If your dog is vomiting, it's normal to feel concerned. Just like humans, there are several reasons a dog may be vomiting. Since your dog can't tell you what's bothering them or if they got into something they shouldn't have, it's up to you to decide how to proceed with your dog's treatment. You can gain some insight by learning more about what to watch for, but you should always count on your veterinarian for the most accurate course of treatment.
What do a dog’s vomit colors mean?
If you spend enough time around dogs, you're likely to see various colors and consistencies of dog vomit. This can range from white foam to something resembling coffee grounds. Each vomit color can have its own set of possible causes. By understanding what each color means, you'll be better able to consider possible causes so you can relay them to your veterinarian.
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- White: White vomit is usually foamy, and unfortunately, this can indicate both a minor issue, such as gastroenteritis, and an emergency medical situation, such as gastric dilatation-volvulus.
- Green vomit: If the vomit looks bright green or teal, it could be because your dog ate rodent poison.
- Yellow vomit (or green): This indicates the presence of bile and your dog's empty stomach is irritated.
- Bright red vomit: Vomit that looks like fresh blood can be due to many things, including inflammation of your dog's stomach, an ulcer, poisoning, a foreign body, or a viral condition, such as parvovirus.
- Light or dark brown vomit: This could indicate many things. Your dog could have been eating dirt or animal poop (a condition known as coprophagia), or it could be a sign of chocolate ingestion or an intestinal blockage.
- Dark brown, deep red, or black vomit: These colors may look like coffee grounds and are cause for concern because it could indicate that your dog has digested blood.
Common causes of a dog vomiting
Just like with humans, the most minor causes of a dog's vomiting could be due to an upset digestive system. This could happen because your dog ate spoiled food or something that didn't agree with their stomach. An abrupt change in dog food can also cause vomiting. It could also be due to intestinal parasites, which could be diagnosed by your veterinarian with a fecal sample from your dog.
Vomiting could also be due to a food allergy or either a bacterial or viral infection. To diagnose these, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests or a food trial to pinpoint the issue. Depending on the outcome, your dog may need to be fed a special diet, or your dog may need medication to treat the condition.
Other causes of a dog vomiting
Some causes of vomiting can be quite serious. This includes an intestinal obstruction, which could occur if your dog ate something that got stuck in their intestine. It can also indicate conditions such as pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is especially common in small breeds, like Yorkshire terriers and miniature schnauzers, and it can be fatal if not treated quickly enough. Chronic pancreatitis can even cause your dog to develop diabetes.
Vomiting may also be caused by other underlying conditions. Organ dysfunctions, such as liver disease or kidney failure, are one underlying cause that may be possible. In some cases, vomiting may also be due to cancer. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a blood and/or urine test if they suspect that any of these conditions may be the cause of your dog's vomiting.
How to tell the difference between a dog vomiting or regurgitating
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine whether your dog is vomiting or regurgitating. When a dog vomits, it is an active process that includes heaving and retching. Your dog may also display signs of nausea before the vomiting episode begins or between vomiting episodes. When a dog regurgitates, they may cough, but there won't be any retching or heaving, and your dog will be able to get out the undigested food or bile more easily.
Regurgitation can produce a green or yellow liquid that may resemble vomit. Your dog may be regurgitating due to a condition like acid reflux, which is more common in dogs with kidney disease. Your dog may also regurgitate green or yellow bile that is produced by the liver. This could happen if your dog hasn't eaten in a while or if they've consumed a large quantity of fatty food, grass, or water.
Reasons a dog might have green vomit
If your dog likes to munch on grass outdoors, it could result in green vomit. When this is the cause, you will probably see pieces of grass in their vomit because grass is not easy for dogs to digest. Green vomit can also indicate bile from the dog's liver, which might be due to an empty stomach or acid reflux.
Even if your dog did throw up grass, there's no harm in calling your veterinarian to let them know. Sometimes, if your dog is eating grass and showing signs of stomach upset, it could be due to a medical problem. Some causes could include gastric reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or inflammation of the pancreas.
Treatments for vomiting in dogs
In most cases, if your dog is vomiting, the best thing you can do is withhold food for up to 24 hours and call your veterinarian for further instructions. However, if you have a puppy who is vomiting or your dog is diabetic, you should not withhold food unless your veterinarian has told you to do so. When you call your veterinarian, be prepared to tell them about your dog's routine in the last day or two, what your dog eats, and anything that has recently changed in their routine.
If your veterinarian asks you to bring in your dog for an exam, there are a few things that you can expect. The veterinarian will likely palpate your dog's abdomen to look for any sign of abdominal pain, bloat, or anything else unusual. Based on the information that you provide and your dog's health history, the veterinarian may also want to run some tests. This could include a blood test, urine test, X-rays, ultrasounds, and even exploratory surgery.
It's important to understand that some medical conditions may lead to occasional vomiting that cannot be completely resolved. After diagnosing the health problem, your veterinarian can let you know what symptoms you can expect from your dog in the future. In cases where occasional vomiting is to be expected, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medications or a specific diet that will help reduce your dog's symptoms.
The bottom line
Any time your dog throws up, it is very important to monitor your dog and consult your veterinarian. You should monitor the frequency, consistency, and color of your dog's vomit. If your dog has displayed any other symptoms, such as weight loss or loss of appetite, you should let your veterinarian know. Based on your dog's past health issues and the information you give them, your veterinarian can determine which diagnostics your dog might need.