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What does the color of my dogs vomit mean?

Why is my dog throwing up?

Even a healthy pup can puke sometimes, but it’s better to be safe and figure out exactly what is causing your dog’s nausea.

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Updated March 28, 2023

  • Signs to visit the vet
  • Common & chronic causes
  • What color is it?
  • Home treatments
  • How to prevent acute vomiting
  • Frequently asked questions

There are many reasons why your pup could be throwing up. And while it can be a fairly common symptom in dogs, it could also be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition. This is why it’s important to determine early on if they should be seen by a vet.

Signs you should take your dog to the vet immediately

If your dog is vomiting multiple times in one day or for more than one day in a row, they need immediate vet attention. You should also seek veterinary care if your dog shows the following symptoms accompanied by vomiting:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in frequency of urination
  • Change in thirst
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Unusual or severe lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Pale or white gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Think your dog swallow something poisonous? Call the Animal Poison Control Center.

Sometimes vomiting in dogs is normal

There are cases where vomiting can be somewhat normal for dogs. It’s not unusual for pups to want to rid their GI tract of something harmful or unwanted that they may have eaten. This is usually seen as a one-off vomit and no other symptoms, with your dog acting relatively normal the whole time. It’s also common for a dog to throw up after eating too much or too quickly, known as regurgitation.

Common causes of vomiting in dogs

  • Consuming improper foods. Garbage, fatty foods, table scraps
  • Dog bloat. Air-filled stomach cuts off blood from the hind legs and abdomen
  • I ngesting foreign objects. Bones, rubber balls, stones, hair, sticks
  • Intestinal parasites. Roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms
  • Viral infections. Distemper, parvovirus , coronavirus
  • Bilious vomiting syndrome. Vomiting bile due to excess stomach acids in the mornings or evenings
  • Diseases. Diabetes, cancer, stomach ulcers
  • Ingesting poison. Rat poison, antifreeze, pesticides, household drugs (like acetaminophen and aspirin)
  • Motion sickness. Overwhelming unusual stimuli in a moving vehicle causing nausea
  • Stress, excessive excitement, or anxiety. Muscles can tense or heart rate can accelerate and the body reacts to the unusual feelings
  • Bug bites. Having an allergic reaction to a tick bite, ant bite, bee sting, etc.

Along with the above, acute and sudden vomiting in dogs may also be a symptom of:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Diet change
  • Medication reaction
  • Heat-stroke

Causes of chronic vomiting in dogs

Usually, a dog who vomits once but proceeds to act normally otherwise will recover without problem. However, it is strongly recommended that chronic vomiting, or vomiting accompanied by additional symptoms, is evaluated by your veterinarian in order to rule out potentially dangerous underlying causes.

Chronic vomiting in dogs may be a symptom of a variety of conditions, including:

  • Infectious diseases (ex. tick-borne diseases)
  • Dietary allergies
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Metabolic disease (such as kidney or liver failure, pancreatitis, diabetes, Addison’s disease , etc)
  • Cancer

If vomiting continues on an ongoing basis, it’s important to have your dog seen by a vet to determine possible underlying causes.

What does the look and color of vomit mean?

We know it’s gross to look at, but the color of your dog’s vomit can provide some clarity on what could be going on inside their body or whether there’s an underlying issue to be concerned about. That being said, any of the conditions we mentioned above can cause vomit to be any number of colors, so you can’t rely on color as the only gauge of what could be going on.

Clear mucus. Clear vomit generally consists of saliva or water and may include a foamy substance. In most circumstances, the dog may have drunk too much water or drank too quickly. Your pup also could have eaten something clear that couldn’t be digested. Dogs with post nasal drip from an upper respiratory infection or have kennel cough may also vomit clear mucus.

White (usually white foam). Typically this is foam, which could be nothing or could be gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV or bloat), a serious medical emergency condition. Bloat is rapidly progressive and life-threatening, owners need to head to an emergency vet immediately. On a less serious side, it could also be caused by gastritis. It usually includes bits of grass, especially if your dog hasn’t eaten in a while. They could vomit two or three times, but otherwise, be normal.

Yellow. Vomit that’s yellow or green usually contains bile, a substance that is produced by the liver and that assists with the digestive process. Sometimes dogs will occasionally vomit bile if they go too long without eating or if they are vomiting on an empty stomach.

Bright green or teal. Your dog may have eaten rodent poison and you need to call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Bright red . Bright-red vomit indicates that your dog is vomiting blood. This can be a signal of gastrointestinal diseases, inflammation of the stomach (gastroenteritis), a traumatic injury, or ingestion of poisons. A small amount of blood isn’t usually an emergency, but you should still make your vet aware.

