Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 28, 2016

What Might be Causing Your Dog to Vomit?

Posted at 02:44PM - Comments: (9)

In the September issue, we published an article about gastritis – stomach inflammation that causes vomiting. I was glad that the article was fresh in my mind when my son texted me about his dog, Cole, an almost-four-year-old American Black and Tan Coonhound-mix, who had vomited bile first thing in the morning, three mornings in a row. My absolute first thought was, “That sounds just like the dogs in the article in this month’s issue!”

I grabbed the issue, and sure enough: The author, CJ Puotinen, had described two cases in which dogs had unexplained vomiting in the early morning hours, and the vomit contained only bile. Radiographs (Xrays) and ultrasound showed nothing amiss . . . but then, after weeks of this recurrent vomiting, the dog in each case vomited up a foreign object – one that in either case couldn’t have been detected with either Xrays or an ultrasound exam. In one case, it was an entire sock, and in the other, a small plastic decoration from a cupcake that the dog had pilfered off a kitchen counter!

Eli and Cole

I asked my son whether Cole could have possibly eaten something he shouldn’t have. He said nothing was missing, and that Cole is mostly past toy-chewing, though he had a slight concern over the possibility of strings from a rope toy that Cole had stolen from another dog at work. (Cole is lucky enough to get to go to work in an office with my son every day!) Rope toys are great for interactive play, but dogs should never be allowed to chew on them, and Cole had spent a bit of time chewing on one undetected under my son’s desk a week or so before all the vomiting started. But my son said that while Cole was indeed caught chewing the toy, it didn’t look like much was missing. Hmm.

I told my son to try feeding Cole a small meal right before bedtime; the inflammation that causes the buildup of bile (which makes the dog vomit) is worst when the stomach is empty, so the idea is to try to keep a little something in the stomach around the clock, as a short-term approach that might help with the diagnosis. And that of course, if he stopped eating, grew lethargic, had trouble pooping, or had any other symptom, that he should take him into a 24-hour clinic. But Cole stayed his cheerful, hungry self, and the small meals kept him from vomiting two mornings in a row . . . and then he vomited again on the third morning.

Adding to our concern was that my son needed to travel to a sports competition this week (this is here only for the very curious, and the very proud [me]: http://play.usaultimate.org/events/USA-Ultimate-National-Championships-2016/), and I was going to be meeting him to pick up Cole so my granddog could stay with me while my son was gone.

I made an appointment for Cole to be seen by my veterinarian on the day after we had arranged to meet. And then, the day before we met, my son texted me a photo of Cole’s  morning vomit – with a plastic bread bag tag in it.

Don't you love this part of the job?

And he didn’t vomit the day we made the switch, and he didn’t vomit this morning, on my watch, so I’m hoping beyond hope that the little bit of plastic was all there was to Cole’s gastritis. I cancelled the vet appointment for now. And while of course I’m going to keep watching him, I’m hoping he recovers as quickly as the dogs in the September issue article, without needing an endoscopic exam (under full anesthesia) to see if there is anything else in his tummy causing a problem. Wish us luck!


Comments (9)

My Havanese passed away in July at 10 years of age. She started vomiting bile in the morning as soon as we got up. The vet prescribed the usual treatment, Xrays, food before bed, prescription antacid, etc and nothing was working. Mimi stopped eating and even drinking. An ultrasound revealed pancreatic cancer. So sometimes it is not just because they swallowed something. If symptoms continue, don't wait to have an ultrasound. X-rays don't always show you what is going on as in my case.

Posted by: Mallory | September 29, 2016 6:09 PM    Report this comment

My dog likes to eat grass so i dont spray it with insecticides or any harmful chemicals.jusr keave it natural. But when my dog eats grass sometimes he throws up... is this normal?

Posted by: greg gilbert | September 29, 2016 5:16 PM    Report this comment

What timing! I have had this very same issue with my GSD Gracie. She would throw up bile in the morning, so the vet suggested that I feed her a small snack before bed time, and also to give her 10mg Pepcid AC at night.
It never occurred to me Gracie might have swallowed something that she shouldn't. I keep things pretty clean and she doesn't graze on the floors much. She does have a beef neck bone every day and sometimes will crunch down the pieces and swallow them. But I do notice if she can't make the bits small enough, she will just leave them on the ground and won't try to swallow them.
I do notice that if I don't give her the Pepcid at night, she could bring up bile the next morning. I just figure GSDs are prone to stomach, intestinal issues, so I'm really hoping it isn't anything more serious!

