Vomiting in dogs
What is vomiting in dogs?
Vomiting in dogs is not a disease, but it is a symptom of a disease.
When the dog’s ingested food comes up again after he has eaten it is important to discern if it is vomiting or regurgitation.
In vomiting a forceful emptying of the ventricle is observed, where the dog is using its abdominal muscles and diaphragm. This is in contrast to the regurgitation where hardly any force is used, since food in this condition comes from the oesophagus or oral cavity.
A vomiting dog will often feel nausea. This can be seen as the dog is salivating, frequently swallowing and has a decreased appetite.
Why does vomiting occur in dogs?
There are three mechanisms that trigger vomitus; in the upper spinal cord, the medulla oblongata, there is a nerve centre that starts vomitus on stimulation. Besides this there is a chemoreceptor that reacts on substances in the blood. That can be certain types of medicine, uraemia, ketones or bacterial toxins in the blood. Nerves in the gastrointestinal tract can also trigger vomiting.
What are the symptoms of vomiting?
Besides the obvious, one has the pay attentions to other symptoms, that can signal more serious diseases:
▪ Blood in the vomit. There can be small red stripes of blood in the vomit that originates from the oesophagus or oral cavity. If the blood comes from the ventricle it will most often be partially digested and look like coffee grains.
▪ Also look for blood in the faeces. Again it will often be partially digested, hence given the stool an almost black colour.
▪ No appetite
▪ Abdominal pain
What are the risk factors with vomiting?
A vomiting dog will not have a disturbance in fluid balance, electrolytes or the acid/base balance. However a dog vomiting severely for a longer period of time has a risk of:
Dehydration. This can be seen by for example the elasticity of the skin decreases, eyes tend to sink into their sockets and the mouth seems dry.
Too little potassium (K+) in the blood. Hypokalaemia.
Too little chlorine (Cl-) in the blood. Hypochloraemia. Disturbances in the acid-/base balance.
What is the cause of vomiting?
When a dog vomits, it can be causes by a long list of diseases. It is however not often causes by a serious illness.
Diseases in the digestive tract
- Irritation in the stomach or bowel.
- Inflammation in the stomach or bowel, gastric ulcer, increased acid production, intestinal parasites.
- Overeating or gas production in stomach
- Obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract
- Foreign body in the stomach or intestinal canal, benign or malign mass in stomach or intestine. Constriction.
Diseases outside the digestive tract
Diseases in kidneys, liver, pancreas, peritoneum or genitalia.
Acute kidney insufficiency, chronic kidney insufficiency, liver failure, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), obstruction of the bile duct. Addison’s disease. Endometritis (pyometra).
Medicine or toxins
Certain types of medicine, toxins from bacteria (e.g. Samonella), heavy metals, pesticides.
Disturbances in the central nervous system (brain and spine)
Increase pressure of the brain, inflammation of the brain. Fear.
How does the veterinarian make a diagnosis?
If the vomiting only has occurred for a short time and the dog does not have other symptoms and is well, only a short examination is usually done.
The veterinarian will typically ask about the anamnesis (disease history) and do a physical exam. If nothing significant is found, a symptomatic treatment will often be started.
However, if there are symptoms of other diseases, if the dog has vomited for a longer period of time or more than 1-2 times a day, an extended examination is needed. Here a lot of extra test can be made, radiographs, ultrasound or urinalysis. Endoscopy of the stomach to see the stomach or to take biopsies can be performed.
How is vomiting treated?
Treatment is targeted at the underlying cause.
If the dog does not have other symptoms than vomiting and is not dehydrated, is generally well, has not been ill more than maximum two days and does not vomit more than 1-2 times a day, symptomatic treatment can be tried.
Symptomatic treatment starts by depriving the dog from food in up to 24 hours. Water can be given as ice cubes. If the water is not coming up again a fat free diet can be tried. For example an intestinal diet can be administered. Food must be given frequently in small servings (4-6 times the first day).
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