No dog owner likes to see their beloved pet getting sick. Watching your dog experience a bout of vomiting can be stressful, especially if it comes out of nowhere. It can be even more unsettling when you notice that your dog's vomit is yellow.
Gross as it may be, your dog's vomit can take on a variety of colors. Brown, green, and yellow are just some possibilities. Plus, a dog throwing up yellow vomit is more common than you might think. If you see yellow in your dog's vomit, it means that the vomit contains bile.
There are several possible reasons why a dog would throw up vomit that contains bile. Some of these are greater causes for concern than others. Let's explore why your dog is throwing up yellow vomit and what you can do to address the problem.
What Is Bile, Exactly?
Before answering the question of why your dog is throwing up yellow bile, let's tackle an even more basic one: What is bile?
Bile is a yellow-greenish digestive juice produced by the liver and stored in your dog's gallbladder. The gallbladder releases bile into the small intestines, where it mixes with food to start digesting it. Basically, bile breaks food into smaller particles, which allows the body to absorb its nutrients.
Bile is a perfectly normal part of your dog's digestive process. So why does it sometimes end up in your dog's vomit? And is it a cause for concern?
Why Do Dogs Throw Up Yellow Bile?
There are plenty of causes of vomiting in general, from diseases like distemper and parvovirus to parasitic infestations and eating garbage. But when a dog is throwing up yellow bile, we can narrow the possible causes. Let's take a look at some of the possible causes of vomiting up bile.
Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
One of the most common causes of a dog throwing up yellow vomit is a condition known as bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS). If your dog has randomly produced some yellow foam or liquid, seemingly out of nowhere, this is likely the cause.
Bilious vomiting syndrome occurs when the bile in your dog's small intestine backs up through the sphincter muscle into Fido's stomach. The bile then irritates the stomach lining, which eventually results in vomiting. It's very similar to acid reflux in humans; the only difference is that BVS happens at a lower point in the digestive system and irritates the stomach lining, not the esophagus.
BVS is more likely to occur on an empty stomach. Your dog's stomach releases bile even if they haven't eaten. So if they go a while without a meal, bile can build up and cause a dog to vomit. A case of BVS might cause a mess, but it's not a serious health issue.
Food allergies or food sensitivities can also cause inflammation in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract (known medically as gastritis). Your canine companion might react to ingredients in their dog food like dairy, beef, chicken, soy, or wheat.
Typically, other symptoms accompany vomiting in the case of a food allergy. A dog with an irritated, inflamed GI tract will often demonstrate a loss of appetite or diarrhea, and food allergies could also cause itchiness, scratching, or even hair loss.
You can help to build your dog's natural defense against allergens by giving them an allergy supplement like Native Pet's air-dried Allergy Chicken Chews. These chews provide an all-natural antihistamine and can even help with long-term immune system support.
It's a safe bet that your dog has eaten something they shouldn't have at some point. Foreign object ingestion is another possible cause of your dog throwing up yellow bile.
When your dog swallows an object they shouldn't — a sock, a plastic toy, a rock, etc. — it eventually gets stuck. This leads to a blockage in the stomach or intestinal tract, and vomiting bile sometimes results. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weakness, and straining to produce a bowel movement.
An intestinal blockage is a serious condition and can quickly become a medical emergency. If you know or suspect your dog ate a foreign body of some kind, rush them to the vet's office for help.
Acute pancreatitis is another possible — and dangerous — cause of a dog throwing up yellow bile. It usually occurs when a dog eats a lot of food that's high in fat, like fatty meat. Too much fatty food in the diet, especially all at once, leads to inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis.
In addition to bilious vomiting, symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include a severe upset stomach and diarrhea. Your dog may be lethargic, and it will be easy for them to become dehydrated because of the fluid loss. If you see these symptoms in your dog, take them to the veterinarian's office immediately.
Other gastrointestinal problems could also lead to a dog vomiting bile. They include things like:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD refers to chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract. The cause often isn't known for sure, but it could relate to diet or bacterial or parasitic infection in some dogs. Symptoms can include chronic vomiting, diarrhea, poor appetite, and weight loss.
- Liver disease: Liver disease can be brought on by age, genetics, infection, certain medications, and other issues. In addition to vomiting bile, symptoms can include diarrhea, jaundice, lethargy, blood in the urine or feces, and weight loss.
- Intestinal parasites: Some dogs vomit when they are infected with an intestinal parasite such as Giardia or roundworms, and the vomit could contain yellow bile.
- Stomach ulcers: An ulcer in the stomach could make your dog vomit, and it could contain bile or stomach acid.
Most of the time, if one of the above gastrointestinal issues is to blame, you'll notice other symptoms along with the vomiting. If you spot lethargy, appetite loss, diarrhea, weight loss, or yellowing of the skin, eyes or gums (jaundice), tell your veterinarian immediately.
How Should I Deal With My Dog's Vomiting?
Your dog is throwing up yellow vomit. What do you do?
If the bout of vomiting only occurs once and your dog seems okay afterward, it's probably a case of bilious vomiting syndrome. This is especially likely if your dog hasn't eaten in several hours or if they're older — BVS is more common in middle-aged and older dogs. Keep an eye on your dog for a few hours, and let your vet know if the vomiting continues. Otherwise, they're probably fine. You can make cases of BVS less likely by feeding your dog smaller meals in regular intervals and more often, rather than one or two big meals per day.
If the vomiting behavior won't stop, you'll want to contact your vet's office for help. Your dog may be reacting to a food allergy, and you might need to work with your vet to perform a food trial. This involves switching out your dog's kibble to determine what ingredient they react to, then avoiding that ingredient moving forward.
Continued vomiting, whether the vomit contains yellow fluid or is "normal," is a cause for concern. It's possible your dog ingested a foreign object, is suffering from a case of pancreatitis, or has a gastrointestinal issue like stomach ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease. You'll need your vet's help to correct these issues, so take your pet to the hospital right away.
Is your dog prone to a sensitive stomach? One thing you can do at home is give them a probiotic like Native Pet's all-natural probiotic for dogs. Our formula can help promote a thriving environment for healthy flora in your dog's gut, making an upset stomach less likely.
What to Do When You Have a Dog Throwing up Yellow Vomit
A dog throwing up yellow vomit isn't as rare as you might think. The yellow color comes from bile, a natural digestive fluid in your dog's gastrointestinal system. Most isolated cases of yellow vomiting are caused by bilious vomiting syndrome (BVM), which isn't a serious health problem if it only happens once in a while.
On the other hand, dangerous and even life-threatening health issues could be behind your dog's vomiting. Pancreatitis, foreign object ingestion, or liver disease are just a few possibilities. That's why you should inform your veterinarian as soon as you're concerned about your dog's vomiting. It's always best to play it safe.
Do you have questions about your dog's diet or their health and wellness needs? Read more articles on the Native Pet blog.