Dark brown or black . Dark-red, dark-brown, black vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds can mean your dog is vomiting digested blood, which changes the color from bright red to dark.

If your dog is vomiting like this, it can be a sign of stomach ulcers, an intestinal blockage, or another serious condition and they should be seen by a vet.

Light to dark brown. Brown vomit can be anything from chocolate ingestion , mud or dirt ingestion, an intestinal blockage, or even poop ingestion. Chocolate and an intestinal blockage are emergencies and should be seen by a vet immediately. If your dog has eaten mud or dirt, it’s typically not an emergency. Coprophagia, or poop-eating, isn’t an emergency but should be discouraged because your pup could pick up a disease by doing it.

Difference between throwing up and regurgitating

It’s important to determine whether your dog is actually vomiting or if they’re regurgitating. Vomiting forcefully brings food, fluid, and other stomach or intestinal contents up and out. Dogs usually show signs of nausea prior to vomiting, similar to what we do. This could be excessive drooling, heaving, and contractions of the abdomen.

Regurgitation, on the other hand, expels undigested food and fluids — it usually occurs a very short time after eating or drinking (typically within an hour). Signs of regurgitation are difficulty breathing and coughing, and the contents usually look undigested and have the cylindrical shape of their esophagus.

Settling a dog’s upset stomach at home

Here are a few ways to help your pup’s tummy:

Bland diet — Feeding a “blah” diet to your dog makes it easier for them to digest a meal when they have an upset stomach. The most common recipe is 2 cups of cooked white rice mixed with 1 cup of plain, boneless chicken breast, but there are plenty of other options for starches and proteins.

This should be a temporary solution to help your pup’s stomach, it’s important to note that this isn’t a balanced diet for your dog in the long term.

Dietary changes — Give your dog’s stomach a break and have them skip a meal or two while their GI tract heals. They can fast for 24 hours without issue and it could help your pup’s stomach recover more quickly.

Hydration — Wetting your dog’s food or giving them small amounts of bone broth is an easy way to keep your pup hydrated. It’s also good to bring water with you if you travel and to keep your dog’s bowl clean to encourage them to keep drinking. Ice cubes are another good way to hydrate without flooding their stomach with too much water at one time, which could potentially make them feel worse.

Canned Pumpkin — Pumpkin is an excellent remedy for upset stomachs. It has a low glycemic index (meaning it’s absorbed slowly by the body) which can be soothing on a GI tract. Just make sure it’s 100% pure pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which contains a lot of sugar and spices. You can ask your vet for guidelines on how much pumpkin you should give based on your individual dog.

Pepto-Bismol — Pepto-Bismol might help with your dog’s upset stomach and diarrhea, but there are negative side effects that can potentially occur. Pepto-Bismol’s active ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate, can turn your dog’s stool black, which mimics melena (digested blood in the stool) and can cause more concern.

How to prevent your dog from throwing up

There are a few ways to help prevent your dog from acute vomiting, such as:

Avoid dietary changes — Changes to your dog’s diet, whether it’s new treats, a new kibble, or scraps from the table, can greatly affect your dog’s stomach and are commonly the culprit behind a dog’s vomiting.

Avoid dangerous substances — Dogs are notorious for getting into things they shouldn’t. Common household chemicals can be toxic for pets, such as household cleaners, antifreeze, and rodent poisons. Some plants can also be dangerous — it’s always smart to check that any houseplants or garden plants within your dog’s reach are safe and nontoxic.

Avoid indigestible items — Along with dangerous or toxic substances, dogs are known for eating items that their GI tracts can’t digest. Squeaky toys, plastic balls, bones, rawhides, sticks, food wrappers, rocks, socks, underwear, string/yarn/ribbon, and more can all cause intestinal issues and result in vomiting.

Never give your pup rawhides — here are 7 of the best bones that are safe and healthy.

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Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog Vomiting

what it means when your dog vomits

Vomiting is never a fun topic but, as a pet parent, it’s something you’ll probably have to deal with at one time or another. No one likes to see their precious pup feeling poorly, but it’s important to know whether it’s a simple tummy upset or something more serious. From vomiting versus regurgitation to a dog vomit color guide, here’s everything you need to know when your dog vomits.

Is It Vomiting or Just Regurgitation?

First off, it’s important to figure out what exactly your pup is doing. Just because it looks like your dog vomited doesn’t mean she actually did. It could just be regurgitation.

It’s important to know the difference ! Regurgitation usually isn’t a cause for concern, while dog vomiting may mean your furry friend needs a veterinarian’s care.

What Is Regurgitation?

