Kidney Failure & Yellow Vomit in Dogs

By Cate Burnette

Kidney failure in dogs is an incurable, progressive disease that commonly affects other organs and systems in the dog’s body. Toxins that are no longer being eliminated by the kidneys will accumulate in the dog’s brain, heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract and cause symptoms that are both painful and life-threatening. When the dog’s liver and gallbladder become toxic, the animal may begin uncontrollable vomiting of a yellow liquid that can become a veterinary emergency.

Disease Symptoms

Dog drinking water

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Kidney failure, one of the most commonly diagnosed canine diseases, can be described as acute or chronic. Acute kidney failure occurs suddenly and symptoms can develop in a matter of days. Chronic kidney failure worsens over time with slowly progressive symptoms. A dog in renal failure may drink to excess and urinate more than usual. Dogs may become anorexic (unwilling or unable to eat food) and become lethargic and depressed. Dogs can begin vomiting, have diarrhea and develop ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue and gums.

Causes of Yellow Vomit

Dog with bad breath

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In the latter stages of kidney failure, pet owner may notice a foul, metallic smell to the dog’s breath due to the accumulation of toxins and nitrogen in the dog’s bloodstream. This process, called uremia, indicates other systems in the dog’s body are showing the effects of toxicity. Many dogs will show signs of heart failure and develop hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias. They may become anemic, have difficulty breathing and show signs of neurological disorders. Gastrointestinal disturbances may include toxicities of the gall bladder and the liver–and cause the bile ducts to malfunction. If this occurs, yellow bile that is produced in the liver, stored in the gallbladder and delivered to the small intestine for help in digestion may be diverted to the stomach and cause nausea and vomiting.


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By the time uremia is noted in dogs with renal failure, veterinary treatment is normally designed to decrease the symptoms of renal disease and increase kidney function. Dogs may be placed on subcutaneous or intravenous fluids with added supplements of electrolytes and needed nutrients. If the animal is anemic, veterinarians may recommend a hormone called epoetin that forces bone marrow to produce red blood cells. Dogs with gastrointestinal symptoms may receive sucralfate, a medicine that reduces nausea and vomiting; and many vets will recommend they be placed on a bland diet low in sodium and protein.


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Veterinarians and dog owners will need to determine the underlying cause of renal failure in order to provide the appropriate treatment. Sepsis, dehydration, malnutrition and exposure to nephrotoxic drugs (poisonous to the kidney) are all possible causes in kidney failure. Older dogs are particularly susceptible to this disease. Dog owners also need to consider that they may be required to give the animal subcutaneous fluids at home on a daily basis; they can be taught this technique in the vet clinic.


Owner with dog at vet

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The prognosis for dogs diagnosed with kidney failure is poor; most kidney failure is not symptomatic until 75 percent of the kidney is dysfunctional beyond repair. Treatment is mostly intended to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life of the animal. Inevitably, owners may need to consult with the veterinarian about using euthanasia as a humane and loving option.