Getting a new puppy is fun and exciting but it can be worrying if they are unwell. Vomiting is very common in dogs, partly because they are designed to vomit much more easily than humans. This is a useful protective mechanism in a species prone to eating things they shouldn’t! Although signs like vomiting should never be ignored, the good news is that occasional vomiting of bile is unlikely to be serious for most puppies.

Something they ate

Puppies have quite sensitive stomachs and will often vomit when they eat something that their tummy isn’t used to. This could be for example a new food that is introduced too quickly or too many rich treats during training sessions. Human foods can often upset their stomachs. Usually, this is not too much of a problem. But make sure you are aware of poisonous foods including chocolate, onions, food containing the sweetener xylitol and grapes or raisins. Keep these well out of reach. 

Puppies are well known for their curiosity and love of new things, this includes exploring with their mouths and sometimes eating things they shouldn’t. Common “dietary indiscretions” (otherwise known as garbage gut) might include cat food, the contents of the bin and various plants and rotting animals they find while out on their daily walks. Luckily most of these are unlikely to cause serious harm but always contact your veterinary surgeon if in any doubt.

Slightly more concerning is when puppies chew up solid objects that can’t be easily digested. Commonly items of clothing or parts of toys. These can cause more prolonged vomiting and serious problems such as obstructions. If you think this could have happened always consult your vet for advice at the earliest opportunity

Physical reasons for vomiting

If the vomiting happens during a car journey then the likelihood is that your puppy suffers from motion sickness. This seems to be more common in younger dogs. It does generally not cause them any great distress or harm but can be unpleasant. Anxiety and stress can make the situation worse so get your puppy used to short fun car trips from an early age. Try to avoid feeding them prior to a car journey and make them feel safe and secure in the car with the use of harnesses or pet carriers when they are small.

A familiar smelling blanket or jumper can also help to reassure them. Keep the interior of the car cool and well ventilated. There are various natural remedies available to help but always check the ingredients before giving to your dog as some human preparations in particular may be toxic. If these measures are not enough and you have a longer journey planned then chat with your vet about anti-sickness medications that are available.

Other factors, such as an empty stomach, can also be the reason a dog will vomit up bile. On its own, an empty stomach won’t usually induce vomiting, but in combination with some other trigger, it’s something we probably see very commonly.

Infectious causes

Dogs can get viral and bacterial infections that cause vomiting or “Parvovirus” just like us. These are more common in raw fed animals, those that gain access to rotten or out of date foods and have lots of contact with other animals. Usually, the signs will be mild and self-limiting. Ensure your puppy is kept quiet and offered small amounts of water and bland food frequently and the signs should settle quickly. Bear in mind that some of these bugs can be passed to humans so careful hygiene precautions should always be taken.

Parasites such as worms are more common in puppies and young dogs and severe infestations may cause vomiting. Common worms can be treated and prevented with regular worming medications, ideally those recommended by your vet. Other less well-known parasites are also sometimes found and these are usually diagnosed on a faecal sample. They often need treating with specific medications. 

Occasionally vomiting can be a sign of a more serious infection. One of the most serious infections in puppies is Parvovirus (or parvo for short). This is caused by a virus which can be prevented by vaccination. Affected puppies are very unwell and often need prolonged hospitalisation and intensive treatment. Even then not all make it. 

Big problems…

Signs that vomiting might be a sign of something more serious include: 

  • Prolonged vomiting than lasts more than a day or occurs very frequently throughout the day
  • Signs of tummy pain
  • Severe lethargy or listlessness
  • Vomiting blood
  • Prolonged loss of appetite 
  • Being unable to keep even water down
  • Severe watery diarrhoea

If any of these are noticed you should contact your veterinary surgery promptly. Puppies can become poorly very quickly but the good news is most will bounce back rapidly with the right treatment.

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