Most dogs are sick from time to time, and in many cases, it’s a self-limiting tummy upset that soon resolves. Here we explore the causes of vomiting, what it means if your dog is bringing up yellow bile and when you should seek help.
From mild to severe depending on the underlying cause
Table of Contents
- Yellow bile usually means vomiting on an empty stomach
- There are a variety of different causes for vomiting
- Diagnostics like blood tests and imaging may be needed to work out the cause
- Easy to digest food can help in some cases
Any age or breed of dog
Symptoms and types:
Vomiting yellow bile is quite common and occurs when does have no food left in their stomach to throw up. Therefore, throwing up yellow bile is normally accompanied by other symptoms of stomach upset, including:
- Vomiting, usually seen with abdominal contractions, heaving
- Nausea (drooling, licking lips)
- Decreased appetite
You may see yellow fluid if your dog vomits on an empty stomach, which is the bile that normally aids digestion.
Understanding the diagnostics
Your veterinarian will start with an examination. They will assess your dog’s hydration status, as well as looking for signs of abdominal pain and checking their temperature. If they have concerns about your pet, they may suggest some tests.
- A blood test will often be advised to look at your dog’s kidney parameters, blood sugar, and liver values. Blood work can also check for signs of anemia as well for markers of infection and inflammation in their white blood cells. An additional test called canine-specific lipase may be performed, which assesses for a condition called pancreatitis – a possible cause of vomiting and abdominal pain in dogs.
- Diagnostic imaging may be recommended to screen for foreign bodies (obstructions), and tumors. X-rays give an overall view of your dog’s abdomen, with ultrasound being a way of focusing in on specific organs in more detail. Endoscopy can also be used in vomiting cases, whereby a camera is passed down your dog’s esophagus (food pipe) to look at the inside of the stomach. This technique can also be used to remove foreign bodies sometimes or to take tissue samples for analysis.
Learning about the causes
There are multiple causes of vomiting in dogs which includes the following –
Hypoadrenocorticism is hormonal/endocrine issue that can cause changes in your dog’s electrolyte levels and very severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Cancer could affect the stomach lining creating irritation or ulceration, or it could be because of a mass that has caused a blockage somewhere in the intestines (guts).
Dog’s that raid the garbage bin, eat poop, or discarded food items found on walks could get digestive upset.
A sensitivity to certain food ingredients can irritate your dog’s digestive tract, with some animals requiring special hypoallergenic diets.
Foreign body (obstruction)
Indigestible items, like bedding, toys, bone, or corn-on-the-cobs could become lodged in your dog’s digestive tract causing vomiting
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloating)
An emergency condition where the stomach bloats and then twists on itself called gastric dilatation-volvulus can cause dogs to make repeated attempts to try and vomit but not bring anything up.
Metabolic conditions (such as liver and kidneys)
Problems with kidney or liver function can cause your dog to become nauseous and sick.
Pancreatitis is a serious condition whereby the pancreas (a small organ involved in fat digestion) becomes inflamed and painful.
High numbers of parasites could cause stomach upset, so routine parasite control is advised.
Dogs can suffer from motion sickness caused by traveling in the car, puppies seem to be particularly affected.
Parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis can all cause vomiting. Regularly vaccinating your dog against these diseases is advised.
If your dog has only been sick once or twice you could try feeding them bland easy-to-digest food little and often.
Best treatment options
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting. Mild cases can sometimes be treated with anti-nausea medication and bland food for a few days. If, however, your pet has become dehydrated then they may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids via a drip.
Other treatments could include surgery to remove an obstruction in your dog’s digestive tract, pain relief for pancreatitis, or medication for an underlying endocrine or liver condition.
Home remedies and their effectiveness
If your dog is bright with only a mild tummy upset then you could fast them for a short period (up to 12 hours) followed by small amounts of a bland food such as a commercial sensitivity diet or — in a pinch — cooked chicken, white fish, and boiled rice. Water should never be withheld, however. If your dog is showing any worrying symptoms, then you should always get a veterinarian to check them.
When to see a vet
You should consult a veterinarian if you are worried about your dog, but especially if you see any of the following:
- Your dog has vomited several times
- They seem depressed/lethargic
- If your dog is dehydrated (tenting of the skin when you pinch it, sunken eyes, and pale gums)
- Any blood in the vomit (this may be bright red or could be pink or brown streaks or dots)
- A fever, feeling hot to the touch
- Any abdominal pain or bloating
- If your dog has weakness or collapse
- Seizure episodes
You may see yellow fluid if your dog vomits on an empty stomach, which is the bile that normally aids digestion. This may be more commonly seen overnight or in the early hours of the morning as your dog probably hasn’t eaten for a while.
If your dog is otherwise bright and has only been sick once or twice you could try feeding them bland easy-to-digest food little and often. This includes a specially formulated sensitivity diet, or – in an emergency – cooked chicken, white fish, and white rice.
You should seek help if your dog has been sick multiple times, if they are lethargic, or if they are off their food. Other warning signs include blood in the vomit, abdominal pain, or collapse.
The color of dog vomit can indicate several things. Blood may be seen as a bright red or pink color, or it could be brown/black digested blood. This indicates severe inflammation and you should seek help. Clear fluid may mean your dog is unable to hold water down and is at risk of dehydration, and yellow fluid means vomiting on an empty stomach. White froth or foam is non-specific, but can sometimes be seen when your dog is coughing excessively too, for example when suffering from infectious kennel cough.
Rebecca is a companion animal vet who has always had a passion for writing and client communication. Since her graduation from the Royal Veterinary college in 2009, she has gained a wealth of experience in first opinion small animal practice, in both clinical and managerial roles. She currently works in the South West and deals with a variety of routine and emergency appointments, but particularly enjoys medicine cases. Outside of work and writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her bouncy flat-coated retriever George!