Dog Food Can Cause Vomiting
Not every food agrees with every dog, and food sensitivities can lead to stomach upsets. Repeated exposure to problematic food leads to chronic inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract. If you suspect that this might be your dog’s problem, try switching to a food with different ingredients, add digestive enzymes to your dog’s dinner, give probiotic supplements, and/or experiment with different brands or types of food.
Wheat and other grains along with soy and other legumes can contribute to canine indigestion. When comparing labels, look for foods that list animal proteins first. Grain-free and soy-free foods have become popular because many owners and veterinarians report improved digestion and other health benefits in dogs after making the switch.
Transitioning from dry to canned food or to a raw or cooked fresh-food diet or upgrading to improved ingredients may make a difference. Check WDJ‘s annual ratings of dry and canned foods for recommendations. Feeding a home-prepared diet makes it easy to avoid grains and other ingredients to which your dog may be sensitive. See “Easy Home-Prepared Dog Food” by Mary Straus (WDJ July 2012) for guidelines. If feeding a commercially prepared raw diet, see “The State of the Commercial Raw Diet Industry” by Karen Becker, Steve Brown, and Mary Straus (September 2015).
Dry food can trigger vomiting because it absorbs moisture in the stomach, expanding in size and causing regurgitation. Soaking dry food before feeding or mixing dry with canned food may help.
Rotation diets can help identify problem ingredients. In a rotation diet, you feed a different type or family of food every day for four or five days before repeating a food, such as chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday, lamb on Wednesday, and salmon on Thursday. Monday is the only day for eggs because they come from chickens. Salmon oil can only be given on Thursday. Waiting four or five days before repeating a food is thought to give the body sufficient time to eliminate it so it no longer triggers symptoms.
Because it’s practically impossible to perform a good rotation diet test while feeding commercial pet food – there are too many overlapping ingredients – some dog lovers prepare their own simple menus for a month or so. This requires keeping careful track of ingredients and the dog’s reactions. Feeding a limited diet for up to a few weeks is safe for adult dogs, though not for growing puppies.
A dietary elimination trial takes a different approach by eliminating every food ingredient the dog has ever eaten, and replacing them with food ingredients the dog has never experienced. As explained in “Food Elimination Trial: A Valuable Tool (When Done Correctly)” in the April 2011 issue of WDJ, a valid food elimination trial consists of three phases: elimination, challenge, and provocation.
In the first (“elimination”) phase, the owner identifies and chooses a single protein source and single carbohydrate source that the dog has never eaten, such as pheasant and barley or rabbit and amaranth. The dog is fed these two ingredients and nothing else – no leftovers, bones, chews, treats, or supplements are allowed. If the dog goes for eight to 12 weeks without vomiting or showing other signs of digestive distress, those two ingredients are probably safe to feed on an ongoing basis. If, however, the dog shows distress, a new trial is begun, using a diet with another novel protein and another novel grain. (If, after these two trials, you still see no improvement, the problem is probably not linked to food allergies.)
Many people stop the experiment once their dogs improve on an elimination diet of the two novel ingredients. But to prove that there were ingredients in the dog’s former diet that were causing his symptoms, one should undertake a second (“challenge”) phase of the trial. Resume feeding the dog whatever food he used to be fed and watch to see whether the old diet again triggers vomiting or other symptoms within one week.
In the third (“provocation”) phase, you would go back to feeding the effective diet (consisting of the novel protein and novel carbohydrate that did not trigger the dog’s symptoms) – only now, once your dog’s condition has again stabilized, you’d add a single new ingredient. If the dog develops symptoms, remove that ingredient and try something else. Eventually you’ll have a variety of ingredients that agree with your dog, and you’ll know which foods trigger problems.
As noted in WDJ‘s 2011 article, “This is not a fun project. It takes commitment, extraordinary observation, and total control of your dog’s environment for weeks on end. However, identification of the ingredients to which your dog is allergic will enable you to simply prevent him from eating those ingredients, and stave off both the uncomfortable symptoms of allergy and the potentially hazardous treatments sometimes required to make him more comfortable.”
Whatever you feed, keep your dog’s food bowl and water bowl clean. Consider switching from plastic serving bowls to ceramic or stainless steel in case your dog is sensitive to the chemicals in plastic.