Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Vomit?

So gross 🤢

Dog eating his own vomit

When you catch your dog eating his own vomit, your first thought is probably “ew.”

Your second thought, though, is probably, “Why the heck would he want to eat that?”

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Vanessa Spano, a veterinarian at Behavior Vets in New York City, to find out why your pup is chowing down on his own puke.

Why dogs eat their own vomit

There are a bunch of reasons why your dog would want to eat something so nasty.

But it turns out scarfing down his own vomit is actually a survival instinct.

“We can all agree that vomit smells,” Dr. Spano said. “Animals in the wild, from whom dogs have descended, will ingest vomit to eliminate any smell a predator might sense or that may indicate he [or] she is not feeling well.”

It’s also a habit you pup might’ve picked up when he was young.

“Additionally, as pups are being weaned off of their moms' milk to a regular diet, the [mother] may regurgitate up some solid food [for her puppies] to allow for easier digestion,” Dr. Spano explained.

So if your dog learned to eat vomit when he was a puppy, it’s possible he just never broke the habit.

Or, if your BFF is the territorial type — or even has a bit of food aggression — that could also motivate him to eat his own puke.

“I've also seen that dogs who resource guard may learn to ingest anything they intend on guarding, including vomit,” Dr. Spano said.

Most reasons behind this icky habit are behavioral, but in rarer cases your pup might also be eating his vomit because he’s experiencing health issues, like a nutritional imbalance or a gastrointestinal infection.

And of course, there’s always the possibility that your (adorably gross) dog just likes eating vomit.

“I won't deny that perhaps, especially if the material was regurgitated during [or] right after a meal, the pup in question might just find this appetizing,” Dr. Spano said.

Is eating vomit bad for your dog?

“It depends on what the dog is vomiting up,” Dr. Spano said. “If the dog ingested a toxin and then vomited or regurgitated it up and attempts to ingest it again, that is dangerous because the toxin in itself is dangerous.”

The same goes for things that are choking or obstruction hazards.

“if the dog ingested a foreign object, such as a sock or a toy, but for some reason regurgitates it immediately back up [just] to [successfully] ingest it ... that foreign object ... can unfortunately lead to obstruction anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, which can be fatal if not addressed immediately,” Dr. Spano explained.

How to tell if vomiting is normal or not

For the most part, though, the act of eating his vomit — while nasty AF — isn’t what you should be worried about.

“Really what is more concerning is why the dog vomited in the first place, especially if it is persistent,” Dr. Spano said.

To find out why, you first need to know the difference between vomiting and regurgitation, since the two have different causes.

“Vomiting is typically associated with abdominal contractions, contains digested material and bile, and is not necessarily associated with having ingested something very recently,” Dr. Spano told The Dodo.

Here’s how regurgitation is different

“Regurgitation is not associated with abdominal contractions,” Dr. Spano explained. “instead, the dog will essentially just open his mouth and out it comes. It tends to be composed of undigested food/material and usually occurs shortly after having ingested something.”

If your dog is simply regurgitating, it could just be because he ate too fast.

In that case, you might want to feed your dog smaller portions of food.

But regurgitation can also be caused by medical conditions, like:

  • Acid reflux
  • A gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Enlargement of the esophagus (AKA megaesophagus)
  • Neurological disorder

If your dog is vomiting — and not just regurgitating — this could be a result of a medical issue, whether the vomiting is chronic or not.

Vomiting could indicate issues like:

  • Gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Other metabolic causes

If you notice your dog regurgitating or vomiting, contact your vet right away to figure out if your pup needs medical attention.

How to stop your dog from eating vomit

The only real way to keep your dog from eating his vomit is to get it away from him before he has the chance.

“The best thing to do if you are present is to clean up the vomit ASAP,” Dr. Spano said. 

But if your dog eats his puke as a part of resource guarding, make sure that picking up the vomit (which is the thing he’s guarding, in this case) doesn’t make him aggressive

If it does, try redirecting his attention to something else, like a fun toy, or asking a behaviorist for help.

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