Help! My Pregnant Dog is Vomiting – What Does it Mean?

Introduction

Vomiting in pregnant dogs commonly occurs in the days leading up to labor as the dog’s body prepares to give birth. As hormones fluctuate and the uterus expands, nausea and gastrointestinal upset can develop. Vomiting may be a sign that a dog is entering the first stage of labor when contractions begin and the cervix starts to dilate. However, vomiting alone does not definitively indicate labor is imminent. Tracking other physical and behavioral changes can help determine if a dog is experiencing pre-labor vomiting versus another condition.

Causes

There are a few common causes for vomiting in pregnant dogs before labor:

Hormonal changes: As a dog’s progesterone levels drop and oxytocin levels rise in preparation for birth, it can cause nausea and vomiting. The changes in these hormones are signaling that the dog is close to labor.1

a pregnant dog vomiting due to hormonal changes signaling impending labor

Gastric irritation: Pressure from the uterus and puppies can sometimes irritate a pregnant dog’s stomach, leading to nausea and vomiting. This irritation tends to occur more often closer to labor as the puppies get bigger.2

General discomfort: Some pregnant dogs experience discomfort and nausea as labor approaches due to the puppies shifting into birthing position. This discomfort can prompt episodes of vomiting.

When it Starts

Vomiting often starts in the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy as the dog’s body begins preparing for labor and delivery. During this time, the dog’s progesterone levels drop while estrogen and prostaglandin levels rise, which triggers stomach upset and vomiting.

According to Veterinary Emergency Group, “When progesterone drops in late pregnancy, the digestive tract slows down. This leads to nausea, lack of appetite, and sometimes vomiting.”

As Purina explains, “Changing hormone levels, gastrointestinal changes and abdominal discomfort can cause nausea and vomiting.”

So while vomiting by itself doesn’t necessarily indicate labor is imminent, if the vomiting is accompanied by nesting behavior, panting, and other symptoms, it likely means that labor will start within 24 hours.

Sources:

6 Signs of a Dog in Labor

https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/dogs/health/pregnancy/labour-and-giving-birth

Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of a pregnant dog about to go into labor include vomiting and lack of appetite. According to Veterinary Emergency Group (https://veterinaryemergencygroup.com/blog/6-signs-of-a-dog-in-labor/), many dogs will vomit during early labor as their bodies prepare for the intensive work of birthing puppies. This vomiting is caused by hormonal changes, intestinal changes, and the physical movement of the puppies into position in the birth canal.

The vomiting that occurs before and during early labor is often due to the dog regurgitating any food or fluid in their stomach. This is normal nesting behavior as the pregnant dog knows she is about to give birth and clears her stomach. According to the veterinarians at EVCC (https://evcc.com/blog/10-signs-dog-in-labor/), nausea commonly causes vomiting during early labor stages in dogs.

Along with vomiting, it’s common for a dog about to go into labor to show a lack of appetite and refuse food. This is due to the nausea, anxiety, and nesting instincts kicking in before active birthing starts. Make sure to monitor vomiting and appetite closely as you count down to your dog’s delivery date.

Treatment

If your pregnant dog is vomiting, there are some at-home treatment options to provide comfort until she goes into active labor:

Withhold food: It’s best not to offer your dog food if she is vomiting or refusing food, as this can cause further upset. Allow access to water only until vomiting subsides.

a person giving an antacid medication to a vomiting pregnant dog

Antacids: You can try giving your dog an over-the-counter antacid like Pepcid AC to help settle her stomach. Speak to your vet for the proper dosage. Only use this for mild, occasional vomiting.

Hydration: Make sure your dog stays hydrated by offering water frequently. You can also use an oral hydration supplement or give ice cubes if your dog is thirsty but not keeping water down.

Monitor your dog closely through this pre-labor stage and contact your vet if vomiting is severe, persists beyond 24 hours, or if she shows signs of distress. Usually mild vomiting is normal and will pass as labor intensifies.

When to See the Vet

If your pregnant dog has mild vomiting that resolves within 24 hours, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, if vomiting persists for more than a day or your dog seems ill, you should contact your veterinarian.

