We all want our dogs to live good lives. That’s why we make sure we’re feeding them balanced, nutritious meals, giving them exercise and play, and making regular trips to the veterinarian to help make sure they’re healthy. When your dog does get sick, it’s important to be prepared.
Knowing what to do when your dog is sick can make a big difference in helping them heal. One of the most common signs of illnesses in dogs is nausea and vomiting.
If your dog throws up one time, it may be that they ate too fast, ran around too much after eating, or ate something that’s not quite food. However, if your dog throws up more than a few times and can’t keep food down, there’s likely a deeper issue.
Don’t panic: This guide breaks down everything you need to do if your dog can’t keep food down.
Keep reading to learn more.
Causes of Vomiting
If your dog can’t keep food down, there may be a variety of reasons as to why. Let’s take a look at some common causes of vomiting.
Dog Food Allergies
For instance, if your pup is sick, they may have eaten food they’re allergic to. Just like humans, dogs can have food allergies. The top dog food allergies are soy products, wheat and gluten, corn, chicken, eggs, and dairy products.
Vomiting and diarrhea are two common signs of a dog food allergy. Keep in mind that if your dog has a food allergy, you’ll likely notice other signs than just vomiting.
You may see itching, coughing, or sneezing, or your dog may be licking their paws.
Sometimes, dog food allergies don’t need medical attention.
For instance, if you notice that your dog can’t keep food down and are able to target the ingredient, your first step is to switch their food. By eliminating the irritating ingredient from your dog’s diet, you can help soothe their tummies. Most dog food allergies only cause irritation, stomach upset, and general itchiness.
There are rare cases in which you may notice anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is life-threatening, so it’s critical to respond quickly and take your pup to a medical professional right away.
Eating Non-Food Items
Your dog may also be throwing up if they’ve eaten an inedible foreign body, like socks or toys. If your dog eats an object and doesn’t pass it within 24 hours, it can get stuck and obstruct the digestive tract. An obstruction can lead to constipation, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.
If the object is sharp, it can tear your dog’s stomach lining and cause severe issues.
If your dog hasn’t passed the object in a day or is experiencing severe symptoms or behavior like lethargy, take them to the vet right away. They will likely perform x-rays, and surgery is sometimes necessary in severe cases.
Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is a sudden change in their diet. If your dog can’t keep food down for a day or two, it may be due to a sudden alteration in their food.
Change dog food gradually and slowly. You can do this by slowly incorporating more and more of the new dog food you're introducing. You should aim to swap about 10% of their food every day, meaning you’ll fully integrate their new food in a little over a week.
If you have made a sudden diet change, this may be the reason why your pup can’t keep food down. Try switching back to the old food if you can and see if that helps — your new food may have an ingredient or two that your pup’s stomach can’t tolerate.
Eating Toxic Substances
If your dog is vomiting and can’t keep food down, it may be because they've gotten into some human food they shouldn’t have.
Many human foods are toxic for dogs. For instance, grapes, chocolate, garlic, onions, nuts, and chives are poisonous for dogs even though they are safe for humans.
If your dog has gotten into any of these foods, it may cause them to throw up. If they experience other symptoms and throw up continuously throughout the day without pause, take them to the veterinarian.
Other causes for continuous throwing up in dogs include pancreatitis, kidney failure, liver disease, intestinal parasites, viral infection, bacterial infection, heatstroke, or an adverse reaction to a medication.
The point is: if you aren’t 100% sure what may be causing your dog to throw up, take a picture of that throw-up for later, and give your vet a call.
What To Do If Your Dog Can’t Keep Food Down
There are many reasons why your dog might not be able to keep food down. It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how to help your pup since the causes range from allergies to toxic substances to kidney failure.
Here are a few things to do if your dog can’t keep food down.
Start By Removing Food and Water
The first thing to do if your dog is sick is to remove all food and water for a few hours. If your dog hasn’t been able to keep their food down, it may be a good idea to give their digestive system a break.
After two or three hours, give your dog a small amount of water. Vomiting and diarrhea can drain your pup and lead to dehydration.
Every half hour, offer your dog a few tablespoons of water at a time. Be careful not to let them chug water, which can cause them to vomit again.
Slowly Reintroduce Food
It’s important to give your dog’s tummy around eight hours to settle before giving them bland food again. As long as your dog has stopped vomiting, you can slowly reintroduce food.
Even then, start with very small portions and a very bland diet. Boiled chicken, white rice, or whitefish are excellent ingredients that are easy on your pup’s tummy.
