No one wants to see—or hear—their dog throwing up, but unfortunately, an occasional attack of vomiting is just part of pet ownership. It's not uncommon for dogs to vomit, especially dogs that are fond of eating scraps from the trash or odd items they find on the ground. Not surprisingly, this can lead to stomach upset, which is usually relieved by throwing up the offending object. However, there are other reasons why your dog might be vomiting, and particularly vomiting yellow bile.
A dog may be throwing up yellow bile because its stomach is empty and gastric acids are irritating the stomach lining. But, it can also be a yellow foreign object or substance your dog may have ingested, so it's important to not dismiss yellow bile as a sign of hunger. Some plausible reasons for yellow bile are bilious vomiting syndrome, indigestion, liver disease, and more.
If your dog just throws up once and otherwise appears fine, it's usually nothing to worry about. However, if your dog shows other signs of illness, such as lethargy, lack of appetite, diarrhea, or continued attacks of vomiting, it's a good idea to contact your veterinarian.
Here are some of the common reasons why dogs throw up yellow bile, as well as treatments and prevention of vomiting.
Why Do Dogs Vomit Yellow Bile?
Yellow-colored vomit generally consists of stomach acids and bile. Stomach acids are produced in the stomach lining to aid in digestion. Bile is a fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The bile enters the duodenum (a section of the small intestine located just past the stomach) to further assist with digestion.
When dogs vomit yellow liquid, it may simply be that the stomach is empty of food. Gastric acids can irritate the stomach lining when it's not buffered by food, causing the dog to vomit. This explains why some dogs will throw up when they are especially hungry. However, there are other problems that can make dogs vomit, so don't dismiss your dog's yellow vomit just yet.
Note that yellow liquid may not just be stomach acid and bile; it may be that your dog ate something yellow in color and cannot digest it.
There are numerous reasons why your dog is vomiting yellow bile. In many cases, vomiting resolves on its own and is little cause for concern. However, vomiting of any kind can indicate a more serious illness, especially if the vomiting occurs frequently.
Dogs are prone to eating things that really shouldn't qualify as food. If your dog ate something spoiled or overly rich from the trash, grazed on grass, devoured something unpleasant off the ground, or managed to eat from the cat's litter box, the result can be a bout of vomiting. Occasionally, that vomit will contain foamy yellow bile. This is generally a self-limiting event, unless your dog continues to eat things it shouldn't.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a part of the digestive system. It usually occurs after a dog eats an especially rich, fatty meal. Along with vomiting yellow bile, your dog will usually have diarrhea and appear to be in severe pain. Pancreatitis requires a visit to the veterinarian for advice and treatment.
A dog can get an intestinal blockage by eating a foreign object, such as a toy, bone, or scrap of fabric. Initially, the dog will vomit out whatever food was in its stomach, but once the stomach is empty, the dog may vomit out yellow bile. Your dog will likely also appear to be in pain, act weak or lethargic, lose its appetite, and may be unable to pass stool. Intestinal blockages often require surgery, although occasionally the veterinarian can remove the blockage with an endoscope passed through the throat into the animal's stomach.
Sometimes a dog will throw up yellow bile after eating a toxin, such as chocolate, medications, or toxic plants. There will usually be other symptoms, including shivering or trembling, weakness, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or intestinal pain. Should your dog show these symptoms, and especially if you suspect it ate something toxic, call your veterinarian immediately.
Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
Also called reflux gastritis, bilious vomiting syndrome is a fairly common cause of vomiting, particularly in older dogs. Typically, dogs with this condition vomit yellow bile in the morning before they have a chance to eat breakfast, but act normally after eating. The condition is caused by stomach irritation due to bile. It can often be prevented by feeding the dog a small meal before bedtime, and providing breakfast right away in the morning so the dog doesn't have an empty stomach for long. If that doesn't help, your vet might prescribe an antacid.
A dog with a systemic illness, such as kidney or liver disease, Addison's disease, or other chronic conditions, might vomit bile due to digestive disturbance or nausea brought on by the condition. Your veterinarian can advise on the best ways to handle these types of health conditions.
What to Do If Your Dog is Vomiting Yellow Bile
If your dog vomits yellow bile just once, there is no need for alarm. Watch your dog for lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness, and other signs of illness. If your dog seems otherwise normal, watch for more vomiting. If the vomiting continues, skip your dog’s next meal and continue to observe. Offer the next scheduled meal after skipping one and continue to watch for vomiting and other signs of illness. If the vomiting continues, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.
Contact your veterinarian if your dog vomits more than two times within a 24-hour period or if daily vomiting continues for several days. In addition, contact your vet if other signs of illness appear.
Treatment for Vomiting in Dogs
Your veterinarian will first perform a thorough examination of your dog. Talk to your vet about your dog’s recent and long-term medical history. Include information about current medications and diet. Remember to share information regarding anything you think your dog might have eaten, such as plants, chemicals, or dangerous foods.
Your vet may recommend diagnostic tests to look for the source of the vomiting. This usually means may include blood and urine testing, radiographs (X-rays), and possibly ultrasounds.
Treatment usually starts with the administration of anti-nausea medications, antacids, and/or GI protectant drugs. Where possible, the first doses may be given via injection to avoid further vomiting. Continuous vomiting frequently results in dehydration, and fluid therapy is often recommended. Subcutaneous fluids or intravenous fluids are recommended based on the severity of dehydration. Severe dehydration and other concerns like pancreatitis, systemic illness, and infectious diseases may require hospitalization. Dogs generally get intravenous fluids and frequent medication dosing while being observed in the hospital.
If the vomiting is a result of poisoning, your vet will follow recommended treatments for the specific toxin. This may also call for hospitalization.
If your vet suspects a GI obstruction, then the next step may be surgery or endoscopy to explore the GI tract and remove the obstruction. A hospital stay will be needed for post-operative care.
How to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs
The best way to prevent vomiting is to keep your dog away from items he should not eat, lick, or chew. Of course, sometimes there is no way to prevent vomiting in your dog since many illnesses occur with no known cause.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to minimize the risks of vomiting in dogs.
- Bring your dog to the vet for routine wellness check-ups every year (or more if recommended by your vet).
- Feed a proper diet and keep treats to a minimum.
- Keep plants, chemicals, human food, and any other toxins out of reach.
- Monitor your dog while they are playing with chew toys, especially if it likes to destroy them.
- Prevent your dog from licking, chewing, and eating dangerous things.
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.