A puppy throwing up is quite common and they experience this as they continue to grow into adulthood.
But what causes a puppy to vomit undigested food? Is this something you should worry about?
Let’s take a closer look at why a puppy throwing up undigested food happens and whether you should be worried about it.
Why Puppy Throwing up Undigested Food Happens
A puppy throwing up undigested food occurs due to vomiting or regurgitation which are caused by various factors including a stomach upset due to diet, poisoning, intestinal parasites, motion sickness, ingestion of foreign objects, infections, gastric reflux, fast eating, overeating, and stress.
Throwing up undigested food means that the food did not reach the stomach or reached the stomach but was not yet digested before being expelled from a dog’s mouth.
Difference Between Vomiting and Regurgitation
There is a difference between vomiting and regurgitation. Vomiting is the forceful removal of stomach contents through the mouth from the contractions of the stomach muscles.
The contents from the stomach can come out as either digested, partly digested, or undigested food.
A puppy vomiting undigested food means that the food did not have the time to move through the digestive system to be digested.
Before vomiting, a puppy will have nausea, lick its lips, produce hacking sounds, and pace.
Vomiting is an active process where the stomach muscles contract to remove the stomach contents from the stomach to the outside.
In contrast, regurgitation is a process whereby the swallowed food does not reach the stomach and is removed from the esophagus in the throat to the mouth and then to the outside, in the same form it was swallowed.
It is a passive process as a result of the esophageal muscles pushing the food out from the esophagus to the mouth.
Regurgitation is usually sudden without any warning or signs. A puppy will simply lean their head forward and the food just rolls out from its mouth.
Both vomiting and regurgitation can occur right after eating or hours after eating.
The importance of knowing the difference between vomiting and regurgitation is that the two processes each have different causes and treatments.
Therefore when you are aware of this you can give this detail to your veterinarian, to help in the diagnosis.
What Causes a Puppy to Throw up Undigested Food?
There are many possible reasons why a puppy might throw up undigested food.
First, through vomiting, the possible causes behind throwing up undigested food include:
A Reaction to Diet
A puppy’s stomach may not agree with their diet or some ingredients in their diet and they will have an upset stomach leading to throwing up. Food allergies include reactions to foods like soy, wheat, grains, and chicken.
Infection with intestinal parasites also results in throwing up as a symptom. These parasites include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.
Puppies are very vulnerable to infections and because of their curious behavior in exploring their environment, they might eat anything which might have the parasites’ eggs.
Some diseases also cause throwing up of undigested food as a symptom. Illnesses such as gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, kidney or liver disease cause a puppy to vomit.
Viral infections such as distemper or parvovirus may cause a puppy to vomit undigested food.
Puppies are at high risk of infection due to their underdeveloped immune system and also if they have not completed their vaccinations.
Puppies are very curious about their surrounding environment and will explore by eating things that they should not.
This includes garbage, feces, grass, dirt, rocks, table scraps, and anything they find interesting This causes them to have a stomach upset which leads to vomiting of undigested food.
Ingestion of Foreign Objects Dietary Indiscretion
They might also ingest foreign objects that may cause intestinal blockage or esophageal blockage. This also causes throwing up which can bring up undigested food.
Just like in humans, puppies also suffer from motion sickness when they are in a car or during traveling. Signs of motion sickness in a puppy include excessive drooling, licking of lips, whining, lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting which can bring out undigested food.
The Causes of Regurgitation in A Puppy
Puppies are very enthusiastic in everything that they do including playing and eating. They tend to eat very fast during meal times which might lead to regurgitation and throwing up of undigested food.
Eating too much
When a puppy also eats too much the food might just come right back up because of the excess food in their stomach.
This usually happens when they are fed larger portions than what they are required to eat or fed one large meal in a day.
Stress might also induce a puppy to regurgitate after they eat or when they eat. Stress can come from different factors including change of their environment when they are in a new home, change of their routine, meeting new people or pets.
