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Decoding Your Dog's Vomit


As a dog parent, nothing gets you out of bed faster than the sound of your dog vomiting. Dogs may vomit for many reasons, due to a number of things that aren’t always related to a serious medical condition. The sound of your dog retching or gagging may be worrisome, however there is no immediate need to panic. You must first understand how to decode your dog’s vomit based on several factors, so that you can discern if your dog requires rest, or immediate veterinary attention.


What is Vomiting in Dogs? 


Sometimes dog vomiting may be mistaken for regurgitation. Regurgitation refers to elimination of materials such as fluids or food intake that has not reached the stomach yet. We see this occur more commonly with dogs that consume food or water too quickly. Regurgitation is mostly a passive process which does not involve active abdominal contractions like with vomiting.


Common Causes


Here is a list of some common causes of dog vomiting:

- Diet changes or intolerances
- Indigestion
- Fasting
- Motion sickness
- Dietary indiscretions (eating garbage or table scraps)
- Reaction to medication
- Toxic or chemical overload
- Gastric dilation and bloating
- Infection (parasites, bacteria, virus)
- Foreign material ingestion
- Heatstroke
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Pancreatitis
- Diabetes
- Acute kidney or liver failure


      While this list primarily outlines some very serious medical conditions that require immediate veterinary intervention, the most common reason for dog vomiting to occur is indigestion, (in)voluntary fasting, or food intolerances.


      How to Tell the Difference


      Vomiting in dogs is not a disease, but rather a symptom that can occur as an isolated incident or due to a more serious cause. What your dog’s vomit looks like can help determine the cause.


      Yellow Vomit


      This is the most common type of vomit we see in our dogs. Yellow vomit is a direct signal that your dog has an empty stomach. The yellow colour you see is due to bile secretions. This is typically referred to as “hunger pukes” and will often occur in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Puppies are especially subject to hunger pukes, as they have smaller stomachs, therefore requiring more frequent meals throughout the day.


      If your dog is still eating and defecating normally, then there is no real concern. The best remedy for the sudden onset of yellow vomit is to offer your dog a small meal and increase the caloric intake for the day until the stomach settles.


      If your dog is having frequent episodes of yellow vomit, you can always offer a bedtime snack or more treats throughout the day.


      White, Foamy Vomit


      Vomit that appears white and foamy may be due to the buildup of stomach acid. It can be caused by an upset stomach, over-consumption of food and water, if your dog came into contact with something that had an unpleasant taste or consumed something that irritated his stomach. Normally, the solution is simple; monitor your pet for repeated vomiting. If this was an isolated incidence, then there is no real concern.


      However, if your dog is repeatedly having white and foamy vomit and appears lethargic then it may be a sign that there is a more serious underlying problem such as: kennel cough, bloat, gastrointestinal inflammation, or toxin exposure. In these cases, the condition of your dog becomes urgent, and it is advised that you schedule an immediate trip to your veterinarian.


      Pink Foamy Vomit


      Pink frothy liquid may have been coughed up from the lungs, rather than from the stomach. It is important to note that liquid output from the lungs will appear like mucous, and it will not be as acidic as vomit. This is an indication that there may be some serious health complications which can include heart failure, lung cancer, or infection.


      Bloody Vomit (Red or Pink)


      Hematemesis is the medical term indicating that there is the presence of blood in your dog’s vomit. Blood in a dog’s vomit should be taken very seriously and addressed with your veterinarian right away. This condition suggests there is a serious gastrointestinal injury, bacterial infection, ulcers, blood clotting disorders, liver failure, foreign object, or even tumours present.


      Bright red blood will be fresh blood, and this will indicate that there is a source of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, or the respiratory system.


      Dark and tarry blood (or noticeable “coffee grind” vomit) will indicate the issue resides in the stomach or lower parts of the gastrointestinal tract.


      If your dog is vomiting blood, we advise you do not use the “wait-and-see” approach, as this can mean your dog is in a critical, life-threatening condition.


      Brown Vomit


      Brown vomit could be regurgitated food from the esophagus that never made it to the stomach. This will occur because of rapid food consumption, or failure to chew the food. Brown vomit requires further inspection for any spots or traces of blood that can appear brown if they are not profusely bloody. It’s important to have a closer look if your dog experiences brown vomit to ensure there is no presence of blood.


      More upsettingly, the occurrence of brown vomit may also mean that your dog has consumed fecal matter from another animal (or from his own stool output), however this will be a lot easier for the pet owner to decipher, given the foul smell on their breath.


      Green Vomit


      The presence of green vomit can simply mean that your dog has consumed grass, and it did not sit well in the stomach, or it can mean they ate something toxic or poisonous. One toxin that pet owners should be avidly aware of is rat poison.


