When I say “Do not ignore dog vomit” I don’t mean “just step over the mess and hope someone else cleans it up!” I mean consider it a possible sign of a serious physical problem. Ignore it at your peril.

Dog Eating Grass

I recently survived two medical emergencies with my 10-year-old Weimaraner Maisie. The reason we dodged a bullet was because I reacted immediately when Maisie vomited. First of all, she is a dog who never vomits, so that in itself was a red flag. [Anything out of their ordinary that your dog does requires your attention, whether it is drinking much more than usual without it being a hot day or a lot of exercise), being lethargic, peeing a lot more or a lot less, and with difficulty]. Maisie has never thrown up in the 9 years we’ve lived together – she isn’t one of those quick-to-puke-and-move-on sort of doggies.

Some dogs periodically throw up and it’s not concerning. Maybe they eat too quickly and it comes right back up (and they just as quickly re-eat the upchuck – ugh!). Sometimes a dog (like my other girl Weim, Wanda) overindulge in deer poop or don’t chew their evening cow ear carefully enough and they throw up the indigestible too-large pieces (no re-eating of that, please!) But the main thing is that the dog throws up just the one time and then acts normal and goes about their day (or night) as if nothing happened.

In Maisie’s case, not only did she empty her stomach of whatever her last meal had been, but then she puked again. She retched for a while and then the second vomit was all yellow bile. And she didn’t perk right up after that, either. She looked kind of nauseous and “green around the gills” (or as much as a blue Weimaraner with a gray muzzle can look green). I called the vet and asked for an emergency appointment ASAP. When I took her in, she seemed to be a bit perkier and the doctor didn’t think her belly was tender or painful when she palpated it. She gave her a shot of Cerenia against nausea and vomiting and suggested we wait a day or two and see how she was feeling. No thank you, I replied, no “wait and see for me.” I asked for every possible blood test to be done. I explained that the last time my dog had vomited multiple times and the veterinarian said that to me (and it’s a reasonable professional suggestion, by the way) my dog Roma was dead three days later.

I will tell you this cautionary tale so you won’t make the mistake I did many years ago of ignoring vomiting. I thought then that a dog throwing up was “sort of natural” and a way to get rid of an irritant of some kind and that her system would calm down. But by the time I took my Golden Retriever to the vet- because she had thrown up again the next day and wasn’t eating – the diagnosis had become acute pancreatitis, which quickly became “necrotizing pancreatitis” – in which the inflammation of the pancreas leads to tissue in the organ dying and becoming infected. The vet put Roma in the hospital on I.V. antibiotics, which he said was all they could do in people, too, who can develop the same condition. Roma died a day later. You can imagine my guilty heartbreak knowing that with early intervention she would have had many more good years (albeit on a strictly low fat diet).

So now I have your attention. Getting Maisie to the hospital right away recently for diagnosis and treatment of pancreatitis made me aware that many of us don’t think of a dog throwing up as a particularly noteworthy event. But it can be! Knowing when you don’t need to worry about your dog vomiting – or when you need to call and go right into the veterinarian – can be the difference between life and death. No exaggeration.

If you have multiple dogs and aren’t sure which one threw up, separate them and keep a close watch on their behavior. If it was a simple “one and done” throw up, that’s okay, but you still need to protect the dogs from whatever triggered it. But if one of the dogs seems lethargic, still nauseated, and/or is gagging or trying to retch again, that’s your clue to call the vet (or even the Emergency Vet facility) and take that dog to be examined.

When Vomiting is Considered a Digestive Emergency

  • Foreign objects: If your dog has vomited – or is trying to – and you suspect he has gotten into the trash or eaten a non-food item (rocks, toys, fabric etc) beat feet to the hospital.
  • Vomiting blood or what looks like coffee grounds (blood that has already been digested)
  • Vomiting more than 2 or 3 times in one hour
  • Retching, attempting to vomit but nothing comes up
  • Vomiting with distended belly (this can be “bloat” which is an imminent life-threatening emergency)

This is #1 in the “All About Vomiting” Blog Series brought to you by Weruva. I will be writing more about this unsavory topic of vomiting in the weeks ahead. For now, I hope none of this befalls you and your four leggeds!