Dog Vomiting: Color Guide, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Reviewed By Holly Anne Hills BVM BVS BVMedSci •  Updated: 04/17/23 •  5 min read
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Seeing your dog unwell is never easy and watching them throw up can be rather unpleasant and worrying. Often, vomiting is completely benign and a one-off episode, but it can also be a sign of a more significant health issue. Understanding what’s causing the vomiting, and what different types of vomit mean can help you decide when to head to the vet and the most appropriate way to treat your dog and get them back to their usual self.

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Dog Vomiting

Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

Dogs vomit for a huge range of reasons, and it can be something as simple as eating too fast or as serious as eating something poisonous. And it may be a one-off episode or a regular or even chronic problem. Understanding what causes dogs to vomit and when to contact the vet is really important to ensure that your dog gets the right treatment as soon as possible.

If your dog has vomited more than once in a day, or for more than 24 hours, or if the vomit is red, brown, black, or contains partially chewed objects or plant material, then you’ll need to get your dog checked by their usual vet.

Some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs are:

Diagnosis for Vomiting in Dogs

Finding the cause of your dog’s vomiting will start off with an initial examination – the vet will want to feel your dog’s abdomen and check their temperature and their hydration status to get an idea of whether they have a fever or any pain or if they’re dehydrated. This can indicate the severity of the problem and can sometimes help pinpoint where the problem is.

The vet will also need to know from you how often your dog has been sick, the color and consistency of the vomit when it started, and about their recent diet. If you can, it’s very useful if you can take photos of the vomit!

Depending on what the vet finds from the history you give them and their examination, they may want to carry out further tests. This might include blood tests, fecal tests, or imaging. X-rays and ultrasounds can give us a lot more useful information and are useful when looking for obstructions, tumors, pancreatitis, liver, gallbladder, and kidney problems. Sometimes endoscopy can be useful to look at the inside of the stomach and its lining.

It’s important to do these diagnostic tests to ensure that your dog receives the right treatments to ensure they get back to their usual selves as quickly as possible.

Dog Vomit Color Guide

The color of your dog’s vomit can tell you a lot about what’s causing it (and what they’ve eaten recently!), as well as give you a good idea of how concerned you should be and when to see a vet. It’s also really helpful for your vet if you take note of the color and consistency of your dog’s vomit, or even better you can take a photo to show them.

There isn’t really a particular color or consistency that a dog’s vomit ‘should’ be, as it will always vary with the cause. We’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand why your dog’s vomit looks a certain way, and when you should be concerned. But if you’re ever in doubt, you should always contact your usual veterinarian for advice.

ColorCausesWhat To Do
White VomitWhite foamy vomit is often associated with tummy bugs. You might notice grass in there too if your dog feels nauseous and has been eating grass.

White foam can also sometimes be brought up from excessive coughing due to kennel cough. It can also be a symptom of bloat - a serious and life-threatening condition where the stomach becomes twisted, and your dog is unable to bring up the contents of the stomach.
Small amounts of white vomit are usually nothing to be too concerned about, especially if your dog continues to behave as normal. But if they continue to repeatedly bring up white vomit or have other symptoms such as a cough or bloated tummy, you should contact your vet and get them checked over as soon as possible.
Yellow VomitYellow vomit is usually caused by bile and usually happens when your dog vomits on an empty stomach. It often happens as a one-off but can be more frequent with certain problems such as liver disease.If your dog brings up yellow vomit as a one-off and has no other symptoms, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if it’s happening regularly, it’s important to get your dog seen by a vet.
Green VomitGreen vomit is usually caused by bile or eating grass, but can also indicate liver or gallbladder problems.In small amounts or as a one-off, green vomit is nothing to be too worried about. But if it continues to occur, you’ll need to speak to your vet.
Red VomitProbably the most alarming color of vomit - red usually indicates blood.

Bright red, or fresh blood, usually indicates something more serious such as a stomach ulcer or poisoning.

Dark red blood means the blood has been in your dog’s stomach for some time.

Sometimes blood can be from other places - such as the mouth, teeth, or throat. Sometimes flecks of blood can be seen after repeated vomiting due to irritation of the throat.
Bloody or red vomit is always a cause for concern, and you should speak to your vet as soon as possible.
Dark Brown VomitBrown is quite a common color for dog vomit, as a lot of dog foods are brown in color. It can also be caused by other things that dogs eat out and about on walks.

Check the smell - does it smell of feces? If so, this is a concern. If it smells like chocolate - this is a sign that your dog has got their paws on some chocolate which is of course toxic to dogs.
If your dog has brown vomit that smells of feces, then this can be a sign of a gastric obstruction. Brown vomit that smells of chocolate usually means they’ve ingested chocolate. Both of these are reasons to get your dog straight to the vet.
Black VomitBlack vomit is rare but can be caused by the ingestion of dirt or mud. But it can also be caused by digested blood - once partially digested by stomach acid, blood can have a very dark appearance. Take a closer look if your dog brings up black vomit - if it has the appearance of coffee granules or looks more brown or dark red then you should speak to your vet as this is more likely to be bloody vomit.

Treatment for Vomiting in Dogs

How to treat your dog’s vomiting will depend entirely on the cause, and how long it’s been going on.

For mild tummy upsets and suspected tummy bugs, your vet will usually prescribe anti-emetics to stop any further vomiting, gastro protectants to protect the stomach lining, and a bland diet. In some cases of vomiting antibiotics, fluids, pain relief, and even surgery may be needed. Parasitic infections need to be treated appropriately with the right worming products.

Home Remedies

Before giving your dog any home remedies it’s essential to speak to your vet first to ensure that it’s appropriate. You should never give your dog medicine of any kind without seeking veterinary advice first, and you should never under any circumstances give your pet human medicines.

But one of the best things you can do at home for your poorly vomiting dog is to feed them a bland diet. Vets will usually recommend this alongside anti-sickness medication. This helps the digestive system to recover and is easy for your dog to digest. Usually, a bland diet consists of plain cooked white rice and either plain cooked white fish or chicken. Some dogs like mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs too! You should feed a bland diet until your dog’s vomiting has resolved and a few days after to ensure their tummy is back to normal.

Conclusion

Vomiting can be caused by a huge range of problems from minor to more serious, and the color and consistency of your dog’s vomit can give an indication as to the underlying cause. If your dog has been vomiting consistently throughout the day, for several days, or it is a chronic issue then you should contact your vet and get them checked over. If you suspect your dog has eaten something poisonous, or an object that may be stuck then they need to see a vet as soon as possible. You should always speak to your vet before treating your dog with anything other than a bland diet and always follow their advice on treatment.

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Holly Anne Hills BVM BVS BVMedSci

This article has been reviewed and approved by an independent Veterinarian: After graduating from the University of Nottingham, Holly spent two years working as a farm animal vet. She then spent some time traveling and volunteering in India, working at neutering clinics and with injured street dogs. Holly now works in small animal practice, and balances this with writing, volunteering with the comms team at Vet Sustain, and she is also a marine mammal medic!