Avoid their normal kibble, other human foods, fats, dairy, and raw meat. This may help your dog start to keep food down.
If they can keep food down, you can slowly reintroduce their normal diet after 24 hours of bland meals and water. You can mix their normal kibble into the white rice and chicken.
If they still can’t keep food down after this time, it may be a good idea to see your veterinarian to check for other health issues.
Check for Dog Food Allergies
If the vomiting returns once you reintroduce their regular food, it may be a dog food allergy or intolerance.
Checking for allergies is something you can do at home, or you can take your dog to see a vet. There are no remedies or medical solutions to dog food allergies, so your vet will advise you to remove the allergen from your pup’s diet completely.
Your vet will diagnose your dog’s food allergy to start. There are a few ways they can do this. To avoid costly testing, they may ask that you try an elimination diet.
For instance, you can start by eliminating the most common dog food allergies like corn, soy, gluten, dairy, and chicken. Slowly reintroduce each food one at a time to monitor their behavior and check for a reaction. If they react to a certain food, this is likely their allergen.
This helpful resource takes a closer look at everything you need to do if you suspect your pup has a dog food allergy.
Help Your Dog Eat Slower
Some dogs can’t keep food down because they’re eating too fast. If your dog tends to regurgitate most of their food after eating, they may be inhaling it rather than chewing and swallowing. You can easily see this if their food is still whole when they throw it up (versus smaller, chewed-up pieces, wet and dry food alike).
Luckily, this is an easy fix. You can look for special dog bowl feeders online that can help slow your dog down while they eat. These have grooves and little molded shapes that make it difficult for your pup to vacuum up their food.
These dishes also support your dog’s brain activity and give them a little mental stimulation because they have to work for their dinner and use their cognitive skills.
If you aren’t sure whether this is the cause of your dog’s vomiting and want to try it out before buying a special bowl, you can make one at home.
Get a muffin tin and separate your dog’s regular food serving throughout the individual muffin slots. This will encourage them to slow down instead of eating all their food at once. For extra smart dogs, you can even “hide” the food by placing tennis balls on top of each compartment so your dog has to take an extra step to “find” the food.
Check Your Dog For Parasites
Your dog may be unable to keep food down because of parasites or worms. There are many types of worms your dog can contract. For instance, tapeworms, heartworms, whipworms, and other intestinal worms can make it seem like your dog is sick.
If your dog has tapeworms, there are a few ways you can help them. First, you can visit your vet. They can treat tapeworms and other parasites with medications.
Second, you could treat worms at home. Use foods like pumpkin, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar, which are natural deworming agents that can help address the problem. Home treatments are great supplementary treatments, but always make sure to consult with your vet.
You can also feed your dog carrots or other textured, fibrous foods that can help to gently scrape the intestines. Any parasites or worms clinging to the mucous membrane will be scraped and forced to exit.
When To Contact Your Vet
Some dog vomiting is nothing to worry about.
However, there are a few signs that indicate your dog needs medical attention.
If you notice continuous vomiting, vomiting too much at one time, fever, vomiting blood, bloody stool or diarrhea, seizures, or retching with nothing coming up, it’s a good idea to call your vet and seek medical attention right away.
If you notice any unusual behavior or feel concerned about your pup, it’s never a bad idea to call a trusted veterinarian. It’s better safe than sorry!
Can You Prevent Your Dog From Vomiting?
There are many reasons your dog may be unable to keep food down. They may have a dog food allergy, have worms, or have other conditions.
Many dog parents wonder if there are ways to prevent dogs from vomiting in the first place. The answer is yes and no. There are some causes of vomiting that are outside of your control. Dogs get into foods they shouldn't or get sick for various reasons.
You can’t always prevent your dog from getting sick or throwing up. But, there are a few steps you can take to help keep your dog’s tummy feeling good and prevent stomach upset.
This relies mostly on their diet.
If your dog is eating irritating foods, they may not be able to keep it down. Avoid products like corn, soy, gluten, wheat, chicken, meats labeled as “meat meals,” processed ingredients, artificial ingredients, and additives like sodium and sugar.
Instead, look for whole fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, beef, leafy greens, and healthy fats to support a well-rounded, nutritious diet for your furry friend. Take a look at our ingredient list to see what should go into your dog’s food.
Healthy Food for a Healthy Gut
You can support a healthy gut by feeding your dog healthy food packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. In turn, this supports healthy digestion and keeps food down.
With all-natural ingredients, minimal processing, no additives, human-grade standards, and ready-to-eat food, you can give your pup the healthy mealtimes they deserve.