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Why does my dog throw up at night?

Something awakens you, but you’re not sure what it was. You go into the kitchen to get a drink of water, and you see the sight you hoped you would never see again — your dog is vomiting. You want to do something, but what?

You aren’t even sure why she is vomiting. Is this normal, or is something terribly wrong with her? Read on to find some answers to the question — Why does my dog throw up at night?

Why does my dog throw up at night?

Why does your dog vomit at night? There could be any of a ton of reasons, so let’s look at it this way. What should I look for, and what will it mean?

Is it regurgitation or vomit?

Regurgitation is the throwing up of undigested food that comes from the esophagus. Regurgitation happens just after eating, and you won’t see a dog heaving during regurgitation. Most times, there is no reason at all for concern if your dog is regurgitating.

Vomiting is the forceful ejection of partly digested and undigested food from the stomach and upper small intestine. Vomit is usually accompanied by heaving from the abdomen, yellow bile, and a sour smell.

What type and color is it?

Yellow sour-smelling vomit indicates:

When a dog’s stomach is empty for a long time, as in dogs that only eat once per day, their liver produces bile which can cause irritation of their digestive system, causing vomiting. If your dog has no other symptoms, this should be of no concern.

White foamy vomit indicates:

White foamy vomit can be healthy or dangerous. It can mean something as simple as an upset stomach, acid reflux, or kennel cough, but it can signal some issues that are much more serious. Some examples are kidney problems, pancreatitis, or parvo. 

Dark brown vomit indicates:

Dark brow vomit signals a probable emergency. Dark brown usually means old blood and points to internal bleeding, a bleeding ulcer, or an intestinal blockage.

Red (bloody) vomit indicates:

Blood in a dog’s stomach causes nausea. If you see fresh blood, blood clots, or things that appear to be coffee grounds in your dog’s vomit, your dog could have an ulcer or tumor. She could be having trouble with blood clotting, or she may have been exposed to rat poison.

Slimy vomit (with mucous) indicates:

If your dog’s vomit is slimy and full of mucous, it is most likely due to your dog’s drool. It drains into a dog’s stomach causing nausea, and vomiting relieves the nausea. 

Clear liquid vomit indicates:

If your dog is vomiting clear liquid, chances are that it’s because she drinks water when she feels nauseated but cannot keep the water down.

Worms in vomit indicate:

If you notice worms in your dog’s vomit, that is a good indication that she has had worms (parasites) for a while now, and it’s just beginning to present with symptoms.

What is the consistency?

If it’s liquid:

If it’s liquid, it’s not related to food. It may be foamy or slimy, yellow or clear.

If it’s granular:

If it’s granular, it’s probably food-related. Granular can be somewhat “liquidy.” It will look like coffee grounds, and there may be blood and partly digested food in granular vomit. This is normally the most dangerous type of vomit.

If it’s chunky:

If it’s chunky, it is almost certainly food-related. There are usually undigested pieces of food. This type of vomit usually happens when a dog eats too fast or exerts herself after eating.

What is the frequency?

Is your dog vomiting here and there — twice every three weeks, or every night? It matters. Almost all dogs sometimes vomit, but if it is an all too common occurrence, or if it accompanies other symptoms, like diarrhea, blood in the vomit, lethargy, lack of appetite, or a drastic increase or decrease in water intake or urination, it may be time to seek help.

What should I be most worried about?

There are two main things to look for when your dog is vomiting. Some are mildly serious. Others are life-threatening.

She may have Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

If your dog has bilious vomiting syndrome, she won’t only vomit, she will projectile vomit. BVS comes from not getting food but once a day, usually, or lack of fiber. Your dog can also get BVS from medications, allergies, fatty foods, eating grass, or too much water. It is essentially a terrible case of your dog vomiting yellow bile. It usually happens late at night or early in the morning, and is more common in older dogs.

Gastrointestinal Disorder or Disease

Vomiting at night could signal the onset or presence of one or more of several disorders or diseases, like inflammatory disease, cancer, bacterial or viral infections, parasites, ulcers, toxic substances, or foreign objects lodged in the digestive tract.

Are there other things I should worry about?

You shouldn’t necessarily worry about anything, but other serious issues you dog may have include a middle ear problem, a brain tumor, meningitis, extreme anxiety or fear, or kidney, pancreatic, or liver disease.

Why is my dog suddenly vomiting at night?

So, your dog was fine yesterday, but now she is throwing up. You want to know what else could be causing it. Let’s examine some answers to your question.

She may have eaten bad food or something else in the garbage or compost.

Many people think a dog’s stomach can handle about anything, but it can’t. Dogs can get an upset stomach or even food poisoning from moldy or rotten food in the garbage.  A dog’s stomach, even though she will be drawn to it, cannot handle fecal matter or compost. 

