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Why Is My Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Hours After Eating?

Why Is My Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Hours After Eating?

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Your dog will throw up a few times during his lifetime, so you shouldn’t necessarily be worried every time your pooch vomits.

You should also understand that a dog who throws up isn’t necessarily ill or in need of urgent vet attention.

But what if your dog throws up undigested food? Should it be a concern? 

Well, we all expect every food that a dog eats to go down the esophagus and into the stomach for digestion. So, it can be distressing to see your dog throwing up undigested food immediately after eating or 8 hours (or more) after eating. 

But what can make your dog throw up undigested food in the first place? And what should you do about it?

Let’s find out.

Regurgitation vs. Vomiting

If your dog brings up undigested food immediately after eating, there are high chances that you may be dealing with regurgitation rather than vomiting. So, it is important to understand the difference between the two before you take any action.  

When a dog is regurgitating, the process of bringing up the food tends to be more passive. In most cases, your dog will lower his head and cough out the food passively.

The food comes out with ease, without significant muscle contraction. And there is usually no warning to the dog that something is coming up.

The expelled food will be undigested considering that it never reached the stomach. It may also have a cylindrical or tubular shape since it is coming from the esophagus. The food is also always covered with slimy mucus.

Finally, regurgitated food will look about the same as the food that your pup ate because it hasn’t been digested. In fact, some dogs even re-eat the expelled food because it has not been soaked in stomach acids and may still be tasty.

On the other hand, when a dog is vomiting, he may drool and act apprehensively. The dog’s muscles will contract and his whole body will tense.

You may also see the dog retching and see partially digested or undigested food along with a clear liquid (if the food is coming from the stomach) or green liquid (if the food is coming from the small intestine).

You may also hear loud gurgling or whining noises from the dog’s stomach.

Pro Tip: Sometimes differentiating regurgitation from vomiting can be quite daunting. There are cases when your dog will vomit shortly after eating and there are instances when your dog will regurgitate several hours after eating or even a few days later.

If you are not sure whether your dog is vomiting or regurgitating, take a sample of whatever your dog has expelled out to your vet.

Most experienced vets will tell you what it is by simply looking at the sample.

When in doubt, the vet can run a quick pH test to differentiate between the two—pH for vomit containing food is acidic while pH for regurgitated materials tends to be higher.

A. Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Right After Eating

Now that you understand the difference between vomiting and regurgitation, why would they happen immediately after eating? Why would a dog throw up undigested food after eating?

As hinted above, regurgitation may occur immediately after eating or several hours later. The same is true of vomiting.

To help you understand what’s really going on with your pup, let’s focus on why the two processes can happen immediately after eating.

Let’s start with regurgitation:

Regurgitation shortly after eating can be due to a wide range of causes, including

  • Eating too fast
  • Excitement
  • Stricture or inflammation of the esophagus
  • Tumors
  • Narrowing of the dog’s esophagus
  • Esophageal foreign bodies
  • Megaesophagus—a condition where your dog’s esophagus loses tone and dilates, making it less efficient in pushing food into the stomach.
  • Autonomic nervous system issues  
  • Dog breed: Some dog breeds like German Shepherds, Great Danes, Labs, Newfoundland, wire fox terriers, shar-pei, and miniature schnauzer are more prone to regurgitation compared to other dog breeds.

And here are the probable reasons why your pup may vomit immediately after eating:

  • Fast Eating: A dog that gulps his food fast is likely to experience a mild case of ingestion, which in turn causes vomiting.
  • A Change in Diet: Giving your dog a food item that he is not used to can cause gastrointestinal (GI) intolerance, which can cause vomiting. This can happen when your dog’s system doesn’t process the food appropriately (since it is not used to it) or if your pup has intolerance to the food, so his system works to eliminate it.
  • Bad Food: Like our bodies, your pup’s body will expel anything that it perceives as a threat. If your dog ingests something inedible, his digestive tract will neither break down the food item nor will it get absorbed by his body. As a result, it will be expelled out through vomiting.
  • Blockage: If your dog has eaten something solid like a rock or a big bone that can block his digestive tract, he will vomit immediately because the item can’t complete the digestion process.
  • Physical Activity after Eating: Your dog is also likely to vomit if he gets involved in running, training, or any other strenuous physical activity after eating or drinking a lot of water. In most cases, you’ll notice the presence of undigested food in the vomit because the food that went down comes right back up.

