My dog is being sick, what should I do?


Dogs are sick occasionally for various reasons, mostly because they will put almost anything in their mouth.  In most cases it is nothing serious, but occasionally it can be a sign of a more serious problem.

What will I see? 

Dogs tend to drool, lick their lips, and swallow excessively just before being sick or when they feel nauseous. Some may eat grass, possibly to relieve gastric irritation or to make themselves be sick. When your dog is sick you will see strong abdominal contractions, followed by expulsion of vomit. It is worth noting what your dog vomits up, how much and how often he is sick. If you’re worried, it may be worth taking a picture of the vomit to show your vet.

Possible causes of sickness in dogs

Sickness in dogs can be caused by anything that irritates the stomach or prevents stomach contents from moving forward along the digestive tract.  Most commonly in dogs it is due to dietary indiscretion or scavenging (“garbage gut”).  Other causes include, foreign bodies (socks are a favourite), infection, parasites (worms), various plants and toxins, kidney, liver, or pancreatic disease and cancer.

What can I do if my dog is being sick?

If your dog appears otherwise well, but has been sick a few times:

  • Remove all food and water for 2 hours.
  • After this time, allow your dog to have small amounts of water hourly (a few tablespoons at a time) but continue to withhold food for a further 10 hours.
  • If the vomiting has stopped, reintroduce small meals (2-3 teaspoons) of a bland food (such as chicken and rice) every hour or two.
  • If no further signs are seen, your pet can return to a normal diet the next day.

If your dog continues to be sick, cannot keep water down, has blood or unusual material in the vomit, is showing other signs such as lethargy, discomfort, bloating, or if you have seen him eat something he shouldn’t, call your vet immediately.

Veterinary Care – what to expect

Your vet will check your dog over by performing a clinical examination and also ask you questions to see what you have observed at home.  Since there are many possible reasons your dog may be being sick, your vet may need to perform some further tests to work out what is going on, such as blood tests, urine tests, x-rays or ultrasound.  Treatment will depend on the diagnosis, but may include intravenous fluids (a drip) to correct dehydration, antibiotics if infection is suspected, antiemetics (anti vomiting medication) and stomach protectants if appropriate.   If a foreign body is suspected, surgery will be performed to remove it. There may be other treatments given specific to the cause of vomiting.

How can I prevent my dog from being sick?

Many causes of vomiting cannot be prevented, but by removing any potentially harmful foods, bones or objects from your dog’s environment you can help to minimise the risk of foreign body ingestion or toxicity.  Try not to change your dog’s diet suddenly and try to prevent him scavenging and eating rubbish.

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not
a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a
guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment
immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are
closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more
about what to do in an out of hours emergency.