Dog Can't Keep Food or Water Down
Pet Health Questions and Answers

Dog Can’t Keep Food or Water Down – What is Wrong?

Many health conditions could potentially impact upon your dog over the course of their life, but failure to eat or drink is surely among the most serious. If your dog is experiencing tummy trouble at either end, it’s time to get them to a vet as a precaution – but this guide will discuss some of the possible causes in an attempt at setting your mind at rest.

Table of Contents:

My Dog Can’t Keep Food Down and has Diarrhea

If your dog is eating as normal but then ejecting their meal, there is something afoot. You could take a look at our guide to how to react if your dog has diarrhea but is acting normal and eating, but let’s also take a look at the many and varied reasons why your dog may be suffering from a stomach upset.

Here are some potential explanations:

  • They’ve eaten something that disagrees with them. This is arguably the most common cause for a sudden onset of canine diarrhea, and thankfully something that will usually pass as quickly as it arrives. Your dog may have eaten something from the garbage can, tucked into something they found on the street or in the park, or they stole something spicy from your plate.
  • Your dog has an allergy. If your dog tends to lose the contents of their stomach every time they eat a particular food, they may have an intolerance – or perhaps they’re even allergic to the bowl that they’re eating from. A surprising number of dogs are allergic to plastic.
  • You have changed your dog’s diet. If a dog has undergone a sudden and radical change in their eating plan, their stomachs may struggle to adapt. That may mean that if you run out of kibble and attempt to serve up wet food in Fido’s bowl, or you are trying to phase your pet onto softer, cooked food rather than conventional dog food, their digestive tract may initially reject the change.
  • Your dog is stressed. If your dog is prone to feeling anxious, that may transmit all the way to their gut. A dog that is under intense stress may lose control of their bladder and bowel, so if your dog is looking nervous and apprehensive attempt to keep them calm. Be aware that this could also happen if your dog has recently had surgery, as their little body comes out of shock and shakes off the side effects of the anesthetic.
  • Your dog has a parasite infection. If you have not managed to stay up-to-date with your dog’s worming treatments, there is a chance that they are living with unwelcome visitors inside their body. Follow our advice on how to get rid of heartworm in dogs if you are worried about Fido’s safety, and generally be vigilant about ensuring that your dog’s digestive tract is in robust health.
  • Your dog has IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome can impact upon dogs as well as humans, and diarrhea is one of the most notable symptoms of the condition. If your dog tends to suffer from regular bouts of diarrhea, do get your vet to check them out. The condition can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
  • Your dog is sick. This is a generic term, but it’s quite possible that your pet is living with a medical ailment. This could be something viral or bacterial that can be treated with a quick course of medication prescribed by your vet, or it may point to kidney failure or another problem with one of your dog’s vital organs. Your vet will be able to run a variety of tests that pinpoint the issue. And remember to be careful around your pet because your dog could give you a stomach virus.

Explosive diarrhea in dogs shouldn’t last too long. If your dog has more than one or two episodes in a 24-hour period, get them to a vet as quickly as possible. They may have a more serious underlying health issue contributing to their digestive problems.

My Dog is Throwing up Undigested Food

If your dog is regurgitating undigested food that they consumed less than twelve hours ago, there could be many reasons why.

These include the following:

  • Your dog has eaten too much. Dogs love food. It’s a myth that they don’t understand when they’re full and will eat themselves to death if left to their own devices, but they may well munch way past the point of necessity. If a dog has eaten a meal and a range of treats then makes a sudden movement such as leaping into the sofa or an armchair before its had time to settle in their stomach, a one-way ticket to Vomitville could be the result. The same also applies if your dog drinks too much water straight after eating.
  • Your dog ate too fast. If your dog is prone to munching down their food at a rate of knots, their stomachs may not be able to break everything down and process it. This means that your dog will throw up their food, undigested – and probably start trying to eat all over again! If this is a regular concern, try looking into a specialist feeding bowl that will slow down your pet’s pace of eating.
  • Your dog has an allergy. Much like diarrhea, your dog may vomit if they have an allergy to their food or the bowl that they have eaten out of. If your dog regularly throws up their dinner and it’s the same foodstuff every time, try gently transitioning them into something else. Your dog is clearing the offending food from their body before it has time to do any more damage.
  • Your dog is stressed. Sometimes a dog will eat for comfort, and make themselves sick in the process. Have you recently introduced a second (or more!) dog to your home, and your existing pet is struggling to adapt to no longer being an ‘only child’? Have you changed your dog’s routine in any way? These could be some of the causes of your dog throwing up their food as soon as they eat it.
  • Your dog is irritated in some way. Check your dog’s vomit for shades of green, as eating grass is the most likely culprit here. Grass or other plants may have irritated your dog’s throat and prevented them from digesting their food properly, which will result in vomiting. Check our guide for more information on why your dog is eating grass all of a sudden.
  • Your dog ate something toxic. This is a worrying example, but it does happen. Maybe your dog managed to track down some human chocolate, or perhaps they were feasting happily on a piece of chicken and ended up swallowing a bone. Be vigilant about ensuring that your dog is not consuming anything they shouldn’t be.
  • Your dog is sick. As with diarrhea, a dog throwing up their undigested dinner may be a warning sign of illness impacting upon your pet. If you’re worried, speak to a vet – we’ll discuss when you should be reaching for the vet and making an appointment very shortly.

