A German Shepherd throwing up can strike fear into the heart of any caring dog owner.
Your GSD is so loyal and brave about protecting you and you want to return the favor.
But what should you do? What is causing your dog to vomit?
In this article, we review the main reasons why German Shepherds sometimes throw up and best practices for how to address each reason and remedy the underlying causes.
German Shepherd Throwing Up
Anytime you witness your German Shepherd throwing up or come across a puddle of vomit on the floor, it is normal and smart to worry.
Why did your dog vomit? What should you do?
German Shepherds can vomit for all kinds of reasons, as we cover in this article.
While many causes are quite mild, you should never hesitate to call the veterinarian or just head to the nearest urgent care clinic if you are worried.
Get Advice from a Canine Veterinarian About Dog Vomiting
In this YouTube video, a canine veterinarian gives you a short overview of dog vomiting, including when to drop everything and head to the emergency clinic.
You will learn that some types of canine vomiting are normal enough while other types require urgent care treatment.
Also, learn why regurgitation and vomiting are not the same things and how to tell the two apart.
Why Do German Shepherd Dogs Throw Up: Acute Vs Chronic Vomiting
The American Kennel Club (AKC) explains that German Shepherd dogs may throw up for a variety of common reasons.
But the reasons generally will fall into one of two categories: acute vomiting or chronic vomiting.
We review the differences between acute and chronic throwing up in this section.
Acute vomiting in German Shepherds
The word “acute” means “sudden.” It is also often used to mean “severe” or “single event.”
So an acute vomiting episode in your German Shepherd is one that comes on suddenly, is unexpected, and may represent an isolated health issue.
Whenever a German Shepherd starts throwing up all of a sudden – and especially if this behavior is very out of character for your dog – your veterinarian will look at these types of reasons to try to diagnose the cause.
- Ate something non-digestible, toxic, or poisonous
- Experiencing bloat (gastric volvulus – stomach twisting)
- Intestinal parasites
- Bacterial, viral or fungal infection
- Liver or kidney failure
- Food change reaction or food allergies
- Reaction to medication
Chronic vomiting in German Shepherds
If your German Shepherd seems to be developing a pattern of vomiting more frequently, it is time to dig deeper and look at what might be causing recurrent throwing up.
These are the most common reasons why a dog might start to develop a pattern of chronic vomiting:
- Obstruction in the intestines
- Liver or kidney failure
- Inflammation in the intestinal tract
- Infection of the uterus
- Autoimmune issue
Hereditary Digestive Disorders in German Shepherd Dogs
According to the Central Texas Veterinary Hospital, German Shepherds as a dog breed tend to be more prone to certain hereditary digestive issues, including a sensitive stomach.
Some of these digestive issues can send out warning signs in the form of chronic vomiting episodes.
Each of these health issues is known to occur with greater frequency in the German Shepherd dog breed and could potentially cause vomiting.
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
As the United Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) explains, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency causes the pancreas to slow down the secretion of necessary digestive enzymes.
This disease is considered to be heritable (genetic) and degenerative.
The pancreas slowly fails and as it does so, it produces fewer digestive enzymes to help your dog digest its food.
Vomiting is often accompanied by weight loss, muscle mass loss, greasy coat, and malnutrition. Without treatment, this condition is fatal.
Bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus or torsion)
As the Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue (MAGSR) explains, deep-chested dogs like the German Shepherd are more susceptible to bloat.
Bloat is not well understood but it can quickly become fatal even with treatment.
Often dogs will develop bloat if they drink too much water or eat too soon after exercising vigorously.
Bloat causes the stomach to twist inside the chest. This cuts off airflow to the stomach, leading to severe distension and death.
There is a simple surgery your veterinarian can do that can prevent bloat.
Sensitive stomach and food allergies
German Shepherd dogs are more likely to have sensitive stomachs and food allergies than are many other dog breeds.
As PetMD explains, vomiting is a very common sign of sensitive stomach and food allergies.
Veterinary researchers don’t fully understand why some dog breeds are more likely to suffer from stomach sensitivity and food intolerances than are other breeds.
Similarly, sometimes one German Shepherd will have more sensitivity than another, just like some people can eat anything and not suffer while others have to have a limited diet.
Canine inflammatory bowel disease (CIBD)
As the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) points out, German Shepherds are genetically prone to canine inflammatory bowel disease.