B. Dog Throwing Up Food Hours After Eating

Why Is My Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Hours After Eating

The average amount of time your pup takes to empty his stomach is about 2-3 hours. It should never go beyond 4-5 hours.

So, if your Fido is throwing up undigested food 6 to 8 hours after eating, there are high chances that he is having some GI tract problems—causing an abnormal delay in emptying of the stomach contents into the intestinal tract.

Like in the previous section, let’s begin with regurgitationWhy is your dog regurgitating undigested food hours after eating?

The reasons why a dog may regurgitate food hours after eating are more or less the same as the ones we’ve covered: stress, anxiety, or excitement, fast eating, tumors, inflammation of the esophagus, and megaesophagus among others.

It is also worth mentioning that besides esophagus inflammation and megaesophagus, there are many other issues of the esophagus that may cause a dog to regurgitate right after eating or hours after eating, including myasthenia gravis, cricopharyngeal and esophageal achalasia.

And now to vomitingWhy is your dog vomiting food hours after eating? Here are probable reasons why your dog may vomit undigested food 8 hours or several hours after eating:

  • Blockage: The dog may have ingested something that’s blocking the smooth passage of food. A dog with a blockage issue may vomit, experience abdominal pain, trouble defecating, and even diarrhea. Common blockage culprits include table scraps, bones or garbage (stones, hair, sticks, rubber balls, and other objects).
  • Sensitive Stomach: If your dog has eaten a food item that he is sensitive to, he’s likely to experience changes in his GI motility, which may cause vomiting a few hours later.
  • Anxiety, Stress Or Excitement: All these may cause a wide range of health issues in dogs, including throwing up food hours after eating.
  • Ingesting fatty foods: This is known to cause pancreatitis, which in its acute form causes severe vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, and stomach pains.
  • Gastric hypomotility: This is basically the slowing of normal emptying of a dog’s stomach and passage of food through the GI tract. It can be caused by stomach disorders or issues outside the GI tract.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IDB): Dogs with IDB may also vomit several hours after eating. Depending on the part of the dog’s GI that is affected, vomiting may be accompanied by diarrhea.
  • Motion sickness: Riding with your dog in a car after meals may also cause him to vomit.
  • Diseases (stomach ulcers, cancer, diabetes, roundworms, or viral infections)
  • Eating garbage, table scraps, and other foreign objects.
  • Ingesting poisonous substances such as antifreeze, household drugs, rat poison, pesticides, chocolate, onions, garlic, toys, etc

C. Puppy Throwing Up Food Hours after Eating

Adult dogs throwing up food right after eating or hours after eating is not uncommon, so a wait-and-see approach is allowed, particularly if it is a mild case.

But a puppy throwing up food hours after eating can be potentially serious because of their small GI tract, immature immune system, and the fact that they may become dehydrated fast and lose vital electrolytes.  

It is, therefore, important to act fast when you notice your puppy vomiting undigested food—and the first step is knowing the root cause of the problem.

So, why is your puppy throwing up food hours after eating?

Most cases of vomiting result from the factors we’ve highlighted in the previous sections—eating inedible objects, gastric irritation, swallowing dangerous objects, ingestion of too much fat, food allergies, intestinal parasites, ingesting poisonous substances, stress, anxiety or excitement etc.

Besides the above causes, puppies are also prone to infectious causes of vomiting. For instance, vomiting in your puppy can be a sign of the canine parvovirus or the canine distemper virus, especially when they didn’t complete their vaccination series.

These viral diseases can cause extreme vomiting, which can lead to other serious health issues including intestinal problems, dehydration, and even death if they are not treated right away.

Puppies are also at high risk of contracting worms and other intestinal parasites, which are also known to cause vomiting and diarrhea.

And in deep-chested dog breeds, vomiting or regurgitation after eating may a sign of bloat. 

