Dr Tracy Douglas
Your guide to this article today is by veterinarian Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 15:40 pm

Who said you can’t eat your cake and have it again? For humans, you can only eat a particular food once and that’s the end of it but that policy has nothing to do with dogs who throw up food only to eat it again. To these animals, their vomit still smells like food and must not be wasted, but to humans, this is gross. Dogs also use the same strategy to feed their puppies before they can get used to eating solid food.

Any dog owner must have witnessed the disgusting sight of their dog eating throw up. This makes many ponder on the question – why do dogs eat their throw up? Here are a few possible answers to that lingering question.

Why Do Dogs Eat Their Vomit?

Humans find it weird that someone would eat their own vomit. In fact, anything that’s thrown up after eating belongs to the trash but not for dogs. They don’t find it weird or disgusting at all. Below are five likely reasons dogs eat their own vomit.

Your Dog Is Hungry

One reason you might find your dog eating vomit is that it’s probably hungry and just at the right moment, the food that was lying in his stomach pops out. So, why not dig in and eat it all over again? This implies that to a dog that his/her vomit is a good source of food and must be relished to the fullest.

They Have an Increased Sense of Smell

Eating vomited food comes naturally to dogs and when you consider a few things, it begins to make sense. Because they have a better sense of smell than humans, you might even begin to wonder if we are the ones acting weird around a pile of puke. Talking about their increased sense of smell, it might interest you to know that while humans have six million olfactory receptors in the nose, dogs are endowed with three hundred million of them. These receptors are responsible for every odor we perceive and once you come in contact with any smell, the receptors send signals to the brain to differentiate the good from the bad.

For humans, sense of smell starts and ends in a small spot on the roof of the nasal cavity and main airway path but when a dog breathes in the air, it goes into a special region located at the back of the nose. This area is filled with olfactory receptors which increases the sense of smell in a dog.

To further break it down, because your dog has several millions of smell receptors, it can process more odors and recognize them individually. In view of this fact, when your dog throws up, the millions of olfactory receptors single out the various smells and send feedback to the brain that there is actually more food than puke in the mix lying on the floor. This is one of the possible explanations in case you see a dog eating throw up.

Chihuahua siffing the grass

They Are Used to Regurgitated Food

Regurgitation is another way dogs recycle food after eating. While vomit comes out involuntarily, regurgitation is totally voluntary. The latter is the process by which some animals bring back already eaten but undigested food from their esophagus to the mouth. The difference between vomit and regurgitated food is that the latter has not entered the stomach yet and is partially digested while the former has passed through most part of the digestion process. Regurgitation is also practiced by some other animals and this is why you might find a goat chewing something when there’s no food around.

A dog uses regurgitation to feed its puppies who are too tender to eat tough food items. It basically eats tough meat and waits for it to be broken down before bringing it right back to feed the younger ones. Thus, when the puppies have grown, they find that vomit is actually food.

Natural Inclination

Dogs do a lot of weird things, including giving themselves baths by licking their coat clean with their tongue. Thus, eating their vomit doesn’t come as much of a surprise. They are naturally inclined to the habit and while the sight of a pile of puke might turn your stomach, your dog doesn’t see anything disgusting about feasting on the whole mixture.

You See Puke, They See Delicious Food

Inasmuch as we cringe at the sight of a dog eating throw up, to them, they are actually eating food and it’s very delicious. Regardless of how you feel about it, your dog sees anything that comes out of his mouth as food and interestingly, they sometimes refuse to eat the vomit after smelling it. This might be as a result of many unwanted substances like bile in the vomited food. Also, if the vomit has a lot of digested food in it, your dog may not find it appetizing as they prefer to eat less digested food.

Dog in the leaves

Is It Safe for Dogs to Eat Vomit?

Ultimately, regurgitated content is still food, at least to a dog, and it’s very safe to eat it again as long as it does not contain any toxic material, including inedible items like rocks, metals or whatnots. Eating vomit, on the other hand, might not be absolutely safe for dogs. We understand that it is in their nature and they hardly suffer because of it but eating puke might mean consuming the same toxins that made them throw up in the first place. To play it safe, don’t allow your dog to eat their own vomit as it might be unhealthy for them.

So, if you don’t want your dog to be eating vomit, you better be quick in picking it up when they throw up or else, they will look beyond the nasty pile to see the delicious food particles therein. Meanwhile, the habit of eating vomit might be a normal dog behavior but try and look into the reason they vomited in the first place, especially if it happens regularly. What’s more, frequent vomiting might be a result of a health issue that needs medical attention.

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Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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