Rhonda Stallings, DVM, Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, Sonoma, CA
Most dog people have been in that situation when our dog starts to vomit and we question if it’s a medical emergency. It all depends on the symptoms and how things progress.
Pets vomit for many reasons, including ingestion of poisons (mushrooms, blue green algae, fertilizer, chocolate, raisins, rat baits, etc.); dietary indiscretions (garbage ingestion, including compost, cat poop, chicken bones, fatty foods); foreign body ingestion (including toys, nylons, socks, underwear, rocks, money, foxtails and even knives).
Pets often vomit numerous times when they have eaten foxtails or plant stickers. They keep eating more and more grass because a foxtail or sticker is caught in their throat or tonsil and they are very uncomfortable. This becomes a downward spiral with the dog needing to be sedated to have their throat examined.
What to do if your pet vomits:
Immediately take up all food and water. Watch your pet closely. Do not let them out in the backyard to eat grass! This actually complicates everything and increases their need to vomit.
Identify what is in the vomit. Is it food? Is it digested? What color is it? Yellow, brown, red tinged, black? Does it have any foreign material in it, like plant material, foxtails, plastic, or cloth?
Is your pet in pain and uncomfortable and trying to vomit more, or are they quite comfortable and acting normal? If your dog appears very uncomfortable, go to your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Gastric torsion is a real life-threatening emergency.
If the vomiting persists, or there’s any evidence of blood or black tarry vomit, I also recommend seeing a veterinarian immediately.
However, if your pet vomits just once and seems normal, then it’s appropriate to wait 4 to 6 hours before offering water. When introducing water, offer a small bowl of ice cubes first. Then, if an additional two hours has gone by without any vomiting offer small amounts of water. Do not allow the pet to drink large amounts of water. That will only make the vomiting worse. After 8 hours of no vomiting, you can reintroduce small amounts of bland food such as boiled chicken and white (not brown) rice.
The key points to remember: if your pet is uncomfortable, or they have blood or dark vomit, call your vet immediately. Better to see your vet than wait.