If you are a dog owner, you most likely have experienced this scenario a couple of times: your dog has just thrown up. You go get something to clean the vomit with and come back to them eating it. It is one of the most disgusting parts of owning dogs, right?
Dogs can also regurgitate and eat the regurgitation. How can you differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation? Why do dogs eat their regurgitation or vomit? Should you be worried? Let us see.
Regurgitation vs. Vomit: What is the Difference?
Most people think regurgitation and vomiting are the same things. However, the two are quite different.
Vomiting is the process where the contents of the upper intestine and stomach are ejected. It is an active process that occurs with some warning. Vomiting is also mostly followed by a change in behavior. Sometimes vomiting can be a sign of underlying problems. In other cases, your dog might vomit because they ate too much, too fast.
Regurgitation happens quickly and without warning, making it a passive process. It occurs immediately after eating before the food is digested. Mothers do this when transitioning their puppies from liquid to solid foods.
It can be hard to differentiate between vomit and regurgitation. Your dog, for example, can regurgitate food that it scarfed down before it reaches the stomach. But they can also vomit partially digested food.
These signs can help you identify vomit from regurgitation:
- Drooling. This is caused by nausea and happens before they vomit
- Apprehensive behavior. You might see your dog wandering or pacing a lot before they vomit
- Growling or grumbling stomach
- Stiffness or a hunched posture
- Abdominal heaving or retching
Your dog can eat both vomit and regurgitation with no problem. But why do they do that?
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit?
Some of the reasons why a dog might eat their own vomit are:
1. Vomit Smells Delicious to Dogs
Dogs have advanced olfactory receptors, compared to only 6 million of ours. This means they perceive smells millions of times better than we do and can smell things we cannot. To us, vomit smells disgusting and unwelcoming. A dog, however, can smell and identify the food particles in the vomit.
In some instances, you might notice your dog sniff the vomit and not eat it. This might be because the food is completely broken down or consists of bile, giving it a bitter smell or taste. Your dog might also avoid eating the throw-up if they are sick.
2. It is Natural
This stems from the regurgitation they went through during weaning. This is more evident in wild animals but can also happen with domestic dogs.
It might not, however, make sense if it is a male dog or an adult dog without children. Veterinary scientists think that dogs still do this even when not weaning because of its roots in their primal behavior.
Dogs, especially those with strict owners, can eat their vomit to avoid punishment. This happens with dogs who have previously gotten scolded for accidents in the house.
Although you may not want to be constantly cleaning their accidents, you should not give your pup punishments for such instances. The best way to handle frequent incidents like this is by redirecting your dog.
Interrupt them in the act and take them to the bathroom or outside. Praise them if they finish what they were doing in the new spot; you can also give them treats to encourage this behavior. This reinforces that they should only vomit or ‘go’ in those areas instead of inside the house.
Punishing your dog only encourages undesirable behaviors. This may make them want to cover up what they did instead of going to the right places.
Why Do Dogs Vomit?
Eating too much or eating food too fast can be one cause of vomiting. Dietary indiscretion is also another reason. It occurs because dogs gladly eat anything they find and while at it, might eat something disagreeable.
Other causes of vomiting can be sudden dietary changes, travel sickness, or stress. Some serious conditions that can cause vomiting are gastritis, worm infestations, kidney disease, diabetes, or bloating.
When is a Dog Vomiting Serious?
The only way to know if your dog vomits because they are sick is to monitor their behavior after vomiting. Give them water and set them free for a while. If they go back to normal and have normal energy levels, it is not anything serious.
It might be more serious if your dog still seems tired or sick after a while. This could indicate that their vomit resulted from something else.
You should also be more cautious if your dog frequently vomits, especially after meals. Sometimes dogs have food sensitivities that prevent them from swallowing or digesting food.
Chronic vomiting can also be a sign of gastrointestinal problems. It could indicate an infection or something worse. It could also signify an esophageal condition that affects your dog’s ability to swallow food.
Getting help from the vet is vital in these situations. Frequent vomiting can dehydrate your dog quickly, especially if it is a puppy.
How Can You Stop Your Dog from Eating Their Vomit?
It is natural for dogs to eat their vomit, but this doesn’t mean you should encourage it. It is much better to give them more food after settling down than to let them eat their vomit.
Take your dog outside after they vomit. This ensures they don’t have access to the throw-up. It is also a way to stop them from throwing up again inside the house. You can also warn them about eating the vomit and show displeasure if they still eat it.
You should do this, especially if their vomit is from poisoning or eating harmful objects. Clean up the mess immediately after they vomit to stop them from re-ingesting the dangerous substance. You should also ensure their vomit doesn’t contain anything that isn’t their regular food, foreign objects, or blood.
Dogs eating their vomit is quite natural. They do not have the same reservations we do regarding vomit. It still smells like food to them, which makes them want to eat it again. While you should not encourage this behavior, it is not harmful and will not have any consequences.
However, be keen to ensure they don’t eat harmful objects or poisonous food. Take them to the vet if they frequently vomit for no apparent reason.