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what it means when your dog vomits

Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog Vomiting

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.

4 minute read

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!  

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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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