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All dogs throw up on occasion; some more than others, often connected directly to being adept at scavenging and paying little to no mind what something actually is before eating it; dogs really are animals that tend to work on the principle of “eat now and regret later.”
This means then that if you took your dog to the vet every time they threw up, some dog owners would go bankrupt in short order, and for experienced dog owners, knowing how to tell if the vomiting incident was a one-off that’s no problem versus the signs of something being amiss often develops intuitively over time.
However, if you’re fairly new to dog ownership (or even if you’re not) it can be hard to tell if your dog needs to see the vet if they’re being sick, or if it’s just one of those things that you should note but can largely disregard as a transient and minor issue.
This article will help you to determine if a dog throwing up needs to see the vet or not, and cover the factors you need to consider to decide on this. Read on to learn more.
Conducting a forensic examination of what your dog just barfed is right up there with cleaning up poop in terms of being far from the best part of dog ownership, but you should have a basic look at what they vomited as this can help to let you know if you should be concerned.
If the vomit contains just food (that you know they ate and that was safe) and/or bile, this does not mean 100% that everything is ok; but in terms of the contents of their stomach in and of itself, is not cause for concern.
If the vomit contains what is clearly blood, this requires a call to the vet. If the vomit is either black-looking, tarry, appears to contain what looks like coffee grounds, or is otherwise foul, this may indicate dried blood or something else of concern, and again, means you need to speak to the vet immediately.
The same is true if you see potential signs of a toxin, like mushrooms or chocolate, or anything else you didn’t know your dog ate if you cannot tell what it is, or can tell and know it is or could be poisonous to dogs.
On which note, if you have any reason to believe (even if you’re not sure) that your dog ate something poisonous or came into contact with a toxin, this too means you need to speak to your vet as a matter of urgency.
Your dog’s demeanour and general behaviour is one of the most obvious and reliable indications of how likely they are to need to see the vet if they’ve been sick. While many things that can cause a dog to vomit can worsen and/or the vomiting might be the initial indicator of a problem in the making, if your dog seems fine and cheerful and unphased by the throwing up, this will in many if not most cases mean that there’s nothing much to worry about.
This caveat goes out of the window if you already have concerns about your dog, such as if you know they’ve eaten or been exposed to something toxic. In such a situation, while it is true that the vomiting might have eliminated the problem and so, threat, your dog should still see the vet just to be safe.
But if you have no other cause for concern and the vomiting was a standalone incident containing just food and bile and your dog is chirpy and unphased, monitor them but otherwise don’t worry.
Your dog’s physical appearance can sometimes indicate illness, including their stance (if they look uncomfortable, hunched up, or are otherwise moving or standing unnaturally or in an odd way), their fur – if it is standing on end, appears dull, or is odd – and a range of other things too.
If your dog is shivering, their eyes look dull or are flickering, twitching or wandering, if they’re slobbering (more than normal or if they do not usually do this) or if absolutely anything else about your dog’s appearance is anomalous, call the vet.
If your dog vomits more than once this may be cause for concern; this is not always a problem in and of itself, but throwing up more than once some time apart warrants a call to the vet, and can result in dehydration, which is itself a problem.
If your dog has been sick, wait at least a few hours for their stomach to settle before you feed them, and feed them their normal meal, not treats or anything unusual or that may irritate their stomach.
If your dog then appears to be off their food or reluctant to eat or vomits after eating, speak to your vet.
If you are concerned that your dog is or is becoming dehydrated or if they cannot drink water without vomiting, or are drinking a lot, speak to your vet.
Do they have a temperature or are they showing any other signs of illness?
As well as your dog’s behaviour and physical appearance, take into account too any other signs of illness that might accompany the vomiting, like diarrhoea. Other symptoms warrant a call to the vet.
Even if the responses to the checks above indicate that your dog doesn’t need to see the vet or don’t give you specific cause for concern, if you’re still worried, in any doubt, or just want to be on the safe side, call your vet anyway. Calling your vet for advice costs nothing, and will not always result in your being told to take your dog to the clinic.
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