in upsetting their stomach. The same goes for cleaning products like bleach, medications, and chemicals like antifreeze (which has a sweet enticing flavor).

We talked about how in most cases of regurgitation, too much food too soon is the main cause, so make sure you're locking up their regular dog food and treats. Also, take the time to familiarize yourself with food items such as sugar-free gums that contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs.

When out on walks, keeping your dog on a short leash is highly recommended, especially when traversing public areas that see a lot of foot traffic. It only takes a second for your dog to gobble up something that is dangerous for their health.

Building The Ultimate Diet

One would think that because our dogs love eating whatever looks tasty to them from table scraps to animal waste, their digestive system would be hardy, but many dogs struggle with sensitive stomachs. Even their commercial normal dog food can cause them to vomit up undigested food due to allergies and food sensitivities.

In fact, this is one of the reasons that more pet parents are moving away from the traditional kibble diet in favor of fresh foods that are gently cooked to promote maximum nutrition to support a dog's health. When you can create these meals at home, which is easy to do thanks to dog food makers such as ChefPaw, you can easily swap ingredients around for ones more favorable to a dog's stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

Treatments

Unlike with cats, you can safely induce vomiting at home in case your dog eats something dangerous for their health. That's why we always recommend keeping 0.3% hydrogen peroxide on hand along with a safety syringe to administer into your pet's mouth. It's important you act fast if you notice your dog eating something toxic to their health because if they are already vomiting, then it's likely too late for you to induce vomiting.

If your furry friend is experiencing chronic vomiting, has blood in their vomit, or showing other symptoms such as weakness, you can't act fast enough and should immediately call your vet or poison control.

In general, if you only notice your dog throws up occasionally or regurgitates partially digested food, and there doesn't appear to be a concerning underlying cause, it's recommended you withhold food for a few hours while avoiding excessive excitement. Temporarily switching your furry friend to a bland diet such as chicken and rice is another great option.

All-in-all, while it's not pleasant to see your dog throwing up, in many cases, it's more a nuance for pet owners rather than a grave concern.

Final Thoughts

As a fellow dog owner, I know it's never fun to see your dog throwing up undigested food. Thankfully, when a dog regurgitates their food, it's usually not a cause for concern like dog vomit. While it's a normal part of dog ownership, remember there are several things you can do to help keep their food down.

While in some cases, you'll need to switch your dog's food to another diet type, in most cases, regurgitation happens because a dog is eating too much too fast. There are a number of special feeders that can help with that, but dog parents will be happy to hear that a tennis ball in their bowl is often enough.

As well, there are supplements like probiotic aids that can support a dog's good gut health, not only helping with regurgitation but also vomiting.

If you think your dog swallowed food or ate something they shouldn't have, please do not hesitate to contact your vet. Time is of the essence, and we'd hate to see your furry friend hurt.

FAQ

What should I do if my dog eats their food too fast?

When you see your dog throwing up undigested food, also known as regurgitation, it's likely they are eating their food too fast. To help prevent this, start by placing a tennis ball in their bowl to slow them down. Make sure the tennis ball is large enough that they can't swallow it. As well, you can try splitting their meals into smaller portions and feeding them throughout the day.

Why do dogs vomit food?

Our dogs vomit for a lot of reasons. Most commonly it's because they eat their food too fast. Simply eating too much grass outside can cause your dog to throw up. However, there are several diseases that can also cause a dog to throw up. We know it's never fun for the pet parent to hear this, but this is why it's so important to learn how to read your dog's throw-up.

What diseases can cause a dog to vomit?

Everything from intestinal parasite infestation to viral infections to medical issues, such as kidney failure, can result in chronic vomiting. Other diseases that can cause a dog to vomit include cancer, pancreatitis, parvovirus, colitis, and intestinal inflammation.

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