Why is that Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food?

By Janice Jones   |Last Updated 06-23-2022

When you see a dog throwing up undigested food, what is your first reaction?  Disgust?   Pity?   Concern?   Confusion? 

Maybe all of the above, but if it is your dog that is having a problem, you are most likely going to wonder what is causing it and what you can do. 

Is Your Dog Having Problems Throwing Up Undigested Food?Help for dogs that throw up undigested food.

Throwing Up Undigested food Vs. Actual Vomiting

There is a big difference between vomiting and throwing up undigested food. 

Undigested food has not had time to encounter the stomach digestive enzymes so this food is coming from the esophagus.  The act of vomiting involves involuntary expulsion of stomach contents.

What Causes a Dog to Throw Up His Dinner

Causes can be mild to severe and you need to look at the total picture before jumping to conclusions.  Most of the time, the cause is something mundane that you have control of, but not always. 

We can often divide causes into several categories:

  1. How he's eating
  2. What he's eating
  3. Undiagnosed health problems he's experiencing
  4. Normal Behavior

How He's Eating:  Typical Eating Habits

  • Did he eat too fast?
  • Did he eat too much?
  • Did he drink too much water after gulping down his food?
  • Was he too active after eating his dinner?

Was he experiencing any stress during mealtime?  (New people in the home, new pets, new location, return from the vet or groomer)

What He's Eating

If you can't rule out the simple causes, you need to look a little deeper. Here are a few questions to get you thinking.

Did he get into something he should not be eating? (Chocolate)

Is the dog food fresh and healthy? (Even dry food has a shelf life.  Was there a recall on the food?  Did the food get stale and moldy before serving?)

Did he swallow something that he shouldn't have eaten such as a toy or chew bone.

Has he been eating grass or something else outside? (Twigs, poisonous plants, pebbles)

Did he eat his or another animal's poop?

Did he experience a sudden change of food?

Is he throwing up undigested food with other accompanying symptoms ?

What substances go into the stomach may have a big impact on later vomiting. 

This is how the body protects itself but eliminating nasty substances that could make the dog even sicker.  If this is the case, the dog is actually better off throwing it back up.

A Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food Could Mean Health Problems

If your dog throws up undigested food once and only once, then there is not likely to be a health problem brewing but if the dog throwing up undigested food becomes a habit or chronic, there could be some problems. 

If your dog regularly throws up, you need to seek veterinary care.  Some of the more serious reasons for vomiting in

  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Cancer
  • Stomach ulcers
  • viral or bacterial infections
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Gastritis
  • Diabetes
  • Inner ear disease
  • Addison Disease

Many of these serious problems are also accompanied by other signs such as lethargy, blood in urine or stool, fever and dehydration.  These are problems that need veterinary attention.


If your puppy or adult dog has eaten something that is causing a blockage, throwing up undigested food is just one of many symptoms.  If you are worried that your dog ingested something he shouldn't have you need to look at accompanying symptoms.

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach distress
  • Inability to eat
  • Weight Loss
  • Weakness

If you notice any of these symptoms, please check with your vet immediately.  

Normal Behavior

Another term used for the dog throwing up undigested food is regurgitation.  Mother dogs in the wild do this all the time to feed their growing puppies. 


If your dog is throwing up undigested food do to eating habits or a food indiscretion, you probably have nothing to worry about. 

Take away food and allow the dog to fast for 12 to 24 hours. 

Introduce food slowly or feed a bland diet of unseasoned rice and chicken or boiled ground beef and rice. 

If you choose to feed beef and rice, be sure to skim off any fat that rises to the surface of the water during boiling.

If your dog eats too quickly, try a bowl that is specifically made for dogs that prefer to inhale rather than eat their food.

Other options that might help:

Give your dog probiotics with his food or offer a small dollop of plain yogurt. 

Keep mealtime calm for anxious dogs.

Is Your Dog Throwing Up Undigested Food?
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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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