It can be worrying when you notice your dog isn’t feeling well, or you come home from work and see a pile of vomit on the floor.
There are many occasions when your dog being sick is nothing to worry about, but vomit can also be a warning sign of serious or urgent health issues. How can you tell if it is cause for concern?
It would be so much easier if our beloved pets could talk to us and explain what’s wrong!
But there are ways we can get an idea of what caused them to vomit. The texture and colour of their vomit can tell us a lot about what the problem is.
We have put together a handy guide for dog owners, to help you decide whether your pet needs medical attention.
Has Your Dog Actually Vomited?
We often refer to vomit as any kind of liquid that your dog expels, but this isn’t strictly true. Vomiting is the expulsion of food that has reached the stomach.
Regurgitation is when food that was still in the oesophagus comes back up before it reaches the stomach and begins to be digested.
Your dog may regurgitate if they ate or drank too quickly, or exercised too soon after eating. The process of regurgitation is different to vomiting as there will be no prolonged retching.
Your dog may also cough up phlegm that you could confuse for vomit, especially if they have been coughing several times throughout the day.
Vomiting will often be accompanied by nausea so look out for signs that your dog is feeling nauseous.
They might be drooling more than usual, and are likely to be uninterested in their food. They might be lethargic, and showing little enthusiasm for the toys and activities that usually make them happy.
Causes Of Vomiting
There are many reasons your dog is vomiting. Here are some of the most common causes:
A change in food or diet – different types and brands of dog food will contain a variety of ingredients.
Some foods are richer than others, and a change in food can cause a temporary upset to your dog’s digestive system.
Eating things they shouldn’t – if your dog gets into the trash or steals food from the counter, such as greasy foods high in fat or sugar– this can give them an upset stomach.
Eating something toxic – There are some foods, plants and medications that are toxic to dogs. If you think your dog has ingested something toxic they need immediate medical attention.
Bacterial infection- just like us, dogs can pick up stomach bugs and bacterial infections which may cause them to vomit.
Intestinal parasites – dogs can pick up parasites, often when exposed to different animals or rotten meat/infected feces whilst on a walk. This can cause vomiting.
Foreign body in gut – If your dog has swallowed a toy, or a piece of clothing, it might be blocking their digestive tract. This will prevent the food from travelling through, causing them to vomit it back up.
Serious medical issues – Pancreatitis, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, cancer are all serious medical conditions that can cause vomiting.
Motion sickness – dogs can get travel sick, just like us. Your dog might be sick after or during a car journey.
Food allergies or intolerance – dietary requirements vary from dog to dog. Just like humans, some dogs are intolerant or allergic to certain foods.
For example, many dogs have an intolerance to wheat and are less likely to vomit when this is replaced with rice.
Types Of Vomit
There are many things we can learn about the vomit from the texture alone, without even considering the color.
If the vomit is chunky, with pieces of visible undigested food, it was likely something the dog ate that caused them to vomit. The other possible cause is that their digestive tract is blocked.
If the vomit has no chunks and is a pale liquid, maybe yellow, green or clear bile, this means the dog’s stomach is empty.
If the dog is nauseous and sick even with an empty stomach, this means it’s not something they ate that caused the vomit.
This suggests it could be something more concerning and they are more likely to need medical attention, especially if they have additional symptoms like lethargy, abdominal pain and a fever.
If your dog vomits pale liquid every morning, it is possible they have BVS – Bilious Vomiting Syndrome. This condition is manageable and usually not serious, but you should still get it checked out.
The presence of white foam in the vomit indicates that the contents of the stomach were sloshed around before being expelled, or that the stomach was empty.
It is also a possible sign of pancreatitis, which needs to be taken seriously.
Different Colors Of Vomit And What They Mean
Brown vomit can be caused by brown food like meat or biscuits. It can also be caused by eating feces (also called cophrophagia), an unpleasant habit that is not uncommon among dogs.
On rare occasions, brown streaks in the vomit can be traces of old blood indicative of possible internal bleeding which needs medical attention.
Green Or Yellow
If your dog has been eating grass, their vomit may be green with blades of undigested grass. Pale green vomit can also show that bile is present and the stomach is empty.
Some dog biscuits or treats contain red food dye which can change the color of their vomit.
Red vomit can also be a sign of blood caused by stomach irritation, ulcers, or other gastrointestinal issues that irritate the digestive tract. This requires urgent medical attention.
Eating soil or dirt can cause the vomit to appear very dark, but black vomit could also be digested blood.
Look out for the color and texture of coffee grounds. If your dog has blood in their GI tract, take them to the vet immediately.
This can be a sign of prolonged gastrointestinal upset, bile, or in the worst cases, liver failure. You should take your dog to the vet.
If you are unsure, it is always best to play it safe and seek veterinary advice.
1. What is the difference between vomiting and regurgitation in dogs?
Answer: Vomiting is the expulsion of food that has reached the stomach, while regurgitation is when food that was still in the esophagus comes back up before it reaches the stomach and begins to be digested. Regurgitation is often caused by eating or drinking too quickly or exercising too soon after eating.
2. What are some common causes of vomiting in dogs?
Answer: Common causes of vomiting in dogs include a change in food or diet, eating things they shouldn’t (such as trash or greasy foods), eating something toxic, bacterial infection, intestinal parasites, foreign body in gut, serious medical issues (such as pancreatitis or kidney disease), motion sickness, and food allergies or intolerance.
3. How can you determine if your dog needs medical attention when vomiting?
Answer: The texture and color of the vomit can tell you a lot about the underlying issue. If the vomit is chunky and has pieces of undigested food, it’s likely something your dog ate that caused the vomiting. However, if the vomit is a pale liquid (maybe yellow, green, or clear bile) and your dog is nauseous and sick even with an empty stomach, it suggests something more concerning and they are more likely to need medical attention, especially if they have additional symptoms like lethargy, abdominal pain, and fever.
4. What does it mean if your dog has white foam in their vomit?
Answer: The presence of white foam in the vomit indicates that the contents of the stomach were sloshed around before being expelled, or that the stomach was empty. It is also a possible sign of pancreatitis, which needs to be taken seriously.
5. What should you do if your dog has red or black vomit?
Answer: Red vomit can be a sign of blood caused by stomach irritation, ulcers, or other gastrointestinal issues that irritate the digestive tract, and requires urgent medical attention. Black vomit could also be digested blood, so it’s important to look out for the color and texture of coffee grounds and take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect blood in their GI tract.