Other potential causes of vomiting in puppies include IDB, GI ulcers, pancreatitis, abdominal infections, kidney issues, anatomic abnormalities, and Addison’s disease, heat stroke, adrenal gland diseases, etc.

D. Dog Vomiting Undigested Food at Night

Some dogs also tend to throw up partially digested food at night. In other words, your dog will vomit food several hours after eating, but mostly at night. If your pup falls in this group, you’ve probably wondered why this is the case.

Well, it is often a sign of reverse motility. At night, dogs tend to lie down most of the time, making digestion harder. As a result, the stomach contents reflux back, causing irritation of the esophagus, which results to vomiting. 

E. When Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog Throwing Up?

While throwing up in one or two occasions may not be a big deal, it is important to note that vomiting is a clinical sign associated with serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions, which may require urgent veterinary attention.

Without further ado, you should be concerned when:

  • A Dog is Vomiting Frequently: Continuous vomiting could be a sign of serious health issues like stomach ulcers, IBD, and kidney failure among others.
  • Presence of Blood in the Vomit: If there is blood in your pup’s vomit or he is throwing up things that appear like coffee grounds, reach out to your vet as this could be a sign of more complex health issues like ingestion of sharp objects or gastric ulcers.
  • Your Dog Manifest Other Symptoms: If your pup is not only throwing up but also displaying other symptoms like drooling, seizures, sneezing, diarrhea, or loss of appetite, know that something is wrong and you need to call your vet.
  • Changes in Behavior: if you also notice other behavioral changes (like sleeping more than usual, weight loss, weakness, sensitivity or pain when you touch around the abdomen) after your dog has thrown up, it is advisable to let your vet know immediately.

F. Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Treatments

Why Is My Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Hours After Eating

Whether your dog throws food immediately after eating or a few hours later, there are a few measures that you can take, including:

1. Withhold Food

Consider withholding feeding your dog for a few hours after a vomiting episode to give his digestive system time to rest and the GI tract to repair itself. It is not recommended to hold water and fluids because dehydration can be a major concern if you are dealing with severe case of vomiting.

However, there are times when holding water and other fluids may help ensure that things don’t come right back.

We recommend that you consult your vet before withholding food or water from your dog.

Keeping your pup as calm as possible can also go a long way in exacerbating dehydration. 

2. Change your dog’s diet

Not every commercial dog food is going to agree with your pup’s stomach. Even worse, feeding your dog problematic foods regularly may lead GI inflammations and other serious health issues.

If you suspect that a certain dog food may be the reason why your dog is throwing undigested food, consider switching it with different ingredients.

But strive to keep your dog’s food choice as simple as possible. And to ensure that you are not worsening the problem or irritating your pup’s GI tract even further, make the change gradually—preferably over the course of 7-10 days.

3. Bland Diet

Once your dog is treated and the vomiting stops, introduce him to low-fat foods (or bland diet) in small quantities—3 to 6 times a day.

Most canine dieticians recommend white rice and well-cooked, organic chicken. Increase the amount of food and decrease the feeding frequency steadily as you transition to a normal diet.

But don’t be tempted to feed your pup bland diet for long as it doesn’t constitute a balanced diet.

And if your vet had requested you to withhold water, consider re-introducing small amounts gradually.

4. Light Formula Dog Food

If you suspect motility issues to be the cause of vomiting, consider giving the dog a light formula dog food.

Canine nutritionists believe that high-fiber dog foods boost motility by moving the food forward.

Many dog owners have also reported significant improvements by feeding their dogs plain pumpkins.

5. Puzzle Feeder

If you establish that your dog is regurgitating undigested food after eating too fast, consider investing in a slow or puzzle feeder. It will make your dog eat slower as he will have to work to reach the food.

If you have more than one dog, you can also consider feeding them in separate rooms to avoid competition.

Lastly, you can feed the dog several small meals a day.

For larger dog breeds like Great Dane, having to eat from the floor hurts their backs and makes digestion a bit difficult, increasing the risk of regurgitation. If you own such dogs, consider getting them raised bowls. Here are great options: 18 Best Elevated Dog Bowls for Great Danes

6. Supervise your dog’s bones

If your pup is a gulper, ensure that you not only monitor him closely when he is having recreational or raw meaty bones but also offer him appropriately-sized bones. And avoid the temptation of feeding him cooked bones or raw hides.

