Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit? How To Stop Them From Eating it?

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why do dogs eat their own vomit

Dogs eat their own vomit because it’s an innate behavior they acquired from their moms as puppies. 

As they wean off their mother’s milk, it is common for them to transition to having food that is regurgitated from their mom as an easier adaptation than going directly to solid food. 

So Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit?

Technically, a dog is more likely to eat regurgitated food as opposed to vomit, but both can certainly be done. The difference between the two will be explained later. For now, let’s see some reasons why dogs eat their own vomit:

Vomit smells like food to dogs

Their sense of smell is far superior to ours. They consider the food parts of the vomit tasty or even as a new meal. It’s the reason why when they do see the vomit they are excited cause it is more food for them.

They are used to this behavior

As we mentioned earlier, they are also used to this process from when they are pups. In order for pups to get used to solid foods, mother dogs will disgorge the food and feed it to their little babies.

Is Eating Vomit Bad For Dogs?

Well, it’s not great. Of course, depending on what was in their vomit, the danger could vary. 

Vomit always has additional contents in it beyond the food because it is coming from the stomach. For example, it will always be covered with a film of mucus, which would not be recommended for your dog to re-digest. 

Other contents that could come up could be blood, grass, sticks, toys, and other foreign objects that would cause harm to your dog. 

How To Prevent Dogs From Eating Their Vomit

Telling you to simply monitor what your dog does and inhales every moment of the day is not plausible. They eat grass and sticks and lick the floors- a dog vomiting (and trying to eat it) is relatively normal

The only tangible thing you could do to prevent your dog from eating their own vomit is to be there to clean it up as soon as they do. 

What If My Dog Is Chronically Vomiting? 

An important thing to investigate if you find that your dog is vomiting frequently (on a daily or weekly basis) is their diet. 

Even if they have a strict diet where all they eat is their dog food, allergies could still creep in and cause vomiting. 

Allergies are extremely common for our pets so allergy testing is always helpful in ruling possibilities out. 

Certain foods can aid in digestion to combat vomiting issues:

  • Pumpkin
    • Vitamin A
  • Oats
    • Healthy carb source
    • Fiber source

Chronic vomiting is also indicative of intestinal disorders like:

  • Pancreatitis
    • Short episodes of frequent vomiting and diarrhea that typically last 1-5 days. This happens because something was ingested to cause irritation and inflammation to the pancreas where it cannot function properly. Prescribed medications from the vet are usually necessary.  
  • Bladder obstruction
    • Obstruction of the bladder can cause chronic vomiting as little to nothing is able to pass through the body 
  • Ulcers
    • Ulcers in the stomach or esophagus would cause vomiting and it would likely be very painful 
  • Inner ear disease
    • Inner ear diseases disrupt the equilibrium. They can become dizzy and extremely nauseous, especially when standing or running
  • Addison’s disease 
    • This is a disease caused by a decrease in hormone production from the adrenal glands [1
    • The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys. 
    • This will present with chronic vomiting, lethargy, and sudden weight loss 
  • Kidney failure
    • This is typical with older, even geriatric dogs. 
    • Symptoms include vomiting, pale gums, significant weight loss, and lack of coordination [2]  
  • Liver failure 
    • The liver is vital for removing toxins from our blood. When it is failing, the body will shut down quickly. 
    • This is also common as a dog ages. 
    • Signs to look for would be chronic vomiting, jaundice (yellow eyes, tongue, and gums), increased thirst, and inability to walk [3]  

Vomiting Vs. Regurgitation

There actually are two different things happening here, and knowing that distinction can be the most important way of knowing the source of the problem. 

Vomiting is a “full-body movement” – your pet will be heaving, making gagging noises, and using its entire body to get the contents out. The stomach muscles are activated because of food that is rejected from the stomach and upper intestines [4]  

Vomit looks like broken down food because it has already been or was in the stage of being digested which can bring along a number of contents and colors.  If you wonder how long does it take for a dog to digest food, read our article here.

Vomit can include blood, bile, foam, and other ingested items (grass, leaves, sticks, older food, etc.) 

What if there is foam in my dog’s vomit?Foamy throw-up can be indicative of Excess air or gas in the stomach(your dog may be eating too fast and inhaling more air than food), Gastrointestinal distress IBS, Nausea (refusing to eat and drooling are signs of nausea)
What if there is grass in my dog’s vomit?Dogs eat a lot of things but an extremely common one is grass. Ever wonder why my dog eats grass? Read more to find out if it attributes to vomiting.  
What else could be in my dog’s vomit? Sticks, leaves, toys, older food sitting in the intestines, the list goes on. If it looks unnatural or looks like it is causing your dog pain, do not hesitate to call your local veterinarian for further consultation. They could be acting fine but miscellaneous objects can cause internal tearing. 

Regurgitation is a passive act. The food will not look digested, because it isn’t. The food will likely look like it hasn’t even been chewed and was simply spit back up and possibly foamy or slimy. It typically happens shortly after your dog eats, but can happen a couple of hours after too. 

Regurgitation doesn’t require full-body movement or retching- your dog may even be running around like normal, suddenly stop, lower their head, spit up their food and then try to eat it. 

Important tip: make your dog rest for 20 minutes after eating as opposed to letting them run around or taking them on a walk. This will decrease the chances of regurgitation and bloat. 

Although it can be less intensive than vomiting, it can still be indicative of a lot of health issues. 

In cases of chronic regurgitation, we need to consider:  

  • Esophageal disorders 
    • Can be present at birth (example: collapsing trachea) 
    • Can be secondary to other issues like cancer, muscle disorders, parasites, or general infections  
  • Megaesophagus
    • This condition can be present at birth or develop at any age. 
    • The esophagus increases in size while the motility decreases, making it extremely difficult for food and water to advance to the stomach 
    • Any dog is susceptible to this disorder, however these breeds are known to be predisposed:
      •  Wire Fox Terrier, Great Dance, Irish Setter, Chinese Shar-pei, Miniature Schnauzer, Newfoundland, and Labrador Retriever [5
    • Chronic regurgitation is a tell tale sign of megaesophagus 
  • Pneumonia 
    • Aspiration pneumonia 
    • This happens when a dog is vomiting or regurgitating and the gastrointestinal contents get sucked into the lungs, causing coughing, choking, and possible pneumonia. 

Signs My Dog Is About To Vomit 

DroolingThe salivary glands can be activated when a dog is feeling nauseous. If they are drooling, along with abnormal behavior, this is a good indicator that they could throw up.
Pacing or can’t seem to get comfortable They may be panting excessively or unable to sit still 
Decreased appetiteThey may even refuse to eat their meals 
Decreased energyFeeling ill would likely cause lethargy 
Full Body MovementYou’ve probably seen your dog do this motion before they vomit. Lurching their back and putting their neck down with their mouth wide open. They may or may not gag as they are trying to get the contents out.  
RetchingMaking coughing, gagging, or choking noises before vomiting is common.

The Bottom Line

We find vomit revolting as humans, which is why we question our dogs’ sanity when we discover them eating their own vomit. Fortunately, there are a few simple causes for this strange behavior, and most of the time it isn’t harmful to your dog; it’s just gross.

For their own safety, we should always attempt to prevent letting them eat it.

If your dog is chronically vomiting, collect a sample of it and bring it to your veterinarian for testing. 

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Author
Rachel Wood

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