Many puppy owners dismiss vomiting as a symptom of teething. However, there are numerous reasons why your new puppy could be puking. While it's unlikely that teething can cause puppy vomiting, the health conditions that can -- including parvovirus, megaesophagus, and intestinal blockage -- are very dangerous. Puppies can quickly become dehydrated from vomiting, so this symptom should never be ignored.
What Causes Vomiting in Puppies?
It's not uncommon for a puppy to vomit on occasion, but if your puppy keeps throwing up, there are a vast range of possible conditions that may be creating the issue.
Parvo is a very contagious, life-threatening, and devastating virus that can cause puppies to vomit. Any young dog who has not received their complete set of vaccines can contract parvo from interacting with an infected dog, or even simply walking on contaminated soil, for example, at a park. In addition to vomiting, puppies with parvo will generally stop eating, become incredibly lethargic, and develop profuse diarrhea. These symptoms warrant immediate veterinary care to test for parvovirus and promptly begin treatment for the best outcome.
Vomiting in puppies is commonly caused by intestinal parasites. In fact, dogs can become infected with roundworms within their mother's womb, so many puppies are born with worms that continue to grow as they mature.
Puppies can also become infected with hookworms, tapeworms, Giardia, or coccidia after birth. Accompanying signs associated with parasitic infections include sporadic diarrhea, flatulence, lower energy, appetite changes (increase or decrease), dull fur, a bloated belly, or vomiting up worms. However, some dogs don't show any symptoms at all.
Veterinarians generally recommend deworming puppies every two weeks for the first months of their life to kill all life stages of the worms. If your puppy is not on a deworming schedule, speak to your vet.
Eating Too Quickly
Growing puppies are notorious for scarfing down their food, so if your pup vomits immediately after a meal, it's possible they could simply be eating too quickly. Puppies who vomit for this reason show no other signs of illness, and most even try to eat the food a second time. Not only is this frustrating for you as a pet owner, but eating too fast can be harmful to your puppy.
Swallowing large amounts of air during meals can put your dog at risk for gastric dilatation-volvulus, or canine bloat. Large breed and deep-chested dogs are already at a higher risk for this fatal condition, so owners of these puppies must be especially careful. Try using a slow feeder to slow your pup down before they make fast eating a habit.
Abrupt Diet Change
Changing your puppy's food can, unfortunately, upset their stomach and lead to a mild episode of vomiting or diarrhea. In general, these symptoms won't last longer than a few days, and the puppy will continue to act normally. It can be helpful to offer your pup some bland food to help alleviate some of the stress on their digestive tract. However, if your puppy appears to be acting sick or has other symptoms of illness, the cause of their vomiting is likely something other than a food change.
Puppies can and will eat just about anything, so it's possible their vomiting could be caused by the ingestion of something toxic. Among these dangerous substances are xylitol (present in many sugar-free gums, ice cream treats, and even some types of peanut butters), grapes, chocolate, rodenticides, compost, and human medications.
Along with vomiting, most puppies will show other signs of poisoning, including loss of appetite, lethargy, tremors, or seizures. If you're concerned that your puppy may have eaten something toxic, immediately phone an animal poison hotline and head to your vet hospital.
Foreign body obstruction is another concern among puppies who eat things they shouldn't. Whether it's a sock, piece of rawhide, or the squeaker out of a toy, when objects are too large to fit through a puppy's intestines, they can create a blockage and make the puppy very ill.
Not only can food not move through the digestive tract, but the object can even cause the bowel to necrose or perforate through the intestinal wall. Symptoms of this condition include vomiting, no appetite, lethargy, straining to defecate, and a painful belly. Typically, surgery to remove the blockage is necessary for survival.
Megaesophagus is typically a congenital condition involving dilation of the esophagus, which prevents food from moving down correctly. Puppies with this anatomy regurgitate rather than vomit, so it looks a lot like a baby "spitting up." Aside from this sign, puppies may not show any other symptoms.
However, the main concern with megaesophagus is the risk of aspirating or breathing in the regurgitated fluid. This can lead to life-threatening pneumonia. Some dogs can outgrow puppy megaesophagus, though most will need to be fed in a special upright chair and remain closely monitored for the rest of their life.
Do Puppies Vomit When Teething?
While teething in babies was long believed to be linked with vomiting, experts state that there is no known relationship between the two. Many owners hold the same belief when it comes to puppies. However, similarly, there is no evidence that teething causes vomiting in dogs.
Puppies are more likely to drool during the teething period, which can last from 3 weeks of age until 6 months old. It's possible the discomfort associated with erupting teeth could make a puppy nauseous, and some puppies may have a mild fever, which may make them feel dumpy. A frozen teething chew can help soothe your pup, but if your puppy continues vomiting while teething or develops other signs of illness, you should speak with your vet.
When to See Your Vet for Puppy Vomiting
Puppies can lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes through vomiting, so it can become dangerous very quickly. Anytime your puppy vomits more than a few times, it is beneficial to have them examined by a veterinarian. However, if your young dog displays any of the following signs in addition to vomiting, it's important to seek urgent veterinary care.
- Vomiting in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated puppies
- Continuous vomiting
- Vomiting for 12 to 24 hours or more
- Vomiting blood
- Not eating
- Profuse diarrhea
- Diarrhea with blood
- Low energy
- Pale gums
Diagnostics for Vomiting in Puppies
When you bring your vomiting puppy to the veterinary hospital, there are several tests they may perform. These diagnostics can help your veterinarian identify the cause of the vomiting so they can choose the most appropriate course of treatment.
- Parvo test: To rule out life-threatening parvo, your vet will likely recommend a non-invasive test to detect the presence of the virus.
- X-rays: Taking X-rays of your puppy's abdomen will give your vet insight into what is happening internally. They can often show whether your pet has an intestinal obstruction or intussusception (a life-threatening condition where the intestines fold in on themselves). Sometimes an ultrasound is needed in addition to radiographs.
- Fecal exam: Running diagnostics on your dog's fecal material can identify whether your puppy's vomiting could be a result of worms or protozoal parasites.
- Blood work: Blood tests to evaluate organ function, electrolyte levels, and measure blood components are run on most sick animals, and they're especially important in young dogs. Because puppies can deteriorate very quickly, blood tests can give insight into whether your vomiting dog needs support, such as by providing intravenous fluids or electrolytes.
How to Help Your Vomiting Puppy
Some pet owners may choose to fast a vomiting dog to settle their stomach. However, this is not safe in puppies because they can become hypoglycemic when food is withheld. Vomiting in puppies should not be taken lightly, as the loss of nutrients and fluids can be very dangerous for a young pet. Monitor your puppy closely and seek veterinary care if their vomiting continues or if you notice any other signs of illness. Prompt treatment is essential to keep your puppy healthy and happy.