As a new puppy parent, you are bound to have lots of questions about your new friend. Even if you're experienced with puppies, there are always new concerns because every puppy is different. One of the most common questions I often get that seems to be nerve-racking for new dog owners is this: “why is my puppy vomiting?“
There are several reasons why your puppy may vomit. Let me walk you through them so you can pin point the exact cause.
Sometimes, though very rarely, this may be a serious health concern; but most of the time, it's just a matter of your pup's diet adjustment or parasite treatment. When your puppy vomits once or twice in a single day, but still acts normally the rest of the time, don't panic yet. Continue observing him for the next two days and see if the pattern repeats itself.
Table of Contents
I'll get into this more later in the article, but here is a quick list of most common things that may trigger vomiting in puppies:
Hard play before/after eating – you need to allow your puppy some rest before a hard playing or exercise session so the food can digest; the same applies for feeding a dog minutes after some heavy exercise. The body needs time to settle down.
Car rides – some dogs, and puppies in particular, do not do well with car travel, and especially if it's long-distance journeys. Ideally, you need to get your dog used to traveling in cars; begin with short distance travel at a time and on an empty stomach. Car sickness in dogs is common – read more about it here.
Bad food choices – this is the most common reason I give to every pet owner asking “why is my puppy vomiting,” because it's not unusual for dogs to eat something that doesn't agree with their stomach. Pay attention to what your dog picks up and try to prevent him from eating things off the floor, table scraps and so on.
Too much water – another very common reason for why your puppy may be vomiting is because he drank too much water, too quickly. This often happens after exercise or playtime when your puppy's thirsty. While not a big deal in general, remember that water intoxication in dogs can be a serious health concern.
Eating too fast – if your pup is one who likes to go for the land speed record for consuming a bowl of food, it could cause him to throw up. Other, more serious problems for dogs that inhale their food can also occur, such as canine bloat. The fix for this is to get a dog food bowl that slows down your puppy's eating.
Wrong puppy food – with so many different choices of puppy food out there, every one of them have a different formulation and ingredients. What's the best puppy food for your dog depends entirely on your individual animal, so it will take some time, and trial and error to figure out what puppy food brand best agrees with your dog.
There may be a few other reasons that apply to your question, “why is my puppy vomiting,” but the above list are the most likely causes that I personally have seen in 95% of the cases. Unless your puppy is vomiting consistently multiple times throughout the day (in which case you must see a veterinarian immediately), go through those above before you consider a more serious illness.
That said, if you've been wondering why is my puppy vomiting and you're positive that it's not one of the above issues, then this may be something more serious that requires veterinary assistance. You should consult your vet right away, but in the meantime, let's dig deeper to answer the question, “why is my puppy vomiting?”
Why is My Puppy Vomiting?
If none of the above mentioned reasons and cases apply to you, and you're still wondering, “why is my puppy vomiting,” then it very well may be a sign of a serious illness. Here are the most possible serious health problems you should consider.
Vomiting because of Parvovirus
The absolute first one you must consult with your vet about is canine parvovirus – a disease that puppies (and older dogs) get if they are not vaccinated for it.
Parvo in dogs is a very serious disease, which often is fatal. Vomiting as one of the first symptoms of parvovirus. As the virus progresses, your puppy will start to have diarrhea – possibly bloody – and will become listless due to the dehydration. Make sure you read about what canine parvovirus is, and its symptoms, and compare them to your case. Here is a good evidence-based guide (PDF) to get you started; another from AVMA here (PDF).
Do not delay if your pup vomits more than once or twice in a single day, and refuses food. Call your vet immediately – they can test for parvovirus quickly, and if positive, parvo treatment can be started immediately, which significantly increases chances of recovery. Most likely your puppy will need fluids (through fluid therapy), and lots of them, followed by anti vomit and diarrhea meds, and plenty of support at the vets.
Even then, parvovirus in puppies is a difficult disease to treat. Some puppies do not survive, even with early medical intervention. This is why you must always do regular vet check-ups and vaccinate your puppy. Prevention is the best treatment.
Vomiting because of Parasites
Parasites are another common reason and an answer I give to pet owners' question of “why is my puppy vomiting.” Young dogs are explorers, and it's not unusual for puppies to pick up all kinds of intestinal parasites from their mothers and from generally being curious. If you take your pup to puppy classes or a dog park, he can pick up parasites there as well. In this case, you will always see worms in your puppy's stool and/or in his vomit.