      Rat poison contains a sweet smell to attract rats and causes them to eat a large amount of this harmful substance. While not only does rat poison turn your dog’s vomit green, it also inhibits their ability to clot blood properly, which leads to internal bleeding. Dogs will feel terribly ill post-rat poison exposure and will throw up green vomit.


      Worms in Vomit


      Yes, you read that right! Worms can certainly make an appearance in your dog’s vomit, and this will mean that there are live worms or an infestation dwelling in the intestines of affected dogs. Roundworms are the most common type of parasitic worms, and predominantly affect puppies, as their immune systems are underdeveloped, and they are more susceptible to disease.


      Should you see worms in your dog’s vomit, take them to the vet to get them started on a course of deworming, or you can always try diatomaceous earth.


      What to Know About Vomiting in Dogs 


      As you can see, there are a number of reasons that may cause a dog to vomit. What your dog vomits, is just as important to know as why your dog is vomiting.


      Other factors to consider asking yourself in the event that your dog has vomited are as follows:


       - What is my dog’s vomit indicative of? Note the colour, texture, consistency and volume of your dog’s vomit.


      - How many times has my dog vomited in the course of a 12-hour period? If a dog exceeds vomiting three times within a 12-hour period, then it’s a good idea to get your dog checked out by your vet. Your vet will likely prescribe some anti-nausea medication to rest the stomach.


      - What is the duration between mealtime and the time that my dog has vomited? If your dog has upchucked their meal within the first few minutes of consumption, then it’s likely your dog has simply regurgitated, rather than vomited. If your dog vomits several hours after eating, then there may be an obstruction preventing the food from moving further down the gastrointestinal tract.


      One of the most common scenarios we see pet owners experience with their dog is the following: hunger pukes, mild indigestion, motion sickness (from a vehicle), food intolerances, or sudden changes in diet. Most of these are low-grade concerns and can be easily fixed so long as we are dealing with an overall healthy dog (with no other signs of clinical illness; diarrhea, lethargy, nausea, etc).


      Hunger pukes can be settled with frequent small meals, and increased caloric intake over the next few days.


      Indigestion can be cured through the use of proper gut-supporting supplementation like probiotics and digestive enzymes, to help aid the digestive process and reduce vomiting episodes.


      Motion sickness can sometimes be curved through frequent, short car rides, or giving your dog some calming treats before their next trip in the car. Sometimes motion sickness cannot be cured in some dogs, so it’s best to be prepared with a bag just in case.


      Food intolerances can also play a major role in why a dog is vomiting. If there is a particular food or ingredient within the diet that your dog is consuming that is not sitting well with him, then it might be time to consider changing your pet’s food.


      This leads us to our last most common cause for dog vomiting. Rapid diet changes can definitely provoke vomiting, and any dry food changes that you make should be done gradually through the course of 10 – 14 days in order to reduce the risk of digestive upset.


      If your dog is experiencing episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, but is otherwise healthy; active, playful and eating, then you can always rest the stomach by withholding food for 24 hours, which will allow your dog’s metabolism to “reset” itself. This method is not suggested if we are dealing with a clinically ill dog (diabetes, cancer) or a puppy, or senior pet.


      One very useful product to have on hand in case you notice some digestive upset in your dog is bone broth. Bone broth is an extremely healthy, gut-supporting option to reach for if your dog is feeling a bit ill. It is packed with nutrients, easy to digest, rich in flavor, and loaded with restorative amino acids. The gelatin in bone broth repairs the intestinal lining and reduces inflammation, and can be an immense support in getting your dog back on track.




      The treatment for your dog will depend entirely on what the contents of your dog’s vomit is. Sometimes we can get by with resting the stomach, feeding small meals, or adding a gut-support in the form of digestive enzymes or bone broth. Other times, the situation becomes more dire. Please note that there are signs to indicate whether your dog should be seen by a veterinarian, or if their condition has turned critical (especially if they are puppies or geriatric):


       - Blood in the vomit or “coffee grinds"

      - Dark coloured vomit (dark red, or black)

      - Green vomit with no indication of grass consumption

      - Diarrhea
      - Lethargy
      - Worms in the vomit
      - Distended abdomen (bloat)
      - Tries to vomit, dry heaving (bloat)
      - Vomits foreign object, or pieces of non-food material
      - Refusal of food
      - Cannot hold down small amounts of water
      - Has pre-existing medical condition
      - Is declining in overall appearance and demeanour


        If you are concerned with the nature of your dog’s vomit, contact your veterinarian for more information. From there, your vet will be able to assess your pet based on the symptoms and other factors you describe, and you can work together to determine a strong treatment plan for your dog.



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