That certainly isn’t all. Dogs are drawn to dead animals, as well, but these animals carry tons of bacteria and parasites that can make your dog terribly ill.  

Raw or undercooked meat can make your dog very ill. These meats very often can give dogs Salmonella poisoning or Listeriosis.

Signs of food poisoning include any or all of the following: loss of appetite, dehydration, and lethargy. Also, some animals exhibit tremors or lack of coordination. In the very worst cases, dogs experience seizures, and they even collapse.

She may have eaten a toxic plant.

There are very many plants that are toxic to your dog. You probably just want to discourage her from taking in vegetation of any kind just to be safe, but here are some of the plants you want to watch out for.

The most common plants that poison dogs are both the leaves and the berries of the English ivy, the castor oil plant or castor bean, oleander, mistletoe, hemlock, jimsonweed or thorn apple, yew or Taxus, cyclamen, dumb cane, or any mushroom not already certainly identified as safe.

These are all plants that can have serious ill effects on your dog. These different plants may harm your dog in various ways. Don’t have or plant these inside or even near your home: tulips or narcissus bulbs, rhubarb, marijuana, peace lily or Mauna Loa peace lily, chrysanthemum, Lily of the Valley, Jerusalem cherry, larkspur, bloodroot, foxglove, stinging nettles, Amaryllis, autumn crocus, Virginia creeper, Schefflera, bleeding heart, pothos, or any kind of flower bulbs.

You wouldn’t think of your dog getting poisoned by the following, because their leaves are chewier, and their stalk is woody. These are the Chinaberry tree, laburnum, horse chestnut, privet, wisteria, azalea, rhododendron, box, sago palm, and boxwood or Buxus.

She may have eaten too much grass.

Many think that dogs eating grass are self-medicating their nausea; however, studies show that only 10% of dogs are display illness before eating grass. Also, less than 25% of dogs throw up after eating grass, so self-medication is highly unlikely. Grass, though, is a great fiber source, and it’s important that dogs get plenty of roughage in their diets.

On the other hand, if yours is a grass-eating dog that is also displaying stomach troubles, there may be a gastrointestinal issue, such as inflammatory bowel syndrome, gastric reflux, or pancreatitis, going on with your dog.

She may have drunk contaminated water.

Drinking out of bodies of water, like lakes, can kill your dog because of the cyanobacterium or blue-green algae. Vomiting may only be the first sign, followed by neurologic changes, and even death. Public drinking bowls, puddles, and other means of drinking besides at home can lead to bacterial imbalances that can cause your dog to be sick on her stomach.

She may have bloat.

Bloat is extremely rare. A dog with bloat or GDV (gastric dilation — volvulus) complex can die if not treated. With bloat, air fills the stomach, and pressure builds up. Blood stops returning to the heart from the hind legs and abdomen, so it pools in the tail-end of the dog’s body. The free-pumping blood volume is reduced and the dog goes into shock.

Even worse, if the stomach, as it flips, grabs the spleen and pancreas, the blood flow is cut off. Since the pancreas becomes starved for oxygen, it produces some hormones that are quite toxic. One specific hormone targets the heart, stopping it on the spot. You may think your dog is out of the woods, then she will die suddenly this way. 

She may have intestinal parasites.

Your dog can carry parasites for a long time with no symptoms at all. Then, suddenly, one day, they will begin vomiting. You may even see worms in the vomit. A more common symptom of parasites, though, would be eggs in your dog’s feces.

She may have a “socially” risky disease.

Has your dog been around other dogs lately? There are several contagious diseases that may be causing her sudden vomiting, like canine distemper, canine influenza, canine parvovirus, heartworms, leptospirosis, or external parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and mange.

What should I do about my dog throwing up at night?

A tiny bit of blood can be caused by a little irritation of your dog’s stomach, and this itself can be caused by her vomiting. However, vomit that is bright red, dark red, dark brown, or black, or vomit that appears like coffee grounds signals an emergency. Take your dog to the vet or an animal hospital immediately, as she is probably experiencing internal bleeding.

Vomiting can also come from food allergies. Watch for scratching and skin irritation. Many commercial dog foods are made of ingredients that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and skin allergies. If you suspect her dog food, try a fresh diet. Many swear by a fresh diet for their dogs’ digestive health.

If your dog has other symptoms, like loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, constipation, or diarrhea, or if she is simply acting sick, besides vomiting, you need to call the vet.

Something is wrong if your dog vomits on a routine basis, even if she bounces back quickly. Keep an eye on things, and look for the signs, so that you can keep your dog healthy.