Every dog owner wonders at some point – why is my dog spitting out his food? It can be concerning to see your pup push around or eject kibble from their mouth without swallowing. There are several potential reasons why dogs may suddenly refuse food or spit it out. For example, it’s common for dogs to go through phases where their tastes change much like human kids. A food your dog happily ate for months may suddenly seem unappetizing. Other underlying causes could include dental problems, digestive issues, stress, or even taste aversion if something unpleasant happened during a past meal.
In this article, we will explore some of the common causes of this behavior, how to identify them, and what to do about them. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why your dog is spitting out his food and how to help him enjoy his meals again.
Why is My Dog Spitting Out His Food? Common Reasons
If your dog is suddenly spitting up partially chewed kibble or rejecting treats, some possible explanations include:
Dental Disease or Injury
Issues like fractured teeth, abscesses, gum infections, and other mouth pain can make chewing difficult or uncomfortable. Dogs may spit food out to avoid painful biting and chewing motions. Check your dog’s mouth for problems.
Foreign Object Lodged in Mouth/Throat
Objects stuck in the mouth, gums, or throat can also hinder chewing and swallowing. The dog may try spitting the object out along with food. Look for lodged items like sticks, bones, or plant material.
Nausea or Upset Stomach
Nausea from infections, parasites, food sensitivities, toxins, or motion sickness can lead to gagging up food shortly after swallowing. An upset stomach or acid reflux may also cause regurgitation of kibble.
Certain neurological or structural conditions affecting muscles involved in swallowing can make it difficult for dogs to successfully get food down, causing them to spit it back out. See your vet to assess nerve and muscle function.
Medication Side Effects
Some prescription drugs and supplements like antibiotics, NSAIDs, and vitamins can cause nausea, lethargy, or taste aversion as side effects. Your dog associates the unpleasant symptoms with their food.
Fussy eaters may reject or spit out perfectly healthy food for reasons like boredom with a monotonous diet, hunger strikes, or simply finicky preferences. This is typically a process of elimination.
If your dog shows no signs of the above medical conditions, behavioral pickiness is likely the culprit. But when in doubt, consult your veterinarian to rule out other causes.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Spitting Out Food Due to Illness
Watch for these symptoms in conjunction with food spitting to determine if your dog requires medical intervention:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty swallowing
- Coughing/gagging when eating
- Bad breath or dental issues
- Increased body temperature
- Lethargy and depression
Any of those warning signs in combination with food rejection points to an underlying health problem needing veterinary diagnosis and treatment, not just behavioral pickiness. When in doubt, call your vet.
What to Do if Your Dog Keeps Spitting Out His Food
If your dog shows signs of illness along with spitting up food, follow these steps:
- Withhold all food and treats temporarily but encourage water intake to prevent dehydration.
- Check your dog’s mouth for dental issues, foreign objects, or abnormalities.
- Monitor for any vomiting, further appetite loss, weight changes, or lethargy indicating worsening condition.
- Contact your vet for an urgent appointment. Bring video evidence of the food-spitting behavior if possible.
- Follow all treatment directions, which may include medications, a bland diet, tooth extraction, etc. depending on the diagnosis.
- Call your vet again if symptoms persist beyond 2-3 days despite treatment. Additional interventions may be needed.
- Once resolved, gradually transition back to their regular food.
Seeking prompt veterinary care when food spitting accompanies illness symptoms leads to the best recovery outcome for your dog.
Common Illness-Related Causes of Food Spitting
Some specific medical conditions that can lead to food spitting include:
Abscessed teeth, infected gums, and fractured teeth come with considerable mouth pain. Dogs eat carefully to avoid hurting sensitive areas, spitting out kibble that aggravates discomfort.
Sharp items like sticks or bones stuck between teeth/gums or lodged in the throat cause pain and interfere with swallowing, resulting in the dog spitting out their food.
Respiratory infections like kennel cough or pneumonia cause throat inflammation and phlegm buildup leading to gagging, coughing, and food regurgitation as the dog tries to clear their airways.
Gastroesophageal reflux causes stomach acid to enter the esophagus. The burning sensation results in gagging and spitting up partially digested food to relieve the discomfort.
Vomiting and diarrhea from intestinal parasites, viral infections, food allergies or intolerance, pancreatitis, or eating trash may also cause dogs to spit out food due to nausea or gastrointestinal distress.
This condition affecting the esophagus muscles prevents effective swallowing and causes regurgitation of undigested food minutes to hours after eating. Requires specialist care.
- If your dog is spitting up food accompanied by concerning symptoms, always seek veterinary assessment to determine if the illness is the culprit vs. simply picky behaviors. Catching conditions early speed recovery.
How to Help a Dog With an Upset Stomach Stop Spitting Up Food
If your dog is regurgitating food due to mild stomach upset without other symptoms of illness, try these remedies:
- Temporarily switch to a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice to allow the GI tract to rest.
- Add a spoonful of plain yogurt to meals to aid digestion.
- Give slippery elm, marshmallow root extract, or papaya enzyme supplements to coat and soothe the stomach lining.
- Make sure your dog stays well hydrated with frequent access to fresh water.
- Limit exercise for 1-2 days to decrease nausea.
- Consider over-the-counter GI medications recommended by your vet if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours.
