If your dog is throwing up, you’re obviously going to be concerned. Dog vomit is a sign that your pet isn’t feeling well, but just how serious could it be? The answer may vary.
Sometimes, dog vomit isn’t really a cause for concern. But other times, it means something could be really wrong and you need to get to the veterinarian immediately.
So, how do you know when it’s serious and when it’s not?
One clue as to the severity of the situation is the color. Here’s a look at some of the more common colors of dog vomit and what they could mean.
Yellow dog vomit usually occurs because your dog’s stomach is empty. In this case, what you’re seeing is known as bile. Bile is a fluid the liver produces for digestion. It goes from the liver to the gallbladder, where it is released into the small intestine.
Bile can sometimes irritate your dog’s digestive system. When that happens, they may throw up. Yellow dog vomit is usually harmless. As long as your dog is otherwise healthy, you don’t need to be concerned. Maybe feed your dog a little more frequently, but don’t give more food. Just split the normal portions. However, if your dog is throwing up yellow liquid, and is also lethargic or won’t eat, go to the vet. That could be a sign of a much more serious problem.1
Dark Brown or Black Vomit
Again, throwing up a yellow liquid known as bile is typically not a sign of a major health issue. But dog vomit that is black or dark brown could be a potential medical emergency.
Here are some of the possible reasons this is happening:
When a dog throws up and the color is black or dark brown, internal bleeding could be the reason. Your dog might also have an abnormal growth in their stomach. Or they might have ingested something poisonous. If your dog has pale gums and is throwing up black or dark brown liquid, they need immediate medical help.2
Another potential cause of dark brown or black dog vomit is a bleeding ulcer. If the vomit has the appearance of coffee grounds an ulcer is a likely reason. There are many reasons that ulcers develop. These can include kidney or liver disease, stress, a bacterial infection and the ingestion of a toxic substance. If your dog’s stools are dark black and they’ve suddenly lost weight, get to the vet as soon as you can.3
There are some instances in which an intestinal blockage of is the cause of your dog’s dark vomit. Be alert for other signs of an obstruction:
→ Abdominal pain
→ Trouble defecating
→ Appetite loss.
If the vomit has a particularly foul smell, that could also be a sign of trouble.4 Seek medical attention as quickly as possible should this be the case.
There are other instances where dark brown or black dog vomit can be the sign of a potential medical emergency.
For example, your dog may have eaten something dark, such as a small piece of chocolate. Chocolate, as you may know, is toxic for dogs.
But many of them will be fine if they’ve only eaten a small amount.
If, on the other hand, you have reason to believe your dog has eaten a lot of chocolate, they could become very sick and you’ll need to get medical help quickly.5
The other possibility is that your dog may have eaten some poop. While it’s disgusting to think about, it’s more common than you may think. Eating poop is usually harmless. However, there is a chance that your dog could become sick if the poop contains a virus or parasite. If your pet is showing signs of illness, go to the vet to have your dog checked out.6
Vomiting White Foam
Like other types of vomit, the reason your dog is throwing up white foam might be serious. Then again, it might not. These are just some of the potential causes:
Your dog may simply have a common, everyday upset stomach. The dog might have eaten something that didn’t agree with their system — like grass or dirt. Dogs may also throw up white foam if they eat too quickly. As long as the vomiting doesn’t happen that often, there’s no need to worry. A spoonful of canned pumpkin might help settle your dog’s stomach.7
Vomiting white foam can sometimes be a sign of a kidney problem. This will be particularly concerning if the dog is also lethargic, disoriented, or weak. Another sign is difficulty urinating. If you notice any of these issues, it’s time for a trip to the vet.8
In some instances, the white foam can be a sign that a dog has pancreatitis, caused by swelling of the pancreas. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, appetite loss, dehydration, and weakness. When a dog has pancreatitis, they will often go into a bowed position. The dog will lower their front legs and head while keeping their rear end in the air. Take your dog to the vet if you notice this type of behavior.9
Parvo, or parvovirus, is another severe medical problem. While it can affect a dog at any age, it is more prevalent in puppies. In addition to throwing up white foam, other symptoms include bloody diarrhea, weakness, weight loss, and fever. This is another issue that requires immediate medical help.10
Like humans, dogs can develop acid reflux too. It can occur when stomach acid irritates the gastrointestinal tract and stomach. This can lead to the vomiting of not only white foam but also yellow liquid. Vomiting will usually occur in the morning when the dog’s stomach is empty.11
Now, there are some instances in which a dog will develop a condition known as infectious tracheobronchitis (commonly referred to as “kennel cough”) when they’re boarded. But this condition can occur whenever dogs are in close contact with each other — like at a dog park or daycare center.
Symptoms of kennel cough include nasal discharge, lethargy, vomiting of white foam and, of course, a persistent cough. Thankfully, the vast majority of dogs who develop kennel cough eventually recover completely.12
If mucus accompanies the white foam, that could mean a lot of things. If it only happens occasionally, you shouldn’t worry. But if it happens a lot and is accompanied by fever and/or pain, that could be something serious. Your dog may have ingested something poisonous, there could be a blockage, or there could be a parasite in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.13
Different Types of Dog Vomit
Vomiting is different from regurgitation. Your dog’s vomit will usually have a sour smell and be accompanied by undigested food. Regurgitation, on the other hand, is where undigested food comes from the esophagus. It’s usually mild and not necessarily a cause for concern.
Another way to tell the difference between dog vomit and regurgitation is how your dog’s body reacts. If you notice heaving from the abdominal area, your dog is vomiting. If you don’t notice that heaving, then they are likely just regurgitating.14
The Bottom Line
When your dog throws up, it can be very disturbing, of course. But that doesn’t mean you should panic and rush to the vet. If it only happens once in a while, that’s normal. You don’t have to worry. Your dog’s tummy can get upset every now and then, just like a human’s can.
But if the color of the dog vomit looks odd or it has an unusually pungent smell you’ll want to get medical attention for your pet immediately. This is especially the case if your pooch is showing other symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, or a loss of appetite.