Tests Get to Root of Dog’s Vomiting

A dog’s occasional vomiting spells could be caused by food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease.

Q. I have a 1-year-old Shih Tzu who, every once in a while, vomits an awful lot. I’m wondering why. Could it be she is eating something? Do I need to be concerned?

She will usually vomit a large amount, but then it’s over. It’s not persistent, so I have not told the vet about it or taken her to the vet because of it. She checked out fine a few months ago at her last visit.

A. Intermittent, occasional vomiting can be a frustrating problem for dog owners. Not only is it messy, it creates some anxiety about whether their dogs are truly sick, or are just demonstrating some “normal” dog vomiting.

What dog owner has not been woken up in the middle of the night by the dramatic heaving and retching noises that precede the inevitable vomiting to follow? Despite your best efforts to jump out of bed and relocate your pooch off the newly-installed carpet, gastric contents are deposited in a voluminous pile, awaiting your clean-up efforts as your wake-up gift the next morning.

The two main causes of intermittent vomiting in a young dog would be food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Of the two, a food allergy is the easiest to diagnose and correct by simply switching to a high-quality “hypoallergenic” diet. These diets have been formulated for dogs with sensitivity to the most common foods involved in food allergies, and often the problem with resolve with this correction.

Dog owners should avoid switching foods frequently, because the diet change itself can be enough to cause some unwelcome vomiting for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Sometimes, a specific food item must be identified and eliminated through a series of food trials, which should be done under the supervision of your veterinarian.

Inflammatory bowel disease is the result of infiltration of certain types of white blood cells into the walls of the intestines, leading to changes in absorption and digestion, and resulting in vomiting and occasional diarrhea. This is a more challenging disease to diagnose, and ultimately involves getting small pieces of intestines for biopsy using an endoscope.

IBD is caused by an overactive immune system, and will respond to steroid treatments. In some cases, trial treatments with steroids such as prednisone are done to both diagnose and treat the disease, avoiding the necessity for surgical biopsies.

The use of probiotics has been recently advocated to help improve digestive function in dogs. Although there are numerous products available for purchase, a small amount (1-2 tsp) of active culture plain yogurt added to food may help settle some dogs’ sensitive stomachs. This may be a practical alternative to switching to a hypoallergenic diet or getting a full medical work-up for inflammatory bowel disease.

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Dogs · Health and Care