As humans, we don’t typically run to the doctor for a single episode of vomiting. We can usually tell when we have a little bug or if something more serious is brewing within us. However, since our pets can’t talk, it’s harder to know what to do when they vomit or how concerned you should be.
Yellow dog vomit, in particular, is a relatively common reason that dogs visit the veterinary clinic. While it could be a benign symptom, there are times when a dog vomiting yellow can indicate a serious underlying condition.
Read on to learn why your dog might be vomiting yellow, what it means when your dog has yellow vomit, how to treat and prevent your dog from throwing up, and when to seek veterinary attention.
Dog Vomiting Yellow: Is It a Cause for Concern?
All dogs, just like all people, will occasionally have an upset stomach and vomit. It can be alarming when it happens, but it’s important to observe your pet for other signs of illness or repeated episodes of throwing up. You should also take note of the color and contents of the vomit.
Yellow vomit typically indicates stomach bile. The yellow coloration is usually very evident if your dog’s stomach was empty when they vomited. If you notice any blood or red-tinge to the vomit, it’s likely a good idea to take your dog to the veterinarian, as this could indicate a stomach ulcer, which can be painful and worsen over time.
If your dog only vomited yellow a single time, it’s okay to wait and observe them for 24 hours, especially if they are still acting like themselves otherwise. Keep an eye out for more vomiting or any other signs of illness like diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, or collapse. If any of these other symptoms are noted, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you can. Do not wait more than 48 hours to seek veterinary care in these instances, as the longer you wait, the worse a condition can become, and the harder (and more expensive) it can be to treat.
Another indication that your dog should see a veterinarian for their yellow vomit is if the vomit happens repeatedly, such as once a day, once a week, or even once a month. It is not normal for a dog to throw up regularly, even if they seem okay otherwise.
Types of Yellow Dog Vomit
Yellow dog vomit doesn’t always look the same. It may appear as:
- Yellow foam
- Yellow mucus
- Watery yellow liquid
Typically, when a dog vomits bile, it will be a small amount of vomit with a yellow foamy appearance. Bile in vomit can also appear like a slimy yellow mucus.
Less frequently, yellow dog vomit can be watery. Typically, watery vomit is seen if your dog drank a lot of water before throwing up. This can still indicate bile, but watery yellow vomit is not as common.
Usually, when a dog vomits bile, it’s linked to an empty stomach, so there will often be little to no kibble or food in your dog’s throw up.
Sometimes, a dog’s throw up is yellow for reasons unrelated to bile. Usually, in these cases it will be more watery and possibly contain grass or another object causing the vomit to be yellow.
Why is My Dog Vomiting Yellow?
When dogs vomit yellow, it is usually caused by bile. Bile is a natural substance that is produced by a dog’s liver and assists with the digestive process. It is stored in the gallbladder and released into the very first part of the small intestine, or the duodenum, just beyond the stomach.
While bile is the most common cause of yellow vomit in dogs, there are some other reasons you may see your dog throwing up yellow. Here are the most common causes:
An Empty Stomach
When your dog’s stomach has been empty for a while, their natural gastric acids begin to irritate the stomach lining, causing your dog to vomit to relieve the irritation. Typically, dogs who are vomiting due to an empty stomach will vomit early in the morning, since they haven’t eaten all night.
If your dog is vomiting simply because they’re hungry and their stomach is empty, it will be an infrequent occurrence. These pets will still have an appetite, and will usually eat readily when you feed them, even moments after vomiting.
Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
Some dogs have a condition in which whenever their stomach is empty, the bile can back up into the stomach. This irritates the stomach and causes the dog to vomit. Dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome often vomit early in the morning or late at night. It typically occurs in younger dogs. These dogs often do not lose their appetite and behave normally otherwise.
This syndrome is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that your dog should see a veterinarian to make sure their vomiting is not a sign of something more serious.
Liver and/or Gallbladder Disease
A disorder or disease of the liver, which produces bile, or the gallbladder, which stores bile, or both, can cause a dog to have repeated episodes of yellow vomit. Dogs with liver disease often do not feel well overall, so other signs of illness might be noticed such as lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice, or weight loss.
Eating Something They Shouldn’t
If your dog ate something they weren’t supposed to, such as stealing food off the counter, rummaging through the trash, or nibbling up something (potentially disgusting) in the backyard, it can irritate their stomach and cause them to vomit until their stomach is empty and bile comes up.