dog diarrhea and vomiting white foam

Of course, there could always be additional reasons why your dog is throwing up after they’ve eaten and you should have them checked out if there is any concern. Cleaning up vomit is one of the less glamorous jobs.

My Dog is Throwing up Food from the Night Before

If enough time passed for food to enter your dog’s digestive tract and they throw up, it’s more likely to be something relating to illness. If your dog vomits more than once with no easily identifiable reason, get them to a vet. They may be able to relieve the discomfort, and you may be able to reduce the symptoms if you act quickly.

My Old Dog is Vomiting After Eating

Older dogs are most likely than any other to vomit after eating. This is partly because senior dogs are more at risk of various infections and other health problems.

Just some of the problems that older dogs that vomit frequently display are as follows:

  • Addison’s disease. This is a condition in which your dog’s body cannot create enough cortisol, leading to a serious deficiency in electrolytes and a great deal of stress being placed upon the body of your dog.
  • Cushing’s disease. Largely the opposite of Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease creates too much cortisol in the canine body and leads to a similar set of circumstances – including vomiting.
  • Hypothyroidism. If your dog is slowing down – even more than you may have expected for their advancing years – they may be living with hypothyroidism. This means that their thyroid gland is not producing enough critical hormones, which could lead to health concerns.

There are many reasons why an older dog may be throwing up frequently, ranging from the same explanations to why any canine would vomit undigested food to some of the health problems discussed above.

When your dog reaches an age where you notice the first streaks of gray are starting to appear in their muzzle, you should get them checked out from nose to tail by a vet at least once every year. Make sure that you don’t delay in getting them looked over if you have any concerns about their health.

My Dog’s Vomit Looks Like Poop

Well, let’s start with the obvious question in this case – has your dog been eating poop? It would hardly be surprising that they have thrown up after doing so, and the actual behavior (coprophobia) is more common than you may realize. Check our guide on how to stop a dog from eating poop naturally if your pooch indulges in this unsavory habit.

If an unconventional diet is not to blame, your dog may be experiencing a very, very serious health problem. Vomit that looks and smells like fecal matter may be just that. Your dog could have a blockage in their intestine that means they are regurgitating the contents of their bowel. If this is the case, get your dog to a vet as a matter of urgency. Immediate intervention may be required, including potential surgery.

My Dog Has Diarrhea and is Vomiting White Foam

If your dog is displaying other symptoms alongside these actions, such as struggling to be steady on their feet or extreme lethargy, you should make an urgent appointment with a vet. There are many possible reasons why this is happening, and none of them are good.

dog regurgitating undigested food

Overall, however, the approach for this should be the same as conventional treatments for vomiting and diarrhea. White foam is usually a result of a dog attempting to throw up but having nothing left in their stomachs to purge, and as with traditional vomiting, if it continues beyond 24 hours, professional help may be necessary.

Vomiting in Dogs and When to Call the Vet

We have discussed the need for assistance from an animal healthcare professional multiple times over the course of this guide, but obviously, we can’t all rush straight to the vet every time our dogs have an upset stomach. That’s a recipe for bankruptcy, as well as hugely annoying your doggy doctor of choice.

The severity of vomiting can be broken down into many different categories, which have varying levels of severity.

  • Regurgitation – this is a matter of your dog throwing up the contents of their stomach, usually in full before digesting it properly.
  • Projectile vomiting – if your dog throws up across the room, there must be a blockage in their intestine. If it’s just a one-off the vomiting incident may have resolved the problem, but it if it persists then seek the advice of a vet.
  • Continuous vomiting – this is a purging of the stomach that lasts beyond the initial purge, then continues for around an hour or two. Keep an eye on this – it suggests that your dog may be experiencing irritation.
  • Chronic vomiting. This is rarely associated with eating, but rather it’s a case of your dog throwing up periodically – seemingly at random. This could suggest that your dog has an issue with one or several of their essential organs. See a vet if you suspect that your dog is chronic vomiting.
  • Vomiting blood or stool. As we have just explained, a dog throwing up stool is a very bad sign, and blood isn’t much better. That suggests that your dog may have internal bleeding. Naturally, this will need professional treatment.