Posted by: LoveGSDs | September 29, 2016 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for this. My nearly 7 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi recently spent 4 days at the vet on iv fluids/antibx after she started vomiting bile, then food, grass,etc., and eventually bloody diarrhea which turned to frank blood. They key to how sick she was? She wouldn't take anything by mouth. They never found anything except bacterial overgrowth in her stool. Diagnosis, according to our vet was probably hemorrhagic enteritis. She's back to her old self now, but I keep worrying about the vet's "possible" alternative diagnosis: lymphangiectasia. Anyone have information or experience with this?

Posted by: Corgi Mom | September 29, 2016 1:00 PM    Report this comment

Interesting....the old protocol for vomiting was to withhold all food for 24 hours, the reintroduce bland stuff like cooked rice or oatmeal and small amounts of cooked chicken or yogurt. With a new pup underfoot, I will keep this in mind when the little character does the typical puppy thing and eats a forbidden item.

Posted by: ardea | September 29, 2016 12:27 PM    Report this comment

HA! How apropos! Our newest addition, a tiny "pocket Beagle" from the shelter was listless, eating grass, and not herself.

Later that day she vomited: Yep! the plastic tag used to close up the bread/muffins, bagels!

The little rascal will try and devour ANYTHING!

Posted by: BeNotAfraid | September 29, 2016 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Interesting article. My old dog (a 14-year-old Beagle/Jack Russell) vomits often in the morning, only bile. The vet said the bile was upsetting his stomach. (He also has chronic pancreatitis) So, I started feeding him first thing in the morning, right after he's gone out for his morning pee. No more vomiting. But if I go back to bed, for example, and wait too long, he'll vomit again. Nothing else ever comes up, usually. Just bile. I try to make sure he has a little something in his stomach regularly throughout the day and will sometimes give him half a MilkBone before he goes to bed. That seems to help.

Posted by: Phoenix | September 29, 2016 9:50 AM    Report this comment

Just had this same issue recently with my 7 year old Labrador. She too, seemed to vomit only when her stomach was empty, middle of the afternoon and middle of the night. This dog had never been sick a day in her life. My first thought was that she ate something indigestible but as far as I knew nothing was missing from any of her toys. On the 3rd day, Thursday morning, the early morning vomiting didn't stop so I called the vet and made an appointment to go in within a few hours. Right after I hung up the phone, she vomited up blood. Another call to the vet but they weren't overly alarmed. Physical exam revealed nothing and they didn't take xrays since there didn't seem to be any indication that she ate anything indigestible. She was not having any loose stools so they did not check for parasites. They diagnosed her with gastritis from an unknown source and sent us on our way with amoxicillin and anti-nausea medicine and gave her a quick acting anti-nausea shot to stop the vomiting. The vomiting did stop but on Saturday night, she started having red blood in her stools, though no diarrhea. By Sunday morning, she was having bloody diarrhea. Quick call to the emergency vet but they weren't very concerned with that since she had a gastritis diagnosis but did want to know if she started vomiting again. All this time she is acting her normal ravenous self. The diarrhea stopped and I thought we were done with it all until Tuesday/Wednesday when her stools went back to being totally unformed. She wasn't having frequent stools, just unformed ones. Another trip to the vet, this time with a stool sample. Turned out that she had a parasite, trichomoniasis, that she probably picked up from eating bunny or squirrel poop. Vet said most adult dogs are immune to it as they probably get a dose of it when they are puppies. She is much better now, although we had to do a round of doxycycline just recently to clear up an overgrowth of bacteria in her gut causing loose stools. She had surgery in late June and was also on antifungals and antibiotics back then. Too many antibiotics and antifungals upset her gut flora.

Posted by: Lisa H | September 29, 2016 9:21 AM    Report this comment

Oh Good Luck!!!!! We do foster and these days it is mostly puppies. I do give them rope toys to toss around and they do work their teeth into the toys. I trim the ends frequently to keep the ends short....but now I will be even more careful in what I give foster puppies to chew (to work out their needle puppy teeth).

Posted by: Olivia | September 29, 2016 9:20 AM    Report this comment

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