WTH – Why Do Dogs Throw-Up After Switching to Raw Food?

One evening, after eating her second raw meal, my Boston Terrier puked all over my bed, taking out three beloved pillows. So, I looked into if it’s normal for dogs to throw-up after switching to a raw food diet.

The short answers

Is it normal for your dog to throw-up after switching to a raw food diet?

It’s fairly common for dogs to vomit or regurgitate food in the first few weeks of their raw diet. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Lacking the proper enzymes to digest the pathogens in raw meat
  • PH imbalance in the gut (generally from a dry kibble diet)
  • Eating too quickly
  • Food poisoning (usually from spoiled meat)

Should I take my dog to the veterinarian if they throw-up after eating raw?

Unless your dog vomits multiple times in a short window of time, can’t hold down water, or has blood in his/her vomit or stool – you probably don’t need to rush to a vet. Instead, skip their next meal, switch to a stomach-friendly protein (rabbit or turkey), and wean them off kibble at a slower rate.

What can I do for my dog to help him/her stop throwing-up after eating raw food?

If your dog throws-up their food within minutes of eatingthey are most likely regurgitating (not vomiting) their food – and, will need to slow down their eating speed. Slow down their eating speed by serving the raw food frozen or in a Kong toy.

If your dog throws-up within hours of eatingsomething about the raw food isn’t sitting well in their gut. Here’s what to do in order:

  1. Switch to a stomach-friendly protein (rabbit or turkey)
  2. Incorporate pancreatitis derived enzyme supplements into their diet
  3. Switch to canned dog food and slowly introduce raw food over a 30-day period

What should I do if my dog is still throwing-up after the first couple of weeks switching to raw food?

See a holistic veterinarian with a background in canine nutrition. While biologically appropriate raw food is the ideal diet for most dogs, there may be underlying digestive or autoimmune reasons why cooked or canned food makes sense for your dog.

For help finding a holistic vet, read my post on How to find a vet who supports a raw dog food diet.

Ginny, my Boston Terrier, is a professional thrower upper. She probably vomits bile – a clear, sometimes yellow liquid – once a day.

Why dogs vomit, especially after beginning a fresh raw diet

At a certain point, we were so concerned for her health we rushed off to the vet with a ziplock bag of her puke for testing. Luckily, she left with a clean bill of health.

For Ginny, I’d say at any given time about 5% of the content in her stomach is made up of dirt. It’s not like she runs outside and eats dirt – rather, she brings the frisbee, we throw the frisbee, the frisbee (now covered in drool) collects dirt – and the cycle continues 50 more times.

And that brings us to the first lesson – dogs, unlike humans, can throw-up at will.

An evolutionary advantage to being a carnivore is the ability to expel any potentially harmful toxin in the stomach. Which, makes sense for an animal who eats sun-baked rotting meat on the regular.

For Ginny, the nutritional advantage of digesting dirt doesn’t outweigh the potential disadvantages – so, long story short, she’s put a lot of mileage on my Swiffer.

Vomiting, as I learned, is a fairly common side-effect for newly raw-fed dogs – especially if their prior diet was monotonous.

Humans, compared to most pets, have an extremely varied diet. Yesterday, I had eggs for breakfast, avocado with lunch, and salmon for dinner – and I didn’t feel the need to vomit up my food.

“But, Andrew,” you scream “dogs aren’t humans!”

Yes, and thank God. Because if we ate what feral dogs eat, I’d have pidgeon for breakfast, roadkill for lunch, and a serving of poop to cap-off dinner. My point is, a biologically appropriate fed dogs can handle a lot more variation than the standard kibble-fed dog.

If you were sold the same lies from the pet food industry as I was, then you too were lead to believe dry kibble is a “balanced meal” – and in the interest of your dog’s health, you should feed them the exact same meal day-in and day-out.

So, let’s do a thought experiment – let’s say, starting now, you can only eat burnt biscuits – every day, every meal, for the next year. And then, on the 366th day, I give you chocolate cake.

I’m willing to bet, like your dog, you’d wish you could vomit on command too.

A weak digestive system is the most common reason your dog will vomit on the first week of a fresh raw food diet. Dog’s eat the same meal for an extended period of time have an underdeveloped gut – and lack the proper enzymes, bacteria, and gastric PH level for digesting new foods.

Sometimes also called mono-gut.

So, the first time your dog eats fresh raw food – the gut will work overtime trying to learn how to properly digest it; which, may result in your dog releasing its own escape hatch – and, vomit all over your memory foam pillows.

A moral to this story is to keep your dogs off of any beloved furniture that first week.

That said, mono-gut isn’t the only reason your dog could be throwing up after eating raw food.

Here are a couple of other reasons your dog may be sick:

1 – Your dog isn’t vomiting, but rather regurgitating food

I know it seems like splitting hairs, but there is a big difference. Vomit is when your dog releases the contents of his/her stomach. Regurgitation is when your dog releases the contents of his/her esophagus.

Regurgitation will most commonly happen within minutes of your dog eating. It’s usually an indication your dog is eating too quickly – which, can certainly happen if she/he isn’t familiar with moist food or bones.

The best fix for regurgitation is slowing down their eating speed. I recommend either a) freezing the food before serving or b) stuffing the food into a Kong-like toy (check out Amazon for current pricing).

2 – Your dog has food poisoning

Wolves can eat four-day-old raw meat. Your kibble-fed dog can’t. When you feed raw – especially in the beginning – it is essential the food your serving is fresh; meaning, store the meat you’re using within the next two days in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer.

If your dog is vomiting multiple times in a short window of time, can’t hold down water, and/or has blood in their vomit or stool – stop reading this and take them to your veterinarian.

What you can do for a dog throwing up the first week of their raw diet

Assuming your dog doesn’t have food poisoning – there are a few things you can do to help them stop vomiting in the first few weeks of raw feeding:

  1. Switch to a stomach-friendly protein (rabbit or turkey)
  2. Incorporate pancreatitis derived enzyme supplements into their diet
  3. Switch to canned (moist) dog food and slowly introduce raw food over 30-days

1 – Switch the protein source

Fatty proteins are harder to digest than a leaner cut of meat. If your dog is struggling with fresh raw meat, then switch over to turkey or rabbit. This also works many times for diarrhea, which you can read more about in my other post, How to Help a Dog with Diarrhea After Switching to Raw.

Once your dog has adjusted to their raw diet, slowly reintroduce the more mainstream proteins, like chicken and beef.

2 – Incorporate an enzyme supplement

If switching the protein source doesn’t stop your dog throwing-up, he/she may just need some outside assistance with digestion.

A balanced raw diet should contain 10 to 15% organ meats – like liver and pancreas – which, is the natural way to aid enzyme production in your dog. So, make sure your raw ratio is right before buying anything.

However, if your raw ratio is correct – an enzyme supplement should help your dog in the interim. Just make sure it’s a) appropriate for canines and b) derived from the pancreas.

There’s a difference between acute vomiting (a few times here and there) and chronic vomiting (consistently for several weeks).

If it’s the latter, find a holistic veterinarian trained in canine nutrition, as your dog may have an underlying issue and/or need a specialized diet.

Good luck, and remember – anything but kibble!