When it comes to calling upon a vet, you’ll have to use some discretion. You’ll typically know when your dog is acting out of sorts and whether their vomit and diarrhea is anything out of the ordinary, and you’ll be able to assess whether professional help is necessary.

Always seek the advice of a vet if other issues such as accompany your dog’s stomach problems, including uncharacteristic aggression or limping, and if any symptoms persist for longer than 24 hours. Overall, however, a dog that wants to continue eating and drinking despite their diarrhea or vomiting isn’t something to immediately panic about.

It’s also vital that you stay very calm in the event of any concerns about your pet’s health. Dogs pick up on stress pheromones, and if you’re freaking out they will have a meltdown too – and as we know, popular symptoms of doggy anxiety are vomiting and diarrhea!

Dog Vomiting Treatment Options

If your dog has been throwing up, it’s probably best to get them to fast for a while. Give it a few hours and then slowly attempt to introduce them to some food again – potentially mixing things up ever so slightly to tempt them into eating.

what to give a sick dog that won't eat

You should also avoid encouraging a dog to lap up a vast amount of water when they have experienced gastric distress. Instead, offer them a handful of ice cubes to lick and suck on (it might be worth freezing some meat stock or gravy for such a situation in case you need something more tempting). This will keep Fido hydrated without causing yet more pressure and distress on his body.

If any symptoms persist beyond 24 hours here, seek the advice of a vet.

What to Give a Sick Dog That Won’t Eat

If you have a dog that’s refusing to eat their usual solid food, you’ll have to speak to a vet and get some help pretty quickly, Dogs will not typically starve themselves without good reason, and they may need intravenous feeding to stay healthy enough to fight illness or infection.

If your dog remains reluctant to eat, try some of the following techniques to tempt them back into chowing down:

  • Introduce a different food. If your dog turns their nose up at kibble, try introducing wet food of the same brand (not too much, too soon, or you’ll just upset their stomach again). Likewise, try moving to raw feeding or home-cooked meals if necessary.
  • Use bland food. There may be something about the food that your dog is eating that is putting them off – maybe it’s too rich for their stomachs, or taste buds. Try laying down a little white rice and plain chicken. That will be enough to tempt a dog into filling their stomachs again, without any of the associated unpleasantness they have come to expect.
  • Hand-feed your dog. Your pooch may be a little intimidated by the idea of getting stuck into a bowl again, as they may associate that with why they were sick. Remind your dog that eating is a good thing by offering some morsels by hand.
  • Offer a chicken broth. Humans love chicken soup when we’re feeling under the weather, and canines are no different. If your dog is struggling to stomach solid food, try knocking up a little chicken broth. It will settle their stomachs, ensure they are not hungry, and replace any lost electrolytes.

You could also mix up your dog’s routine by placing their food in a different location or feeding them at a different time. Perhaps most importantly, you should never attempt to force a dog to eat when they are reluctant to do so. When they are ready to do so, a pooch will hunt down a meal. If they refuse to eat for over 24 hours, you should consult a vet.

How to Make Dog Rehydration Drink Mix

One of the most dangerous impacts of diarrhea and vomiting is dehydration. Check out our guide on what to do when your dog is dehydrated, but in the meantime, you’re going to have to do whatever you can to replace your canine’s electrolytes.

What do you feed a dog that can not eat or drink? Try coconut water for dog dehydration, as that can be a fantastic way of getting your pooch back on their feet and to their old selves. You could even try a small amount of Gatorade or pick up an OTC medication from a pharmacy, or you could follow this recipe for a rehydration drink:

  • Boil 1 liter of mineral water.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of sugar, a small teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of baking soda and the juice of half a fresh lemon.
  • Stir everything up well, and pour into your dog’s bowl once the water has cooled down.

dog vomit looks like poop

Just be aware that this mixture will only last for 24 hours, so tip it away after that.

If your dog can’t seem to keep down any food or water for a prolonged period of time, it’s usually a worrying sign. If they seem to experience tummy trouble every once in a while, however, it’s probably just a passing situation and nothing to panic about – especially if they want to eat or drink again after the purging incident.

Keep an eye on your dog’s health, and if they seem happy and healthy beyond the occasional gastronomical mishap don’t panic about any purging. Just be prepared to clean up after your pet and move on.