CIBD is chronic. It is caused by inflammation in the intestinal tract, often brought on by intolerance to certain foods, bacteria, or parasites.
German Shepherd Throwing Up Versus Regurgitation
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that there is a difference between a German Shepherd throwing up or regurgitating. But how can you tell one from the other?
Signs of German Shepherd throwing up (vomiting)
As Washington State University Veterinary Medical Center explains, vomiting is an active process that involves the stomach and upper intestinal tract.
Your dog doesn’t want to vomit and can’t help themselves.
You will see retching, heaving, and a lot of body discomfort. It is common to see a yellowish foamy liquid which is stomach bile.
The pH of vomit is going to be very acidic because of this bile.
Signs of German Shepherd regurgitating
Unlike vomiting, regurgitation is considered to be a passive process.
Part of the reason for this is because what is coming up comes from the esophagus – it hasn’t even reached the stomach yet.
All your German Shepherd needs to do to regurgitate the food is lower their head and let the food come back up and out.
The food often looks like it hasn’t been digested yet – because it hasn’t. You won’t see any yellow bile, which comes from the stomach.
Your dog may try to eat the food again without any obvious signs of physical distress.
Steps to Diagnose and Treat German Shepherd Throwing Up
Whenever your German Shepherd vomits, you know your dog isn’t feeling well.
What can you do to diagnose the cause of the vomiting and help your dog feel better?
Study your GSD’s environment and habits
Your first step will be to thoroughly examine your dog’s immediate environment.
You want to know if your German Shepherd got into anything or ate anything that might be indigestible, toxic, or poisonous.
If you are witnessing an isolated vomiting incident, this becomes especially important because it is more likely your dog is reacting to a toxin in the environment or a non-food item they have ingested.
If the throwing up is recurrent, notice when each incident happens and write down what happened just before your dog threw up.
Your veterinarian will ask you these types of questions to get a sense of why your dog is vomiting repeatedly.
Take a sample of the vomit to your veterinarian
You should take your German Shepherd to the veterinarian to start the diagnostic process.
Don’t be surprised if your vet wants a sample of the vomit to analyze. This can help determine if your dog might have an infection or parasites.
Your veterinarian will also want to do some tests.
A fecal test, urine test, and blood tests can all yield helpful information to narrow down the list of reasons for your dog’s vomiting.
Try a limited ingredient diet (LID)
Because the German Shepherd dog is a breed that has a known genetic susceptibility to sensitive stomach and food allergies, your veterinarian may recommend starting your dog on what is called a limited ingredient diet, or LID.
This diet takes 60 days and involves systematically cutting out and then reintroducing food ingredients that might be triggering sensitive stomach or food allergies.
Sometimes this diagnostic diet is paired with allergy testing, either subcutaneous (under the skin) or blood, or both.
Prescribe and administer the recommended treatment
Once your veterinarian feels confident about your dog’s diagnosis, you can start the treatment phase.
Treatment can vary depending on whether the vomiting is due to environmental causes, a systemic infection/parasites, or an underlying genetic disease.
German Shepherd Throwing Up in Life Stages
German Shepherds may throw up at different times in life for different reasons.
German Shepherd puppy throwing up
Many first-time dog owners don’t realize that dogs tend to throw up more frequently in puppyhood than in the adult dog years.
Puppies go to their new forever homes before their entire digestive and gastrointestinal system is fully formed and stable.
Their immune systems and bowel and bladder functions are still developing as well.
Puppies are also undergoing a series of vaccinations that may cause side effects.
This also makes puppies more susceptible to contagious canine diseases like parvovirus which can cause throwing up.
All of this can mean that puppies throw up more frequently.
Because puppies are so little, anytime your puppy throws up you should always consult your veterinarian for guidance.
German Shepherd adult dog throwing up
When an adult German Shepherd is throwing up, you will want to follow the process outlined above here to identify the frequency, examine the immediate environment and take your dog in for diagnosis and treatment.
In the same way, senior German Shepherds can be more prone to developing serious issues like canine cancer that can cause chronic vomiting.
German Shepherd senior dog throwing up
As Vetstreet explains, dental problems can also cause vomiting.
The main reason is that tooth decay, tooth loss, tooth pain, and gum disease may cause pain or difficulty chewing the food and lead to digestive upset and vomiting.