Vomiting in dogs
Vomiting is controlled by two different brain centres: the integrative vomiting centre and the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ), both located in the medulla oblongata in the brain. The integrative vomiting centre coordinates activities of the nearby neural structures to produce a vomiting response, resulting in the processing and action of the vomiting reflex. The CTZ has a defensive mechanism for detecting circulating toxins in the blood, but does not initiate vomiting itself. Instead, the CTZ relays the stimuli to the integrative vomiting centre. There are many causes that influence these vomit controllers. One of them is thought that vomiting is a defense mechanism of the body to expel toxic substances that have been ingested.
Vomit should not to be confused with regurgitation. In regurgitation the food that has not reached the stomach (undigested food) is expelled, while in vomit the food that has reached the stomach and intestine (half or fully digested food) is expelled. In regurgitation, the food that is expelled comes from the mouth or esophagus, versus the stomach.
Below are only some of many possible causes for vomiting in dogs:
- food intolerance
- ingestion of grass or trash
- bacterial infection
- viral infection
- intestinal parasites
- gastrointestinal obstructions, e.g: ingestion of foreign bodies (toys, bones, etc), tumor, ulcer
- ingestion of toxic substances
- kidney failure
- liver failure
- gall bladder inflammation
- heat stroke
- gastric dilatation volvulus or bloat (this is an emergency case, please bring your dog to a vet for an immediate treatment!)
What to do
It is a common practice to withhold food for the next 24 hours after vomiting, but please make sure that your dog still has access to fresh water. Water should be provided in small amounts but frequent. After 24 hours, a bland diet such as boiled chicken can be given also in small amounts.
If your dog only vomit once during the course of a day, or only happens occasionally, there is nothing to worry. However, if the vomiting is frequent or has been going on for over 24 hours, please bring your dog to a vet to narrow down the causes of the vomit so an immediate curative treatment can be given.
Necessary medication and treatment will be given based on the cause. Anti emetic medication will only treat the symptom temporarily (symptomatic treatment), but if the cause is not treated then the symptom will re-appear shortly.
Other things to note
Vomiting is just one of the many symptoms your dog may have, and making a diagnosis only based on this one particular symptom is difficult. To assist your vet in making a diagnosis, the more information given the better. Start by observing the vomit: the frequency of vomiting, the color or consistency, if there’s any blood in vomit, and so on.
In addition, you should pay attention to other symptoms like diarrhea (take note of the frequency and amount, color, consistency, etc), change in appetite, lethargy, dehydration, increase or decrease in water intake and/or urination.