It can be disheartening when you find piles of undigested food after your dog just had a sumptuous meal. It is natural and you can’t blame them, it’s their body communicating. Sometimes it might not be a huge cause for concern or, they may be going through something worth your attention. There are so many reasons why your dog throws up undigested food whether regurgitation or vomiting. Don’t confuse the two. Before we go into defining what these concepts are, let’s take a look at how your doggy’s digestive system works.
Your Pup’s Digestive Function
When your dog chews their food it gets broken down into smaller pieces by the teeth and the saliva in the mouth and then moves down through the esophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, the food is churned with the help of an acid called hydrochloric acid and natural enzymes into absorbable nutrients. This digested food moves further into the small intestine where absorption of nutrients and water into the bloodstream takes place. Whatever is left has little or no nutrients and is pushed into the large intestine where more water is removed from it and sent to the rectum. It sits here for a while until it is big enough to trigger the rectum and then she’ll poop. This is how they get rid of waste.
This is the proper digestive function of a healthy dog, except, of course, yours is feeling a little unwell in her gut and this makes them vomit or regurgitate.
Let’s see the difference between these two.
Regurgitation is the return of food to the mouth after it has been swallowed. The food was swallowed but didn’t get to the stomach and was pushed back by the esophageal muscle. This can take place a few minutes or hours after your dog eats their food and might not necessarily be a cause for concern. Sometimes, when they swallow something big and it gets stuck, they simply bring it back up all covered in mucus and undigested. This is coming from their esophagus and not their stomach.
Vomiting on the other hand happens when your dog throws up food after many hours of eating. In this case, the food is pushed back out of the stomach by the muscles of the abdomen into the esophagus and mouth. The food may appear digested, partially digested, or not digested at all.
Before your dog vomits, you may see them behave restlessly pacing around for some moments and then begin retching before vomiting. If this happens frequently, you may have to watch your dog closely for other symptoms that may tell your dog is ill.
Having explained regurgitation and vomiting, you can easily tell which it is when your dog throws up. Regurgitated food, though disgusting, appears almost as it did before. The only difference is it comes out covered in saliva and fluid.
Vomited food on the other hand appears more disgusting and contains gastric juice stored in the stomach. It might also have a foul smell because the food has spent more time in the stomach and undergone changes.
Some Reasons Why Your Dog Is Throwing Up Undigested Food
- Eating Too Much Or Too Fast
The sumptuous taste of your dog’s food or how hungry they may be can be a reason for them to gorge on their food as if they were racing. Consuming a large quantity of food can overload the stomach and cause discomfort. This can stimulate the body naturally making the esophagus expel the food.
You can get your dog to eat slowly by measuring their diet to avoid frequent regurgitation. Using a slow-eating bowl or platter and giving them smaller meals frequently will go a long way to help slow their eating speed. If you have more than one dog, try feeding them separately to avoid competition-driven overeating.
- Digestive Upset
Digestive upset leads to vomiting especially when the food your dog eats doesn’t sit well with their stomach just as it can happen with humans. This can happen when you switch your dog to another food especially abruptly or as a result of dietary indiscretions such as feeding on too many treats or ingesting something outdoors which can cause their stomach to feel uncomfortable.
This kind of vomiting can go away within a day or two and does not cause much need for concern.
- Gastrointestinal Diseases
Gastrointestinal diseases like gastritis which is an inflammation of the stomach lining can be a reason for vomiting in dogs. This can be caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses, or other foreign invaders and these microorganisms can cause inflammation and irritation in the gastrointestinal. Loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea are some symptoms that could accompany the vomit. Sometimes, clots of blood can be seen mixed with the vomit. If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to see your vet immediately.
- Acid Reflux
Another potential reason for vomiting is acid reflux. It happens when digestive and gastric juices flow back up into the esophagus causing inflammation and irritation. This irritation of the esophagus can lead to vomiting.
Sometimes your dog’s vomits may look yellow. This is a result of the small intestine refluxing bile into the stomach which irritates. This type occurs hours after eating especially at night when your dog lays low. Digestion is difficult in this position and the stomach contents can easily reflux back into the esophagus and lead to vomiting.
Constipation can lead to vomiting of undigested food in dogs. It leads to dry and strong stool and this can be very difficult to pass out. As a result, they tend to throw up anything that settles in their stomach. If you suspect your dog is suffering from constipation, your vet can help you with a solution.
This is a condition where the muscles of the esophagus weaken causing the esophagus to be dilated. When this happens, food and liquid tend to sit there and get regurgitated back instead of passing down to the stomach.
Megaesophagus may happen as a result of wear and tear after too much stress exerted on the collar. It can also result from disorders like nerve damage from a foreign body in the esophagus or a mass in the chest compressing the nerve.
It is very necessary to consult your vet immediately if any of this is suspected.
- Food Allergy
Some ingredients in your dog’s food can trigger some uncomfortable reactions. Ingredients like pork, beef, chicken, soy, or wheat can cause allergic reactions and lead to vomiting. It is a common sign of allergies accompanied by weight loss and itchy skin. To figure out which ingredient causes such reactions, you might have to work in hand with your vet to conduct a food trial. This will help determine what your dog is allergic to.
- Stress or Anxiety
Sometimes your dog’s vomiting might have nothing to do with its digestive function and may just be a result of stress or anxiety. Some dogs experience car sickness and could vomit when they feel the need to. Other life-changing factors can also cause anxiousness and may result in vomiting.
Other causes may include
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Motion sickness
- Foreign object ingestion
- A Blockage
What To Do To Help Your Pup
- Withhold Food
When there is no food in the stomach, there is nothing to throw up. This method helps the gut decipher a way to heal itself. Once vomiting stops, feeding your dog a bland meal will help too. A dog suffering from an upset should not be fed raw food. Before you do this, consult your vet to be sure of how long.
- Slow down
Help your dog learn how to eat slowly. You can do this by getting a slow-eating bowl and measuring your meal. Giving small quantities of food, although you might have to do it frequently, will help teach them to eat slowly.
- Change your dog’s diet.
If your dog’s vomiting is a result of food sensitivities, changing their meal to one void of the ingredients they are sensitive to will help. Make sure to consult your vet to confirm what triggers your dog. Some dog foods on the market are formulated specifically for dogs with food sensitivities and this can go a long way to improve your dog’s health. You might also need to switch from dry kibbles to wet or fresh natural or homemade food.
You can administer probiotics to your dog to improve its microbiome. The microorganisms present in their gut play a major role in their digestive function and invariably, the health of these microbes will improve your dog’s digestive health.
When you notice the following symptoms, do not hesitate to book an appointment with your vet.
- When your dog vomits more than once and is not getting better
- Your dog acts strangely after vomiting
- When their vomit contains clots of blood
- When your dog shows other symptoms
What your vet can do to help your dog
- Physical Exam
- Blood Test
- Barium swallow test