Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Vomit?
Raise your hand if you’ve seen your dog throw up their dinner and then immediately start scarfing it right back up. I think it’s happened to all of us dog owners at least once, and it’s an image we don’t easily forget.
“No kisses for you tonight, Fido.”
Seeing our dogs eat their vomit is pretty disgusting, but to our dogs it’s a completely normal thing to do. So it got me wondering, why do dogs eat their own vomit anyway?
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Vomit?
I don’t think there’s many dog owners out there who haven’t seen their dog eat their own vomit. Dogs are weird, and at times they do some pretty gross stuff.
But to your dog eating vomit isn’t weird at all, it’s a natural behavior. Dogs eat their own vomit because to them it’s seen as a food source. When pups are being weaned mother dogs will regurgitate food for their young to help them adjust to eating solid foods.
And gross as it may be to us vomit still smells like food, at least to your dog. Their sense of smell is way better than our own (estimates vary on exactly how much better), so they don’t just look at a pile of puke and get grossed out — they smell food.
Dogs Eat Their Own Vomit Because it Smells Like Food
Many dogs will eat their own vomit if it’s not picked up by their human right away. They don’t look at it and say “ewww, gross” like we do. While vomit might be gross to us, our dogs have the ability to recognize that it’s not just a nasty mix of bile & stomach contents — there’s food particles in there.
Dogs possess about 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared to 6 million for us humans. These receptors are what’s responsible for our detection of odor molecules, and they help send signals to our brains which helps us differentiate different smells.
Our sense of smell is relegated to a small region on the roof of our nasal cavity, as well as our main airway path. So when we smell something it goes in and out quickly with the air we breath. In dogs roughly 12% of the air they breath gets detoured into a special area in the back of the nose dedicated to smells. It’s filled with olfactory receptors that allow dogs to process and recognize more smells.
So when your dog pukes up his dinner he’s not going to be grossed out by his stomach contents lying there on the floor. He’s going to immediately recognize that “hey, there’s lots of food in there.”
The short answer is that it’s quite normal for a dog to want to eat what they’ve brought up, but the throwing up might be cause for concern. – Banfield Pet Hospital
Mother Dogs Feed Regurgitated Food to Their Pups
Eating partially digested food is nothing new to dogs. Sometimes the words vomiting & regurgitation are used interchangeably, but the distinct difference is that vomiting is done involuntarily. Vomiting is an involuntary expulsion of stomach contents, and regurgitation is the voluntary return of undigested food from the esophagus back to the mouth.
Regurgitation is an important step in weaning canines, and it’s a practice still seen in domestic dogs. In 1995 Swedish scientists found that roughly 60% of dogs still regurgitate food for their pups.
Since regurgitation is part of their nature our dogs don’t think twice before eating vomit. It may be disgusting to us, but to our dogs it’s just food. Partially digested perhaps, but that’s just how mama used to make it.
Eating Vomit is Normal for Dogs, But Vomiting Can be Cause For Concern
If your dog ate his own vomit you don’t need to worry about that behavior itself. It’s gross indeed, but it’s a common behavior in dogs.
Dogs sometimes vomit after eating too quickly or eating something disagreeable. But vomiting can also be a sign of a much more serious condition.
If your dog throws up pay attention to his behavior. If he’s acting differently, doesn’t want to eat, seems tired, or throws up more than once it may be time for a trip to the vet.
How to Discourage Your Dog From Eating Vomit
The best way to stop your dog from eating their own vomit is to immediately remove them from the situation after they threw up. I’ve had times where I went to grab supplies to clean up my dogs puke only to find she’d beaten me to it. Unfortunately it can be really tempting for some dogs, and Laika is no exception.
So now after my dog vomits I’ll immediately take her outside and keep an eye on her. Since dogs often puke more than once it’s also a nice way to avoid another cleanup inside.
Does Your Dog Eat Their Own Vomit?
I have yet to meet a dog person who says their dog hasn’t eaten their own vomit at least once. If I don’t catch Laika right away she will eat it every single time. Does your dog eat vomit?