Dog vomit can appear clear, yellow, brown, or white and foamy. If your dog is vomiting white foam, a few potential reasons are indigestion, pancreatitis, foreign body, infectious disease, and more. Repeating vomiting requires action on your part whether it be preventing your dog from eating certain objects or foods, or getting veterinary help to examine your dog's eating history and medical records to determine the specific reason.
Why Do Dogs Vomit White Foam?
There are a few potential reasons why your dog is vomiting white foam. In many cases, your dog has simply tasted or eaten something that led to a stomach upset. Your dog might have been nibbling on grass, licking something with a bad taste, or chewing on something irritating. However, vomiting of any kind can indicate a more serious illness, especially if the vomiting occurs frequently.
- Indigestion (often due to dietary indiscretion)
- Acid reflux
- Other gastrointestinal inflammation
- Gastrointestinal obstruction
- Toxin exposure
- Infectious disease
- Rabies (rare)
- Bloat (this in an emergency; go to the nearest open vet if your dog has a distended abdomen, seems restless or painful, or keeps looking at their abdomen)
White, foamy vomit is often caused by excessive production and swallowing of saliva, which can be a symptom of nausea. Ingesting grass, plant material, or other things that are unusual or difficult for a dog to digest can cause vomiting. Toxins can cause GI irritation and worse, often leading to vomiting.
Kennel cough and other upper respiratory problems may cause dogs to cough up foamy white liquid. The material may appear to be vomit but could actually be mucus and fluids from the respiratory system. Or, the dog might have swallowed mucus and fluid from the respiratory issue and be vomiting that up.
Observe your dog—is there heaving? Or, is there retching and coughing, then spitting up of white foam? Either situation requires a vet’s attention, but these details can help your vet make the right diagnosis.
What to Do If Your Dog is Vomiting White Foam
If your dog vomits white foam just one time, there is no need for immediate concern. Watch your dog for weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and other signs of illness. If your dog seems otherwise normal, continue to watch for more vomiting. If the vomiting continues, withhold the next meal and call your vet.
Contact your veterinarian if your dog vomits more than twice in a 24-hour period or if intermittent vomiting continues for more than a day. Also, contact your vet if other signs of illness accompany an episode of vomiting.
Treatment for Vomiting in Dogs
The first step your vet will take is to thoroughly examine your dog. Be sure to provide details to your vet about your dog’s recent and long-term medical history. Include information about anything you suspect your dog might have ingested, like plants, chemicals, or dangerous foods.
Your vet may recommend further diagnostic testing to look for a cause for the vomiting. This may include blood and urine testing, radiographs (X-rays), and ultrasound.
Treatment typically begins by administering anti-nausea medications and gastric protectants. Initial doses are usually given via injection to avoid further vomiting. Dogs with dehydration, pancreatitis, or other health concerns may need hospitalization for intravenous fluids and frequent medication dosing.
If the vomiting was caused by toxin exposure, your vet will follow established medical protocols for treatment. This may also include hospitalization.
If your vet suspects a GI obstruction, then endoscopy or surgery may be needed to remove the cause for the blockage. A hospital stay will be necessary for post-operative care.
If your vet suspects bloat, it is an emergency situation, and action must be taken immediately. This will require decompression of the stomach gasses via gastric lavage (pumping the stomach) and then surgery.
How to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs
The best way to prevent vomiting is to keep your dog away from things he should not eat, lick, or chew. However, there are times when you may not be able to prevent vomiting in your dog. Illnesses can occur with no known cause. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risks.
- Bring your dog to the vet for routine wellness check-ups every year (or more if recommended by your vet).
- Feed a healthy diet and keep treats to a minimum.
- Prevent your dog from chewing on grass, plants and sticks.
- Keep objects that may become foreign bodies out of reach of your dog. Some dogs will be happy to eat anything they find on the floor. Get to know your dog’s habits and proceed accordingly.
- Keep plants, chemicals, human food, and any other toxins out of reach.
Remember to contact your veterinarian in the early signs of illness; delaying can only make things worse. When in doubt, head to the nearest open vet office.