Avoid edible chew toys as well. They are terrible for your pup’s stomach because some are formulated with chemicals, preservatives, dyes, and other unhealthy products.

7. Probiotics

Consider adding probiotics to your pup’s meals. This will calm his stomach, help his digestive system function optimally, and promote a healthy gut.

8. Ginger

Ginger has potent antiemetic effects considering that it has the potential to block serotonin receptors, which are known to induce vomiting.

Adding ginger to your dog’s meals can, therefore, go a long way in helping calm his stomach.

9. Soak Kibble before feeding your dog

Dry kibble can induce vomiting because it absorbs moisture in your dog’s stomach and expands its size, causing regurgitation. If your dog is throwing up whole kibble after eating it, this could be the reason.

Before feeding your dog dry or compressed food, consider adding warm water and allowing it to soak for a few minutes.

You can also add bone broth to make it more nutritious.

10. Discourage your dog from eating leftovers and garbage

One of the best ways of preventing bowel obstruction is eliminating the initial problem—not letting your dog ingest foreign objects.

Be sure to watch your dog carefully (especially when it’s eating or playing in public areas) and keep potential hazards out of reach.

Additionally, wash his food and water bowls regularly and ensure that he has access to clean water.

11. Call Your Vet

Call your local vet for further diagnosis or to help you identify the root cause of the problem if your dog’s situation worsens or if he is experiencing recurrent vomiting.

Most vets will either request you to take your fur baby for an emergency visit or advise you to closely monitor the dog’s situation for a few hours to gauge the severity of the condition.

You know your pup better. If you see any weird symptoms or think that his vomiting or regurgitation problem warrants concern, call a vet immediately.

G. Other Important FACTS to Remember:

  • A healthy dog can vomit and go about the rest of his day normally—as if nothing happened. So, if the dog doesn’t show any other serious symptoms, he should be fine.
  • If the dog vomits several times in a day, there is blood in the vomit, or the vomit is accompanied by severe bloody diarrhea, pain, weakness, fever, depression, or lethargy, you need to see a vet because the dog might be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, gastric ulcers, or other serious conditions. Your dog might also have swallowed a sharp foreign object. You should also be worried if the dog is refusing to eat or sleeping more than usual after vomiting.
  • Chronic vomiting can lead to serious dietary deficiencies if not attended to immediately. For instance, it may cause dehydration and electrolytic imbalances, which are often associated with tremors, muscle weaknesses, and other neurological problems.
  • Considering that vomiting causes dehydration, some dogs tend to drink a lot of water after vomiting. Don’t encourage your dog to do so as it may induce more vomiting. Instead, limit consumption to small amounts at a time. The same should apply to dogs that eat grass after they vomit. Discourage them from taking large quantities as they can worsen the situation.  
  • For recurrent vomiting, the most important thing is to identify and remove the root cause of the problem (your vet can assist you with this) and offering your dog appropriate fluids/electrolytes (like IV fluids ) and relevant medications to soothe his stomach.
  • When your dog ingests a foreign object, there are instances where it is advisable to induce vomiting so that it doesn’t absorb toxins. However, there are cases when this is NOT advisable. For instance, NEVER attempt to induce vomiting if your dog ingests a sharp object, caustic materials (such as drain cleaners), or if he is unconscious. So, always consult your doctor before you induce vomiting in your dog. If your vet gives a green light, hydrogen peroxide is the most common solution to use.

The Bottom Line

There are several causes of your dog vomiting or regurgitating food immediately or hours after eating.

As highlighted above, know when vomiting or regurgitation is not normal and let your vet help you know the next course of action.

Most importantly, always remember to clearly describe the type of vomit that you see in your dog and its behavior as it can make a whole lot of difference.

Finally, you need to keep in mind that if the cause of vomiting turns out to be an intestinal blockage, your vet will need to perform a meticulous examination and establish the location of the blockage using ultrasound or x-ray.  And your pooch may need to undergo surgery to remove the blockage.

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