Food Allergies or Dietary Intolerances
Consuming a food, ingredient, or substance that they are allergic to can cause your dog to vomit and yellow bile may be seen. This is usually noticed after switching to a new dog food, or switching foods too quickly. However, allergies and dietary intolerances can develop at any point in a pet’s life. Dogs who are vomiting because of a food allergy or dietary intolerance will typically vomit soon after eating and there will be food or kibble present.
They Ate Something Yellow
Your dog vomiting yellow doesn’t always mean bile. In some situations, they ate yellow grass, food made with yellow dye, or even a yellow object not intended for consumption, like a child’s rubber ducky. In these situations, you will often see the originally yellow ingested object, like blades of grass, in the vomitus, but you might not—especially if the object is too big or heavy to make its way back up the esophagus.
Occasionally, dogs ingest something they cannot digest properly, like socks, toys, large bones, avocado pits, etc. These items are too large to move through your dog’s intestinal tract and become lodged somewhere past the stomach and before the colon. This will cause intestinal secretions, like bile, to back up into the stomach and lead to vomiting. An intestinal obstruction in dogs is a very serious medical emergency. These pets cannot keep anything down, and will even vomit water.
Yellow dog vomit can be a sign or symptom of many major systemic diseases such as pancreatitis, infectious diseases, kidney disease, internal parasites, inflammatory disorders, toxin exposure, cancer, and more. These cases are often, but not always, associated with lethargy, weight loss, and potentially diarrhea.
Treatment for Yellow Dog Vomit
Treating your dog for yellow vomit depends entirely on the cause. In many cases, veterinary care is needed. However, if infrequent episodes of yellow vomit is your dog’s only symptom, and they have no other signs of illness such as diarrhea, weakness, weight loss, or loss of appetite, it’s appropriate to try some home therapy before seeking veterinary care.
The best thing to do for a single episode of yellow vomit in an adult dog is withhold food and water for 12 hours. This will allow the stomach to settle. Offer your pet food after this period and see what happens. If they eat with gusto and go on as usual, you have nothing to worry about. However, if they refuse to eat or if they eat and then vomit, it’s time to go to the vet. It is not recommended to withhold food and water from puppies, as they are at risk of developing dehydration, so they should go to the veterinarian sooner, rather than waiting.
If your dog has repeated, single episodes of yellow vomiting in the morning or late at night, try feeding a late night snack and an earlier breakfast. This will help decrease the interval overnight at which your dog’s stomach is empty. If this change does not work, it’s time to see your veterinarian to rule out more serious diseases.
In all other situations, such as when your dog has vomited multiple times in 24 hours, continues to vomit after 24 hours, or has other signs of illness, veterinary care is necessary.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and review your pet’s history with you. Be sure to tell your veterinarian everything you know about your dog’s medical history, including any medications or supplements they take and any recent changes. It can be very helpful to bring your pet’s medical records to the appointment, and to know exactly what diet they are eating. Be completely honest and straightforward about anything around the house your dog may have eaten.
Using this information and their physical exam findings, your vet may recommend diagnostics such as blood work, urine and fecal testing, and radiographs (X-rays) of the abdomen. From there, they can work on treating the specific disease process or disorder. This may include surgery, medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, gastric acid reducers (like Pepcid), hospitalization and intravenous fluid therapy, deworming, and more.
In more mild cases, especially those in which the dog is generally healthy otherwise, your veterinarian may recommend starting with fluids and injectable anti-nausea medications, and feeding your dog a prescription based bland, easily digestible diet for a few days.
How to Prevent Vomiting in Dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from vomiting is to keep anything they should not eat, lick, or chew out of reach, and to supervise them diligently when they are exploring new areas or playing with toys. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate vomiting entirely as many illnesses occur with no identifiable cause.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to try to reduce the chance that your dog will vomit:
- Make sure your dog has a wellness visit yearly to ensure they are in good health, and consider running routine lab work to catch any diseases or disorders before they manifest into major health concerns.
- Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date to prevent unnecessary infectious diseases.
- Feed a complete and balanced diet and be sure all meat is cooked to proper temperatures before feeding to prevent food borne illnesses.
- Transition slowly to a new diet if switching.
- Limit people food to low-fat, bland (ie. no spices added) fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.
- Keep plants, medications, chemicals, cleaning materials, the trash bin, human food, and any other potential toxins stowed away in a cabinet or closet that your dog cannot open.
- Watch your pet closely when playing with toys, especially if they like to rip things up.
Remember, the sooner a disease or disorder is identified and treated, the better your dog’s prognosis will be and the less expensive it will be to treat it! If your dog is vomiting and you’re unsure what to do, call your nearest or regular veterinarian and ask them for advice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.