December 16, 2020

Coughing up the facts on barfing dog

By haziqbinarif

Dear Tabby,

Our 11-year-old dog throws up more than I feel is normal. Sometimes it’s just kind of a dry cough that turns into her “spitting up,” and sometimes it’s a full-blown, retching vomit. Should we be concerned?
Barfing in Brooke Smith

Dear Barfing in Brooke Smith,

You’re right to be a little concerned about our dog’s frequent throwing up. While throwing up can have several different causes, it’s not a normal behavior for a dog to have regularly and it is important for us to suss out the whys of your dog’s barfing behaviors.

Vomiting vs. regurgitation

First up, let’s define what vomiting is and how it differs from regurgitation. If you’re a pet owner, you probably have come to recognize the signs that your dog is about to vomit. The pacing, the drooling, tail-tucked and a look of imminent doom on her face. Vomit might be preceded by loud stomach gurgling, too. When a dog vomits, their muscles tense and their stomach heaves and they expel the contents of their stomach (typically all over your expensive new rug). You’ll see food particles, saliva and sometimes bile as well.

There are several causes for vomiting in dogs, including (but not limited to) ingesting something they shouldn’t have, motion sickness, intestinal parasites and serious health problems. You should be concerned when the vomiting doesn’t stop, if there is blood present and if your dog is lethargic and just not herself.


Regurgitation looks little like vomiting but is a different action altogether. Typically, a dog who eats too fast and gulps large mouthfuls of food will regurgitate after eating. Regurgitating sounds like the hacking cough that you’ve described and usually is less of a whole-body act, like vomiting is. Shortly after regurgitating her food, your dog is probably back to her old self, and will likely try to eat the food that she just barfed up (sorry, but you know it’s true).

How to help

For vomiting, the name of the game is keeping your dog hydrated after vomiting and feeding her stomach-soothing foods afterward. If the vomiting persists and/or is accompanied by diarrhea or other symptoms, a trip to the vet is in order ASAP.

For regurgitation, you’ll want to do what you can to slow down your dog’s eating. Look for a “slow feeder” food bowl, which has nooks and crannies that the food fits into, which forces your dog to work harder for each piece of kibble, thus thwarting the “snow-plow” eating style. If you don’t want to spend the money on a new bowl, you can feed her in a shallow pie pan, where the kibble will spread out in a single layer, keeping her from gobbling too quickly. Also try feeding her several small meals a day instead of one of two large ones. This might encourage her to eat more slowly and to eat less in one sitting, allowing her body to digest the food more completely.

Here’s hoping that these tips help and that your dog will be back on the road to health and wellness in no time flat!

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at

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