Dogs can vomit for many different reasons, and most of the time it is nothing to worry about. A dog vomiting traces of food is common and has happened to every dog owner, but what if your dog is vomiting water? In this text we're exploring this matter a little deeper!
Vomiting episodes are never pleasant experiences, for you as a dog owner or for your dog. However, these situations are inevitable and will happen every once in a while.
The most common situation is when a dog is throwing up traces of food and it’s usually a sign of an upset stomach or a problem in the digestive system.
Most commonly when a dog is throwing up traces of food it is a sign of an upset stomach or a problem in the digestive system. But what does it mean when a dog is throwing up water?
We understand that you’re probably worried if you see that your dog is vomiting water. You may never have seen this before and naturally you are wondering what to do? Should you give him more water in order to re-hydrate? Or should you give him some food?
Scroll down and find out more about possible causes and treatments for vomiting water. But first of all, let’s clear out one thing:
Is Your Dog Actually Throwing Up Water?
When you see that your dog is throwing up a clear liquid that looks like water, it’s usually not water they’re vomiting! The liquid is in fact gastric juice, an acid that is a natural and essential part of the digestive process.
However, if your dog vomits straight after drinking lots of water, it will probably be a mixture of water and gastric juice.
Now that we’ve sorted this out, let’s take a look at what throwing up ”water” could mean!
Why Is My Dog Throwing Up Water?
The reason why your dog is throwing up gastric juice and not food could be very simple – because it hasn’t eaten anything. Even if your dog is not eating, the stomach will still contain some gastric juice even if no food is passing through.
It could also be because the dog has eaten something earlier that day or the previous day, that is irritating the digestive tract and causing it to feel sick.
In some cases, it could be a side effect from getting stressed or anxious. If this is the case, the vomiting should normally cease after he or she calms down and feels more relaxed. Other dogs will vomit a watery substance if they are very excited.
Sometimes a dog will throw up water if it takes a very large drink then immediately starts doing exercise. Its stomach will be too full of water and it will often vomit the water straight back up. Hence why it is recommended not to let your dog eat or drink a lot before exercise.
Unfortunately, vomiting water can also be an indication of a more serious underlying medical issue. We’re taking a deeper look at some of these conditions.
When dogs vomit water, it is actually a gastric juice mixed with water. The reasons that could cause the vomiting could be diverse: from a simple digestive issue, to a adverse effect of stress or anxiety or a more serious medical issue.
We all know that there are certain substances and household products that dogs should avoid and that there are toxic foods for dogs. Common toxins include: human medication, chocolate, avocado, household cleaning products or household plants. Toxic substances can cause vomiting, both food and liquid.
If a dog is throwing up liquid, it’s possible that he will have foam in the mouth as well. Other symptoms of toxin ingestion can include lethargy, diarrhea, dilated pupils, lack of coordination, pale gums, high heart and breathing rate, and seizures or collapse in extreme cases.
If you are concerned that your dog may have eaten a toxic substance, that he should be taken to the vet as soon as possible. The vet may need to give your dog medication, or it may be possible to absorb toxins with activated charcoal. (1)
When substances toxic to canines are ingested by a dog, the poisoning could appear and cause a dog to vomit.
The pancreas is an important little gland located between the stomach and small intestine. It produces enzymes to help digest food and also helps control the sugar levels in the body.
Pancreatitis is a very serious and painful disease and common symptoms include: lethargy, vomiting, decreased appetite, painful abdomen, diarrhea. Many dogs with pancreatitis will stop eating but continue to vomit a watery liquid as they feel very nauseous. (2)
When the body’s ability to produce enzymes that help in food digestion decreases, pancreatitis could develop and cause a dog to stop eating and vomit a watery liquid.
The kidneys help to filter waste out of the body and produce urine. They also maintain the body’s water and salt balance and help to control blood pressure that encourages red-blood cell production. When the kidneys aren’t working properly, toxins build up in the blood and a dog will become ill. Signs of kidney disease may include: depression, vomiting, decreased or loss of appetite, weight loss and blood in urine. (4)
Kidney problems are sometimes the cause of dogs vomiting water. The other symptoms that indicate these diseases are loss of appetite, weight loss and blood in urine.
The liver’s vital function is filtering toxic substances out of the blood in the dog’s body. If it’s not working as it should, the toxins will build up and cause the dog to become ill. (5)
This can cause symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and decreased appetite. In severe cases a yellow tinge can be seen in the eyes or the dog’s skin, known as jaundice.
Similarly to kidney problems, liver dysfunctions can also have the same symptoms that include vomiting.
The stomach has a protective lining to safeguard it from the strong stomach acid which helps to digest food. An ulcer is an area where the stomach lining is thinned or damaged.