According to the Veterinary Emergency Group, “Repeated vomiting and diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and even shock. If vomiting and diarrhea last more than 24 hours, take your dog to the vet immediately.”1

signs that indicate a vomiting pregnant dog needs emergency veterinary care

Signs that warrant an urgent vet visit include lethargy, loss of appetite, blood in the vomit or stools, no stool production for over 24 hours, or severe, projectile vomiting.1 Your vet can provide supportive care with IV fluids and anti-nausea medication if needed.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your pregnant dog and not hesitate to call the vet if vomiting seems excessive or your dog acts ill. Prompt veterinary attention can help provide relief and prevent complications.

Diagnosis

A veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on a pregnant dog vomiting before labor, including taking the dog’s temperature, listening to her heart and lungs, gently palpating the abdomen, and checking other vital signs. The vet may order bloodwork including a complete blood count and biochemistry panel to check for infections, electrolyte imbalances, and other issues.

Imaging such as an ultrasound or X-ray can confirm pregnancy, determine how many puppies to expect, check for birth defects or complications, and see the position and viability of the fetuses. An ultrasound may also reveal issues like uterine inertia, which could cause vomiting. These diagnostic tools help the vet determine if the dog’s vomiting and labor signs are normal or if intervention is required.

According to veterinaryemergencygroup.com, a dog’s normal rectal temperature during labor ranges from 99-102°F. A temperature below 99°F could signal impending labor, while a persistently elevated temperature over 103°F may indicate infection or other problems requiring treatment.

Risks

There are a few main risks to be aware of if your pregnant dog is vomiting before labor:

Dehydration

Vomiting can lead to dehydration as your dog loses fluids. It’s important to make sure your pregnant dog stays hydrated by providing fresh water frequently. You may need to try different techniques like adding broth or ice cubes to the water to encourage drinking. Dehydration can cause complications during the birthing process, so monitor your dog’s hydration levels.

Malnutrition

If your dog is vomiting up her food, she may not be getting adequate nutrition to support her needs and the puppies’ needs late in pregnancy. Try feeding bland foods like boiled chicken and rice in smaller portions. Supplementing with a nutritional gel can provide calories if she’s not keeping food down. Malnutrition can lead to low energy during labor and low birth weights for puppies.

a pregnant dog unable to keep food down and losing needed nutrients

Aspiration Pneumonia

Dogs are at risk of inhaling vomit into their lungs, especially when nausea and vomiting increase leading up to labor. This can cause aspiration pneumonia, a serious condition affecting the lungs. Monitor your dog closely if she is vomiting and keep her upright. Seek emergency vet care if you notice signs of respiratory distress like coughing or difficulty breathing after an episode of vomiting. Aspiration pneumonia can be life-threatening and needs rapid treatment (Source: https://veterinaryemergencygroup.com/blog/6-signs-of-a-dog-in-labor/).

Prevention

To help prevent vomiting in pregnant dogs before labor, it’s recommended to feed them small, frequent meals instead of one or two large meals per day. This helps keep the stomach from being overloaded and can reduce nausea. Additionally, avoid giving fatty foods, which are harder to digest, can trigger acid reflux, and may lead to vomiting. Lean proteins like chicken or turkey and carbohydrates like rice or pasta are gentler on the stomach. Splitting meals into 3-4 smaller portions spaced out during the day can allow easier digestion. Keeping hydrated by providing fresh water at all times is also important to counteract vomiting episodes. Following these feeding guidelines can help minimize stomach upsets during pregnancy.

Prognosis

The prognosis for a pregnant dog vomiting before labor is generally good. In most cases, the vomiting will resolve on its own without complications once the dog has given birth and delivered her puppies. According to the Purina article “Dog Labour Signs & Puppy Delivery Stages Explained“, nausea and vomiting are common labor signs and the dog should return to normal after delivery.

As long as the vomiting is not severe, the dog is able to stay hydrated, and she does not exhibit any other concerning symptoms, the vomiting should not have any lasting effects. It’s mainly a sign of the hormonal changes and labor beginning. Providing the dog with access to water and bringing her to the vet if vomiting is excessive can help prevent dehydration or other issues. Otherwise, the prognosis is good and the dog should recover fully after the puppies are born.

Scroll to Top