Regurgitation is when the food doesn’t even get to your dog’s stomach before coming back up. If you don’t see your dog’s stomach contract and the food doesn’t look digested, it’s probably just regurgitation.

What Causes Regurgitation?

Regurgitation can happen when your dog eats too much or too quickly. It can also happen when a pup is too excited or stressed out.

How Can You Tell if It’s Vomiting and Not Regurgitation?

There are several signs to watch out for.

First, just like humans get nauseous before they throw up, your dog will probably let you know they’re not feeling well beforehand. If you see your fur friend drooling, swallowing a lot, and licking her lips, she may be feeling nauseous.

If your dog does eventually throw up, any food will be partially digested, and you’ll see her stomach muscles contract (unlike with regurgitation).

If your dog has actually vomited and not just regurgitated, as awful as it sounds, it’s time to take a closer look.

What Does the Color of Dog Vomit Mean?

There are a lot of different colors you may see when your dog throws up. As tempting as it may be to just clean it all up without examining things too closely, the color and type of vomit can help you figure out what’s ailing your canine companion – and if she needs a veterinarian’s help.

Dog Vomit Color Guide

White, foamy : This can be caused by your pup having too much stomach acid or too much saliva.

Yellow: This is most common if your pup’s tummy gets upset on an empty stomach. You’re most likely to see this early in the morning before she’s had a chance to eat.

Clear: This is usually mostly water and is common when your pup’s tummy is so upset they can’t keep water down.

Green: Most often this is due to your dog eating grass (which some dogs do when they feel nauseous). It also can be caused by bile in their stomach.

Red or Pink: If your dog isn’t eating any red kibble or treats, this is most likely caused by blood in the vomit. This is always a cause for concern, and you should take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.

Brown or Black: This can have different causes, so be careful. It could just be the color of their food. It also can mean your dog has eaten soil or poop. However, it can also be caused by traces of blood. If the vomit looks more like coffee grounds, this is usually caused by blood, and you should take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.

Why Is My Dog Vomiting?

Just like with humans, eating something new or something that doesn’t agree with her can make your dog throw up. Add in the fact that dogs often eat things they shouldn’t , and you have a recipe for tummy troubles. Something as simple as motion sickness can also cause your pup to throw up.

If your pup is throwing up over and over or is showing other signs like lethargy and bloating, that’s more alarming and could indicate a bigger underlying problem that needs a veterinarian’s help.

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When Should You Be Concerned About a Dog Throwing Up?

The biggest thing to look out for if your dog is throwing up is frequency .

Did your furry family member have a single unfortunate episode and then go about her business as if nothing happened? Or is she throwing up again and again?

A single tummy upset is likely not a cause for concern.

There are warning signs you should watch out for, though. Contact your veterinarian if your dog:

  • tries to throw up but can’t
  • is lethargic
  • vomits up a foreign object, like a piece of plastic or cloth
  • is projectile vomiting
  • vomits blood
  • is peeing less or showing other signs of dehydration
  • can’t hold down any water
  • refuses all food
  • has a swollen or bloated abdomen

If your dog is a puppy, a senior dog, or a dog with underlying medical conditions, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian whenever they are vomiting, even if they don’t have any additional warning signs.

How to Treat Vomiting in Dogs

Your dog’s treatment will depend on what’s causing her vomiting. Vomiting isn’t a disease itself – it’s only a symptom. That’s why it’s important to figure out what’s causing the vomiting.

If your pup decided to race around the house right after a big meal and then threw up, you probably don’t need to do anything at all. The same is true if it was caused by eating something that didn’t agree with her.

There are many tests your veterinarian can do when your dog’s vomiting isn’t caused by something obvious. If your dog’s tummy woes are caused by inflammation or irritation in her digestive system, your veterinarian may prescribe a bland diet and possibly anti-nausea medicine.

Some causes may require more extensive care. For example, if your pup has become dehydrated or if the vomiting is caused by an underlying medical condition , they may need to be hospitalized. Vomiting caused by eating a plastic toy or another item could require surgery.

Especially if your pup is a chewer or has a habit of getting into things they’re not supposed to, you may want to consider pet insurance to cover those veterinary costs. Personally, I use Healthy Paws Pet Insurance for my pets’ unexpected problems.

The Tail End

No one likes to deal with vomit, but it can let you know your pup’s been into something they shouldn’t, or it can be a warning sign of a more serious medical condition. By recognizing the difference, pup parents can know how best to help their furry friends stay happy and healthy for many years to come.

Would you like to know more about how to enjoy your best life together with your dog? Then download your free ebook below!

Bond with your dog. Download the free guide.

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Kristen Levine

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She’s helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She’s also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean — to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

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