Ulcers can be caused by toxin ingestion, drug reactions, tumors, poor diet, parasites, liver or kidney disease, too much acid in the stomach as well as stress. (6)
Signs that your dog might have a stomach ulcer include: vomiting water, weight loss, loss of appetite, blood in vomit, black stools, abdominal pain and anemia.
Stomach ulcers are a common reason behind vomiting water. This mostly occurs with dogs with a poor diet or with too much acid in the stomach.
Tumors in the stomach can lead to vomiting, both food and liquid if the stomach is empty. These tumors will also cause a decrease or loss of appetite, weight loss and sometimes blood may appear in the vomit. Some brain tumors may also cause vomiting.
In particular, if the tumor is near a small area of the brain known as the vomiting center, the vomiting can be more frequent. A stomach tumor should be surgically removed, if possible. If the tumor is malignant, meaning it may spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be recommended. (7)
Unfortunately, what is causing your dog to vomit water could also be a tumor. If the vomiting is too frequent and persistent, you should check your dog for tumors.
If you suspect your dog has one of the conditions discussed above, it’s important to go see a veterinarian as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for your dog.
In addition, we should mention that the ”water” dogs can throw up isn’t always gastric juice, it can be bile as well!
Dogs Throwing Up Bile
Bile is a green-yellow fluid that has important functions in the digestion of food and removal of waste material from the dog’s body. It is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. (8) When food is ingested it is released into the small intestine in order to help with digestion and to emulsify the food.
If bile enters the stomach from the intestine, it causes irritation and vomiting. You can spot the bile in the vomit contents by a watery-like, yellow-green substance.
If your dog is vomiting bile, it’s probably a sign that something isn’t working perfectly in the digestive tract. However, take him or her to the vet just to be on the safe side. Prescribed medications or special diets usually help.
Vomiting bile is a sign that a dog is experiencing an issue of the digestive tract.
What Do I Do When My Dog Is Vomiting?
When you notice that your dog is throwing up water you ask yourself what should be done in order to help your best friend. Here are some tips:
Inspect the vomit
Even if it looks like clear water, you should still inspect it. While you do that, look out for bile, parts of food or blood. By doing so you can get a better idea of your dog’s problem.
Other things to look out for are inedible objects, such as parts of toys or shoes for instance. This is more likely to happen if your dog is younger or likes to chew and eat things around the house.
Check out this video on what you should and shouldn’t do when your dog is vomiting!
As you can see, these are some things you shouldn’t do:
Don’t Give More Water Than Usual
Your first instinct will probably be to give your dog more water when you see how much water he’s throwing up. Surprisingly, this is not the right thing to do. Additional water can irritate the stomach even more, trigger the vomiting reflexes and result in more vomiting episodes.
Remove the water bowl for a few hours until his stomach settles, then offer a little bit of water again to see if he can keep it down without more vomiting.
Don’t Feed Your Dog Differently
If the reason for vomiting is an upset stomach, suddenly changing to a totally new diet routine will only confuse the stomach and lead to more vomiting.
Don’t Give your Dog Human Medications
Many human medications can be toxic for dogs and make your dog very ill. Always seek veterinary advice before giving any medications to your dog.
Don’t Ignore It
If the vomiting doesn’t seem to stop, don’t put off the visit to the vet. That way you can establish what the cause is and how to treat it if necessary.
If you don’t notice anything especially strange in the vomit, leave some time to see if the vomiting will stop. If it persists, bring your dog to the vet. In any case, do not give your dog any human medications for vomiting as they could only worsen the problem.
Vomiting can be scary and unpleasant, especially if it’s the first time your dog suffers from this problem. However, there is usually no need to worry, especially if the vomiting only happens once or twice and then stops. Nonetheless, it’s important to know what to do in these situations.
If the vomiting is more frequent, look out for other symptoms and take your dog to the vet. In order to determine the proper treatment you have to be sure of the cause first.
If your dog is vomiting liquid that is clear and not mixed with food, it can be because the dog hasn’t eaten anything lately or his stomach is empty. Unfortunately, vomiting liquid can also indicate some medical problems as well, which is why you have to watch out for other symptoms mentioned above.
Last but not least, it’s vital to understand that vomiting episodes will happen from time to time with your dog and that they are a part of being a dog owner. Don’t panic, try to determine the cause, consult your vet for treatment and everything should be fine in a while!
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Margarita Boyd, BVSc MRCVS.
Margarita graduated from the University of Liverpool, earning a Bachelor in Veterinary Science with distinction. She worked in small animal and equine practice for a few years, before choosing to focus solely on companion animals. She has developed a special interest in internal medicine and ophthalmology.