Let’s face it, humans think that eating your own vomit is gross, but our dogs don’t. For some reason, it’s normal behavior for a dog. And they will also eat another animal’s vomit without any thought. So, why do they do it? Let’s dive in and see why puke is such an appetizing option for our dogs.
Why Does a Dog Eat His Own Vomit?
Pretty much every dog owner has witnessed one of their dogs eating his own vomit. Dogs do some pretty gross things, but this one is really hard to swallow.
It’s important to remember that your dog doesn’t feel the same way. This is actually normal behavior for a canine since they view eating their own vomit as a source of food. Did you know that when a mother dog weans her pup, she regurgitates food to help her puppies start to eat solid food? While vomit may be gross, to a dog it actually smells like dog food. Remember that dogs have an amazing sense of smell, so they are really smelling food and not vomit when they are eating their vomit.
Often regurgitation and vomiting are used interchangeably. However, the main difference is that vomiting is done involuntarily while regurgitation is voluntary. Either way, eating food that is partially digested is not new to dogs.
Now, there’s no denying that a dog eating vomit is pretty gross. But, if you are thinking about it from a dog’s perspective, it’s just food. Plus, there is a benefit to your dog eating his own vomit, at least you don’t have to clean up the mess.
The Difference Between Regurgitation and Vomit
So, before we get too far, let’s take a look at the difference between regurgitation and vomit. It’s easy to think both are the same thing, but there really is a difference between the two. Vomit is your upper intestine and stomach ejecting their contents. You’ll know that your dog is vomiting from a change in his body language and behavior as well as these signs:
- Stiffness and a hunched over posture
- Abdominal heaving that is accompanied by a retching sound
- Growling or grumping of his stomach
- Wandering or pacing as well as any apprehensive behavior before he vomits
In comparison, regurgitation is the esophagus’s ejection of its contents. This is a passive process that happens quickly and with very little change to a dog’s body language or behavior. A dog typically will regurgitate right after eating, and he won’t give you a lot of warning.
Both regurgitation and vomit usually have food in them. But, when you look at a vomit, the food should be partially digested and have yellow bile in it. With regurgitation, you will see undigested food that never made it to the stomach.
Vomit Smells Like Food
When considering why a dog would eat their own regurgitation or vomit, you have to think from a dog’s perspective. While a human wouldn’t eat something that has been chewed or digested somewhat, a dog will look at his regurgitated food as something that is just as good a second time.
A dog will eat his own vomit mostly because of his incredible sense of smell. A dog will look at a pile of vomit and think, “Yum, that smells good” while a human will think “Yuck, that smells awful.” Thanks to the millions of olfactory receptors in a dog’s nose, he has a higher ability to detect odor molecules that send signals to their brains differentiating the distinct smells.
In comparison, a human’s sense of smell is found in a small area on the roof of the nasal cavity along with the main airway path. So, when a human smells something, it comes in and then goes out fast along with the air that we breathe. In a dog, the air that they breathe is detoured into an area at the back of their nose that is dedicated to smell. In there you will find those millions of olfactory receptors that let dogs recognize and process more smells.
There are occasions when a dog will sniff his vomit and not eat it. Why is he picky sometimes and dives in others? It all has to do with how well digested the food in the vomit area. Food that is still pretty much whole is more appetizing than food that has been broken down or if his vomit is mostly full of bile. Or, if your dog is feeling sick, he may not want to eat more food.
So, when you have a dog that throws up his food, he won’t get grossed out at seeing the contents of his stomach lying on the floor. He will immediately recognize it as, “There’s a lot more food for me to eat.”
Another reason that dogs will eat their own vomit is that it’s really just their nature. A natural part of weaning a puppy, regurgitation is practiced by dogs in the wild when the mother dog chews up the meal and regurgitates it for her puppies to eat. It’s kind of bridging the food between a mother dog’s milk and solid food.
Regurgitating food for their young is more common in wild animals like wolves, but it’s something a domestic dog will do sometimes. And it is considered part of a natural maternal function in a dog. An important step when weaning a canine, scientists have found that about 60 percent of dogs regurgitate food for their puppies.
Regurgitation is such a part of a dog’s nature that a dog isn’t going to think twice before they eat their vomit since they just think of it as food . So try not to think of it as such a disgusting part of your dog.
When is Vomiting a Cause For Concern?
If you have a dog that eats his own vomit, the behavior itself isn’t something to worry about. While it is gross, it’s pretty common among dogs. A dog will often vomit if he eats something that disagrees with him or if he ate too quickly, but vomiting can also be a signal that there is something more serious going on. When you have a dog that is throwing up, it’s important to watch his behavior. If he acts differently, isn’t interested in eating, seems to be tired, or continues to throw up, you may want to take him to the veterinarian.
While it’s gross and a little funny to see a dog eat his own puke, keep in mind that occasional vomiting or regurgitation is pretty normal. When your dog throws up, you may want to give him some water and then watch him a bit. If he maintains his normal energy level and is otherwise acting like the vomit didn’t happen, you probably don’t need to worry.
But frequent and chronic vomiting is probably telling you that something else is going on. If he vomits right after eating, he could have a food sensitivity. You may want to consider feeding him dog food for sensitive stomachs. Otherwise, chronic vomiting may be an indication of a more serious gastrointestinal issue while chronic regurgitation could be a sign that your dog has an esophageal condition.
You need to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately if he chronically vomits or vomits an alarming number of times in a row. This is particularly important if you have a puppy that can get dehydrated very quickly. You will also want to help settle your dog’s upset stomach.
How to Discourage a Dog From Eating Vomit
If you want to stop a dog from eating his own vomit, you need to remove him immediately from the vomit after they throw up. And you have to be quick. By the time you grab some cleaning supplies and get back to where your dog has puked, more than likely, he will have beat you to it and gobbled it up. Vomit is that tempting to some dogs.
What you should do is take your dog outside immediately after he has vomited and then keep an eye on him. Dogs will often vomit more than once, so it’s nice if he is still outside when it happens, which will prevent having to clean up another mess inside your house.
Is it safe for dogs to eat their vomit?
Well, it depends. If your dog is eating typical food that has been regurgitated, then it should be fine for them to eat it again, it is after all food. But, if it is really vomiting, then he probably is either re-eating the food or toxin that caused him to throw up in the first place. Plus, dog vomit will contain acid that can damage his teeth and pit the surface of the enamel, which can cause dental disease in the future. Usually, you want to remove the vomit before he can eat it, no matter which type it is.
What should dogs eat when they vomit?
If your dog has truly vomited, you shouldn’t let your dog eat again for at least 12 hours to prevent him from vomiting again. Increase the amount of water he is drinking, but make sure to do it gradually to prevent him from vomiting again.
After this fasting period, give your dog a bland diet, which can help to restore any stomach damage. Feed him a baked potato, white rice, or boiled chicken breast in small amounts three times each day. Do this for three days to allow your dog to feel better and not throw up again.
After your dog has eaten a bland diet for three days, you can start to reintroduce regular food to your dog. To ease into the regular food, start slowly on the first day and only give him half of his normal food along with half of the bland food in a small amount. As your dog feels better, his stomach will begin to go back to normal.
Why do dogs eat human vomit?
For the same reason they eat their own vomit, they think of it as food. If their own vomit seems appetizing to them, then a human’s vomit will also be appealing.