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Why Do Dogs Eat Their Own Vomit?

Just about every dog owner has seen it happen at some time: their dog pukes and then almost immediately eats what they just vomited.

This behavior will turn the stomach of even the strongest person.

So why is your dog eating their vomit?

And this normal behavior or something you need to worry about with them?

Most of the time, this type of behavior is due to instincts.

It Smells Good: Surprising But True for Your Dog

When your pup vomits (especially right after eating), they will smell things in it that you cannot.

For example, you probably just notice the pungent smell of half-digested food and stomach acid.

However, your dog’s nose is sharper, and it can still smell the original odors and flavors of the food.

As a result, they may be compelled to eat the vomit simply because it still smells good.

Remember: your dog doesn’t have the same kind of intellectual disgust at vomit that you possess.

Instead, they act heavily on instinct. And if something smells good (like a pile of just-vomited food), they’ll eat it right up.

So in this situation, you don’t have much to fear.

Your dog might even be doing you a favor by getting rid of this vomit and minimizing your need to clean up. Thanks, pup!

Food Aggression: A Common Behavior With Domesticated Dogs

Did your dog vomit, ignore it, and then suddenly race to eat it when you went to clean it?

Or when another dog or pet in the house investigated the vomit?

Your dog may have a high level of food aggression.

This behavior occurs if your dog is very greedy or possessive over its food.

And yes, this can even extend to their vomit, as it contains food smells that they can sniff out.

There’s a chance your dog will even eat its vomit if it doesn’t smell good just to make sure that other animals don’t eat it.

And yes, that includes you. While the idea of eating vomit is going to turn your stomach, that’s not how your dog thinks.

They simply see a potential food source going to waste and want to make sure that they don’t miss out.

Instinctive Scavenging: Dogs Take Whatever Food They Can Get

Even though you feed your dog every day (and likely even give them healthy and tasty snacks), they are hard-wired instinctively to eat whenever they get the chance.

Wolves and coyotes can be opportunistic scavengers in the wild, scaring away other animals from fresh kills and eating stealing food from other packs without a second thought about it.

As a result, some dogs may simply eat their puke because they’re following these opportunistic feeding instincts.

Instead of considering their puke as what it is, i.e., food regurgitated for a specific reason, they think of it as a potential food source.

And it makes sense when you understand that wolves and coyotes often struggle to find good food sources and may need all the food they can get in the wild.

Learned Behaviors: Commonly Taught By Mothers When Young

When your puppy was young and weaning on its mother, there often comes a time when they stop feeding on milk and, instead, get food directly from their mother.

Typically, a mother will bring solid food to her pups to help them grow.

However, some young dogs may find this hard food is too firm to chew and require their mother to eat and regurgitate it for them to eat.

As a result, your dog may see their vomit and be inspired by memories of this youth.

They’ll happily scarf up their vomit, as they see it as a rich food source.

You don’t have to worry about this kind of behavior with your dog.

The only time it may be a problem is if they puked due to sickness or eating something toxic.

You don’t want them eating these items again, or they might hurt themselves.

Instinctive Desire for a Clean Environment: Your Dog Hates a Mess

It often surprises many pet owners to discover that their dog does not like a messy environment.

While your canine will quickly adapt to just about any living situation, they have an instinct to keep their living area clean and free of various types of debris.

And this is true of things like puke. They simply don’t want piles of vomit in their home and will clean them up to keep a house clean.

Part of this behavior is heavily instinctive and is similar to why some dogs will eat their poop.

Simply put, dogs know you shouldn’t puke or poop where you eat or drink.

So, if their vomit is close to where they eat, they may scarf up the vomit to clean up the area and avoid contamination.

Your dog doesn’t consciously process these facts, mind you. They just instinctively know to eat their puke.

Nutritional Imbalances: A Natural Curative Method

Like any animal, dogs have a specific nutritional balance that they need to maintain to stay healthy.

However, puking often upsets that balance by removing freshly eaten food and making it harder for dogs to stay healthy.

As a result, they may eat their puke to retain that balance.

Now, your dog isn’t a nutritionist or a doctor: they don’t process these issues consciously.

Instead, their body triggers hunger and forces them to eat their puke.

Just think of those times when you crave broccoli.

Your body triggers these cravings due to nutritional imbalances, just like your dog’s body does it.

There’s Little Reason to Worry About This Behavior

Most dogs will vomit at one point or another in their life, and this behavior is nothing that needs to worry you too much as an owner.

And most will likely eat their puke as well.

However, you may need to talk to your vet if your pup keeps puking without any cause or if they ate their vomit after eating a toxic substance.

Your vet can help you better understand this situation and keep your pup healthy.

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National Canine Research Association of America