Most minor stomach bugs resolve within a day or two using these supportive interventions. But if vomiting and food spitting continue, seek veterinary guidance to rule out more serious issues needing treatment.
When to Seek Veterinary Help for Food Spitting
Contact your vet promptly if your dog is spitting up food accompanied by:
- Weight loss or failure to gain weight normally
- Loss of appetite beyond a day or two
- Difficulty chewing and excessive drooling
- Repeated attempts at swallowing
- Breathing issues like coughing and gagging
- Lethargy, weakness, or exercise intolerance
- Vomiting more than 2-3 times per day
- Signs of pain like whimpering and hiding
Do not delay getting veterinary attention if your dog’s food-spitting behavior is ongoing or any worrisome symptoms develop. The sooner underlying problems can be diagnosed, the better the outcome.
How to Help a Picky Eater Dog With Food Spitting
For non-ill dogs who simply spit out or reject food due to fussiness or behavioral issues, you can encourage normal eating using tactics like:
- Try different protein sources, flavors, and textures – experiment to find varieties your dog likes.
- Warm meals slightly to increase aroma and palatability.
- Add a spoonful of low-sodium broth, gravy, or yogurt to enhance taste.
- Use puzzle toys like Kongs to make getting their food fun.
- Practice basic training like “sit” and then reward with a few kibbles before putting the bowl down to build anticipation.
- Set a consistent meal schedule and pick up uneaten food after 15-20 minutes to prevent snacking later.
- Assess any anxiety issues making your dog hesitant to eat. Address causes and provide calming aids during meals if needed.
- Rule out medical issues first before settling on picky eating as the sole explanation for food rejection.
With some coaxing and investigative work to identify preferred foods and correct any bad habits, you can overcome most selective eating behaviors. Ask your vet for tailored advice if problems persist.
When Picky Eating May Indicate a Behavioral Problem
Fussy eaters are one thing, but constantly rejecting foods dogs typically enjoy can signal an underlying behavioral issue requiring intervention, like:
- Stress, anxiety, or depression causing loss of appetite
- Change in routine or environment triggering uncertainty during meals
- Attention-seeking behavior that gets rewarded when owners try to entice them to eat
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder marked by repetitive food rituals
If your dog shows signs of behavioral distress beyond normal pickiness, discuss the issue with your vet or an animal behaviorist to assess for any underlying psychological factors contributing to altered eating habits. Treatment such as anxiety medications, pheromone therapy, and training modifications can help resolve the root cause of food avoidance stemming from psychological rather than medical issues.
Significant changes in your dog’s appetite and food intake coupled with behavioral changes warrant further investigation. While it may seem like pickiness on the surface, behavioral disorders causing more complex food rejection require customized treatment plans.
Are Certain Dogs More Prone to Spitting Out Their Food?
While any dog can develop food-spitting habits, certain breeds and ages are more predisposed:
- In brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs and pugs – shorter snouts increase the risk of dental alignment issues, respiratory infections, and gagging.
- Smaller dogs – consume pieces of inappropriate objects more easily leading to lodged items.
- Senior dogs – higher incidence of dental disease and side effects of new medications disrupting appetite.
- Puppies – mouthing behavior and teething make them more likely to chew and swallow foreign items.
So while possible for any breed, dogs with the above traits may be overrepresented with food spitting issues either due to anatomical factors or behaviors. Pay close attention to any changes.
When to Seek a Specialist for Food Regurgitation Issues
For cases of persistent food regurgitation where the cause remains elusive after standard treatment attempts, referral to a veterinary specialist may be warranted. They can perform additional diagnostic testing options to pinpoint the issue such as:
- Endoscopy – allows visual examination of the esophagus and stomach lining for injury, inflammation, or structural defects.
- Fluoroscopy – moving X-rays tracking food passage through the throat and esophagus. Checks for impaired motility.
- Biopsies – tissue samples may reveal microscopic disease processes like cancer or fungal infections.
- MRI or CT imaging – detailed views of soft tissue and muscular structures for abnormalities.
Working together collaboratively with your general vet and specialists provides the most comprehensive diagnostic and treatment plan for stubborn food regurgitation cases.
While spitting out or rejecting a bite or two of kibble here and it is usually harmless, consistent food avoidance demands investigation. Patterns of spitting up their meals can indicate illness, behavior issues, or a food intolerance requiring treatment.
If your dog displays any concerning symptoms along with food-spitting behavior, schedule a veterinary exam right away to pinpoint the cause and get them back on the road to normal eating habits. In most cases, determining and addressing the underlying reason, whether medical or behavioral, leads to great outcomes and dogs who happily eat their dinner again!
Frequently Asked Questions
Could my dog be allergic to their food if they keep spitting it out?
Yes, food allergies or intolerances can cause nausea, and GI upset, and lead to spitting out meals. Try switching to a novel protein diet to test for food-related irritation.
Why does my dog keep spitting out treats but eat his normal food?
Some dogs with food sensitivities have issues with certain proteins, textures, or additives found more often in treats. Stick to their regular kibble and avoid treats for a few weeks to see if the behavior resolves.
Is spitting out kibble right after eating always a sign of a problem?
Not necessarily. Some dogs scarf food too quickly and accidentally spit out a few pieces in their enthusiasm. However consistent regurgitation of substantial amounts of food is not normal.