When you make your first “well puppy” visit to the vet for a health check-up, get shots for parvo, distemper and other diseases, the vet will ask you to bring your puppy's stool sample to check for intestinal parasites. If the test is positive, the vet will administer the proper treatment. He will also prescribe your puppy a monthly heartworm medication.
If, somehow, you've done the above and still suspect that your puppy has parasites now, call up your vet to discuss the best treatment. There are many different parasites that puppies get, therefore different treatments may need to be considered. Familiarize yourself and read more on the science of worms in dogs, and what you need to do.
Vomiting because of Intestinal Blockage
Another serious health problem you may not thought of your puppy's intestinal blockage from chewing on and swallowing things. Depending on the type of blockage, it's often fatal to dogs if not surgically treated. Read more about gastrointestinal blockage here.
If gastrointestinal foreign object blockage is the reason you're asking why is my puppy vomiting, there is no way for you to find out. As soon as you suspect something serious, the only thing you can (and should) do is call up your vet and have your puppy checked.
How do you avoid it?
If your pup is an active chewer, and most of them are, make sure his chew toys are durable and will not splinter when the pup is chewing them. The best puppy toys need to be long-lasting and simple, without parts that easily break off.
You also need to pick puppy toys of the right size (not too big, not too small). Stay away from very cheap, discount toys and chews. They can harbor bacteria that can sicken your pup. It's best if you can also avoid buying puppy toys that are made in countries where nobody cares about the health of dogs, like China. USA made dog toys are recommended.
There are many different types of toys for puppies, and as long as they're one solid piece that doesn't break off, they're safe. Tug toys are nice, but watch the strings on them as these could be chewed off and swallowed. The same goes for balls. Tennis, rubber and softer balls can have chunks chewed off and swallowed, resulting in a surgical emergency.
Majority of veterinarians recommend KONG dog toys as the safest for puppies:
“Kong toys are fantastic because the animal has to work, but they are also rewarded for their hard effort.” – Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine [source]
A few other considerations
The above list of simple, non life threatening cases as well as the few serious health considerations like parvovirus, parasites and instestinal blockage are often the reason why most new pet owners are asking why is my puppy vomiting. In 99% of the cases, that is what's causing it.
On very rare occasions, there may also be a congenital problem with your pup’s digestive tract. There may be an infectious disease other than Parvo, such as Hepatitis, Adenovirus or bad kidneys. If your pup continues vomiting, it is time to start testing. The vet will rule out disease and congenital diseases.
The bottom line here is this: if you puppy vomits more than once or twice in a day, call your vet and get your puppy checked. Do not delay.
What You Can Do
Keep an eye on your young dog.
When you have a puppy, you need to constantly observe and supervise them as the young dog continues to learn about the world. You especially need to watch your puppies when they are out for free play. Being in a puppy-friendly and safe room, puppy-proof house or a playpen when you can’t supervise them is alright, too.
Puppies will get their mouths on everything they can find. They are learning their surroundings and experimenting much like a human baby does. If you have to ask now, “why is my dog vomiting?” it's quite likely that he may have gotten into something that he wasn't supposed to while you weren't looking.
Prevention is the best thing you can do to avoid trouble for your puppy, but even then, sometimes things happen that we wouldn’t even think of.
For example, an item dropped and unnoticed could end up in your pup’s mouth. Think about your home and the things that may be available to your puppy. It's important to do plenty of puppy-proofing before bringing your new friend home. Keep your dirty laundry in a hamper away from that inquisitive mouth. Pups love swallowing things like socks.
If you have a cat that is indoors, move the cat's litter box to a place where the puppy isn’t going to be able to get into it. Lots of dogs, in general, treat the cat box as a snack tray. Not only is this a bad habit, but your pup might get sick from eating the litter.
It is important to keep up with regular vet visits for your puppy as well. Have all your questions answered by a qualified professional and work on preventing things from happening so you don't have to deal with the consequences. Heading off any possible illnesses before it may become an emergency situation is key to raising a healthy pup.
If you are sure that the answer to “why is my puppy vomiting?” is nothing more than an upset tummy, get your pup to drink some water (and not ginger ale, like humans do). A pet-friendly antacid for simple heartburn is good for calming an upset stomach in dogs, too. There are several other treatments for dog's digestion issues, upset stomach or diarrhea. Just remember to always check with your vet for confirmation before giving your dog any over-the-counter remedies.