Dilated Esophagus (megaesophagus)
The esophagus is a muscular tube in the throat that connects the mouth of a dog to the stomach. Its function is to move swallowed food or water to the stomach.
A dilated esophagus is large compared to the normal size. This means that when a puppy eats, the dilated esophagus tends to not be effective in moving food to the stomach and a puppy might bring food back out.
This is a condition that is common in breeds such as the Great Dane, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Irish Setter, Wire Fox Terrier, Newfoundland, and the Miniature Schnauzer.
Gastric Reflux and Esophagitis
Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus due to various conditions including gastric reflux. Gastric reflux occurs when the acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus.
This causes inflammation of the esophagus which can cause a puppy to regurgitate undigested food.
Obstruction in the esophagus
If a puppy swallows an object, it can lead to obstruction of the esophagus which leads to throwing up undigested food after they eat.
Should I Be Worried if My Puppy Throws Up?
Yes, when a puppy throws up, this is a cause for concern when it occurs 1-2 times over a 24 hour period. In cases where they vomit once and they continue their normal activities without other signs of illness, there is no need to worry.
A puppy throwing up should not be overlooked because it can be very dangerous. This is because throwing up can also be due to a serious underlying health issue that requires treatment for the well-being of your puppy.
Puppies also become dehydrated quickly through vomiting compared to adult dogs. Severe dehydration and loss of electrolytes lead to organ failure, unconsciousness then death.
This is unlike adult dogs which are more resilient. For example, an adult dog throwing up can first be monitored at home and then taken to the veterinarian when their condition does not improve.
Puppies are very vulnerable to infections and disease because of their developing immune system and they are not as resilient as adult dogs. When they are sick, illness can rapidly progress and lead to fatal outcomes quite fast.
Therefore a puppy throwing up undigested food requires immediate medical attention when it happens.
What to Do After Puppy Throws up Undigested Food
When your puppy throws up undigested food or any other form of vomit, they require medical attention.
This is especially important when other symptoms of illness are also present.
Seek medical attention when:
- There is blood in their vomit
- Vomiting continues more than once
- They throw up undigested food and have diarrhea
- Dry heaving (unproductive vomiting)
- Throwing up of other abnormal material
- Obstruction of the esophagus with an object
- Loss of appetite
Recommended reading: Great Dane throwing up
Treatment for A Puppy Throwing up Undigested Food
When you take your puppy for a medical evaluation, the veterinarian will conduct tests and ask you questions regarding the condition and history of your puppy to reach a diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the throwing up of undigested food.
If it is due to any underlying disease or infection, treatment will be provided to treat it or manage the condition which will stop the vomiting.
The veterinarian may change your puppy’s diet if they are throwing up undigested food due to a dietary sensitivity or food intolerance.
Apart from treatment, other preventive measures must be put in place to prevent your puppy from throwing up undigested food.
To prevent dietary indiscretion the veterinarian will also advise that you try to prevent your puppy from eating things that they should not such as table scraps or human food, garbage, feces, or anything outside their diet.
Fast eating by a puppy can be controlled by slowing down eating. This can be done by providing a slow-feeding bowl for meals and drinking water. This minimizes regurgitation.
To prevent regurgitation as a result of overeating, feed your puppy several meals throughout the day in the right proportions that they require. Do not feed your puppy only one large meal. Generally, puppies should eat 2-3 times a day.
Regurgitation due to stress can be managed through the removal of stress triggers and training to gradually help your puppy to adjust to new environments, people, or pets.
Anxiety from motion sickness can be managed through training to condition your puppy to be comfortable during travel, withholding food before travel, having carrier bags, travel toys, provision of anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medication.
Ingested objects that cause obstruction of the esophagus will be removed to clear the pathway to allow swallowing of food.
A puppy throwing up undigested food can be due to various reasons which require an evaluation because it can turn out to be life-threatening.
Always contact your veterinarian when your puppy throws up frequently, that is more than once in a day and also if the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms of illness. This will help you to act swiftly and help your puppy.