How to Stop a Dog From Eating Vomit

Toby, our 140-pound (!!!) Chocolate Labrador Retriever, actually considers vomit to be haute cuisine.
Toby, our 140-pound (!!!) Chocolate Labrador Retriever, actually considers vomit to be haute cuisine. (Image: This photo was given to me by Labs4Rescue upon our foster-cum-adoptee and Forever Friend, Toby.)

The bad news: Given half the chance, a preponderance of canines will eat their own vomit (gross). The good news: Your dog is most likely not ill -- nor is the pooch abnormal. But there's one more itsy-bitsy snippet of bad news: They actually LIKE it.Since your pet is not likely to ever change its mind about this particular issue, it's going to be up to you (the smarter of the pair) to come to an understanding of your best friend's distasteful (no pun intended) behavior. In order to possibly outwit Fido's passionate efforts to "feast on heave," there actually are a few things that you can put into practice that should help immensely.

Things You'll Need

  • Intestinal fortitude
  • Ability to say "NO" to big, pleading eyes begging for questionable and/or suspicious foods and treats
  • Plenty of paper towels
  • Several old washcloths and/or towels that you don't mind wiping up objectionable materials with
  • Gallon of white vinegar

Begin by asking yourself something: What will a dog NOT eat? Well, the answer to that one is pretty simple. Dogs will eat just about anything that they can get between their jaws. Dog owners are only too familiar with how much their companions adore "people food" (the absolute worst stuff a dog can consume, by the way). Dogs love foods and treats formulated especially for them. Dogs love foods and treats produced for the other non-canine pets in your home. Dogs will not hesitate to scarf up (with relish) many things that we consider to be disgusting -- insects, frogs, toads and other small creatures (dead or alive), road kill, feces (I have yet to meet the dog that will NOT feast from the cat's litter box), kitchen and/or bathroom trash, and (here it comes) even vomit. Yuck.

"Shep eating roadkill rabbit" (Photo submitted to Flickr by cowdunghands' photostream)
"Shep eating roadkill rabbit" (Photo submitted to Flickr by cowdunghands' photostream)

Face it ... by trying to alter your dog's "negative" behavior, you have in essence dared to challenge an indeed worthy opponent: Mother Nature herself. So I instruct you now to "think like a dog" in order to know thy enemy.Remember that basic survival instincts and just "being a dog" still play major roles in governing behaviors in today's domesticated canines. Keep in mind that even though FiFi is bathed and clipped and sports nail polish and a rhinestone collar -- she's still a D-O-G, with all the very same instincts intact as those possessed by the neighbor's wolf-looking critter.The desire to eat vomit may very well be firmly rooted in wild dog behaviors, both ancient and modern-day. Wild dogs are pack animals, and although the parents do assume primary responsibility for caring for the pups, all pack members may assist in raising the young of the breeding alpha pair. When wild dogs finish feeding on a kill, they return to the den and feed the young by regurgitating some of the partially digested meal for the pups to consume. And since it's not necessarily a behavior pattern driven specifically by parental instincts, any dog (including yours) may fall victim to it -- whether they've produced young or not.Oh, and there's this little matter to consider, as well ... do you remember seeing pieces of undigested food in your dog's vomit? Well, your pooch views that as a free snack that he's entitled to declare as his very own -- so he subsequently gobbles it up. And (horrors) Mother Nature approves. (Remember that list of "Things You'll Need"? Enter the "intestinal fortitude" -- that's for your benefit.)

"Wolf eating caribou" (Photo by Ron Niebrugge, published on
"Wolf eating caribou" (Photo by Ron Niebrugge, published on

So, what can you do about it? First, don't panic or despair. This step may very well hold the key to the cure you seek. In almost all instances -- providing this is an otherwise healthy pet -- the culprit is the animal's diet. Preventing the vomiting in the first place is most certainly preferable to trying to prevent the dog from doing what comes naturally during the aftermath.Monitor carefully what your dog eats, and don't allow any new or unfamiliar foods during this testing phase. You are at this point attempting to ascertain whether or not particular food sources are causing the vomiting. And of course, these foods shall be immediately eliminated from your dog's diet, right? (This is where the 'Ability to say "NO" comes into play.)

"Jack Trick 1-13-08" (Uploaded to Flickr by baba1627 on February 25, 2008)
"Jack Trick 1-13-08" (Uploaded to Flickr by baba1627 on February 25, 2008)

Now you need to watch your dog carefully -- don't let him out of your sight for an instant during your testing phase. You are going to have to be really quick if you plan to beat him to that mess that he just upchucked. Pull his head away from the most recent desecration, and immediately remove him from the area. His crate or the bathroom are good temporary relocation choices. This will give you time to get it cleaned up. Immediately cleaning up the vomit, of course, is an excellent way to deprive your dog of the opportunity to eat it by preventing the disgusting actions from going any further.(Don't punish yourself too severely should your pet outmaneuver you)Hopefully by now you will have a pretty good idea of what item(s) may be creating this resulting upheaval (again -- no pun intended).

Now although your pooch snacks on vomit at every opportunity, I'm sure that you are no stranger to cleaning it up. (Add an industrial-grade dose of that intestinal fortitude here, by the way.)Use the paper toweling for removing the bigger chunks and slime, and follow with a plain cool water rinse. Blot with more clean paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.Now dampen the spot with white vinegar, making sure that you are treating the entire area soiled by the pet. (This will neutralize the pet odor, thereby discouraging the pet from returning to the scene of the crime.)Blot with old towels, removing as much fluid as you can. Now allow the spot to air dry. Your room may smell like a pickle jar for the afternoon, but don't worry -- it really will evaporate away.

Tips & Warnings

  • White vinegar is also the solution to any "other" pet-produced stains. The greatest advantage is that it neutralizes the odor. Therefore, you once again challenge instinct, because it is quite natural for a dog to return to a spot that has been previously defiled. If he can't smell it, he probably won't choose it again (unless he's already established the spot as his own personal boudoir).
  • Of course, as with any other cleaning solution, be sure to test an inconspicuous area of carpet or fabric to make sure it's safe to use the vinegar on it.
  • Please be sure that your dog is indeed otherwise a healthy one. Maintain a strict regimen of veterinary care, vaccines, worming and heartworm preventative as prescribed by vets.
  • Please consult your veterinarian if any of the following occur: If you are unable to define a dietary problem that is causing vomiting, if your dog throws up frequently, or if you notice any blood in the vomit.
  • MANY people foods are just plain NOT GOOD for dogs. Many human foods can cause either short term or long term damage to dogs (particularly long term) and some can cause health problems even in the short term.
  • NEVER NEVER NEVER feed your dog chocolate -- it is toxic to them.

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