Decoding the Mystery: Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit? 5 Reasons
Dogs do lots of weird things and some of them can be pretty gross (one of the weirdest is eating cat poop). But cat poop isn’t the only odd thing dogs sometimes eat, they’re also fans of vomit. I know.
But why do dogs eat their vomit? Is it just something gross they do to get our attention? Is there something you need to be worried about? And what should you do after your dog eats vomit?
In this blog, we’re going to delve into all things vomit and dogs to unpick this peculiar habit.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit?
You’ve probably witnessed it at least once. Your furry friend suddenly throws up, and before you can react, they’re eating what they just vomited. Any pup parent who’s seen it is unlikely to forget it quickly. And whilst it’s quite alarming, it’s not necessarily a problem. In fact, in most cases, it’s normal doggy behavior.
Basic Instincts and Survival
The first and foremost reason dogs eat their vomit is that it’s rooted in their survival instincts. Dogs, despite their domestication, still carry some of their ancestral traits. In the wild, displaying signs of illness or weakness could make an animal a target for predators. Therefore, a dog might consume its vomit so no other predator or dog can think that they’re sick.
There’s also some nutritional value to vomit. Whilst nowadays, domestic dogs should be getting all the nutrients they need for well-balanced food, such as fresh dog food, in the past, pups had to eat what they could get their paws on. Vomit was calories and nutrients going to waste if it wasn’t eaten.
Learning from Mom
Another reason dogs eat vomit is that they may have learned this behavior from their mother. Mother dogs often regurgitate food to feed their young puppies, especially during the weaning phase when the pups are transitioning from mother’s milk to solid food.
Vomit tends to be more liquid with only a couple of chunks in it (sorry), which is easier for little dogs to digest.
To puppies, regurgitated food is just another meal, and they carry this perception into adulthood.
Vomit Smells Like Food
Of course, nothing like the Shepherd’s pie you have in the oven.
But it’s not like you can say dog food smells good. And pups have an extraordinary sense of smell – much more potent than ours. They can pick up scents and smells that we humans can’t even perceive. To dogs, the smell of vomit, especially if it’s regurgitated food, is similar to the smell of food. At least dog food.
This could be another reason why they consume it – simply because it smells like a meal to them.
Hiding the Evidence
Dogs are exceptionally clever animals and they often know when they’ve done something wrong. You just have to look at them and their faces say it all.
So, another answer to ‘why do dogs eat their own vomit’ is because they’re trying not to be caught by their human companions. If your dog vomited and they know you’re around, they might gobble it up quickly to stop you from seeing it.
This is especially true if the dog has been reprimanded or punished for making a mess in the past. In such cases, the dog might quickly consume its vomit to avoid potential punishment.
Feeding the Young
While this is more common in female dogs, male dogs too have been known to regurgitate food for puppies. If you’ve just brought a new puppy home, your older dog might regurgitate food as an act of generosity or care, especially if the puppy is begging for food.
We know, it’s gross to think about dogs eating vomit and not something we can really understand. But it’s a good sign and shows that the older pup is caring for the puppy.
Vomiting Vs. Regurgitation: Understanding the Difference
To understand why dogs eat vomit, it’s important to distinguish between vomiting and regurgitation. While both involve throwing up food, there are important differences between the two.
Vomiting involves the forceful expulsion of partially digested food from the stomach. It is typically preceded by signs of nausea, such as drooling and excessive swallowing, and is often a response to an irritant or abnormality in the stomach.
Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a more passive process. It involves the expulsion of undigested food from the esophagus, often immediately after eating or drinking. It’s fairly common in the animal world for parents to regurgitate food for their babies (we’ve all seen the penguin documentaries).
It makes the food easier for the young animals to digest.
The Causes of Vomiting in Dogs
Vomiting in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common include consuming too much food or water, eating too quickly, or ingesting non-food items. Other causes include changes in diet, food allergies, and certain medications.
More serious causes include gastrointestinal illnesses, infections, and certain medical conditions such as pancreatitis or kidney disease.
If your pooch tends to vomit after eating (and you’ve taken them to the vet to make sure there’s nothing else going on), you might want to get them a slow feeder dog bowl. These help pups to take their time when eating so that they digest better.
When Should You Be Worried?
While it’s normal for dogs to eat their vomit occasionally, frequent vomiting or regurgitation could be a sign of a serious underlying health issue. If your dog is vomiting lots or often, displaying other signs of illness such as lethargy or loss of appetite, or if the vomit contains blood or a foul odor, it’s time to consult your veterinarian.
Generally, there’s not much to worry about if your pup is eating their own vomit as it’s normal doggy behavior. The real worry is if your dog vomits frequently. Check with your vet if you’re concerned.
What Can You Do About It?
If your dog is frequently eating its vomit, the best approach is to address the root cause of the vomiting. This could involve changing your dog’s diet, adjusting feeding times, or seeking veterinary care if the vomiting is due to an underlying medical condition.
To discourage the behavior, distract your dog as soon as they begin to vomit and clean up the mess immediately. It’s also best to use positive reinforcement techniques. For instance, train your pooch to ‘stay’ when they’ve vomited and praise them when they do it.
Understanding why dogs eat their vomit can help us become more empathetic pet parents. While it can be a disturbing sight, remember that eating vomit is a normal behavior for dogs. However, frequent vomiting or changes in behavior should never be ignored as they could signal a more serious health issue.
Always consult with your vet if you have any concerns.