Skip to main content

Dog throwing up white foam: A vet's guide to causes and treatment

dog throwing up white foam: dog sick
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A dog throwing up white foam is certainly a sight that's sure to cause alarm in pet owners. Alongside the initial clean-up of slimy piles, and the worry over your dog's welfare, you're sure to be wondering exactly why your dog is throwing up white foam and what you can do to help them. 

While it's easy to immediately look to their dietary habits and question whether you've fed the best type of dog food that meets your canine's requirements or a dodgy human snack, there are a lot of reasons why a dog may vomit, and it is essential to get to the bottom of the problem so your vet can prescribe appropriate treatment for your dog.  

Before you reach for home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, read on to learn more about the importance of seeing your veterinarian to address your dog’s vomiting issue.

Why is my dog throwing up white foam? 

There are a number of reasons why dogs vomit, including vomiting white foam.  Your dog may have eaten something that didn’t agree with his digestive system, particularly if he ate something outside of his normal diet. Vomiting can also be a sign of a number of underlying medical conditions, including:

  •  Gastroesophageal reflux (similar to heartburn) 
  •  Inflammatory bowel disease 
  •  Gastroenteritis 
  •  Pancreatitis 
  •  Foreign body 
  •  Intestinal obstruction 
  •  Parasite infection 
  •  Toxin exposure 
  •  Other gastrointestinal conditions 

When should you be concerned about your dog throwing up with white foam

As the conditions listed above all have similar symptoms, it’s very important to see your veterinarian right away if your dog’s vomiting lasts for more than 24 hours or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, or other changes in health or behavior.

Diagnosing the cause of vomiting in dogs 

When you bring your dog to the vet for vomiting, the first thing your vet will do is take a thorough history. This will involve asking you several questions about your dog’s recent health and behavior.  

Your veterinarian will then perform a full head-to-tail physical examination, including feeling your dog’s abdomen for any signs of pain or abnormality.  If necessary, your veterinarian may also recommend some additional diagnostic testing, such as radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate your dog’s digestive tract or evaluation of a fecal sample to look for signs of parasites.  

These tests incur an additional cost, but they are necessary to help your veterinarian get to the bottom of your pet’s illness.  Once the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting has been diagnosed, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe an appropriate treatment to help get your dog back to his happy and healthy self again.

Can I treat my dog’s vomiting at home? 

If your dog has been vomiting for more than 24 hours or is exhibiting any of the other symptoms listed above, it’s best not to try to treat your dog’s vomiting at home. Many over-the-counter medications and home remedies are not safe for dogs and could make your dog even sicker. And delays in treatment could have devastating effects on your dog’s health if the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting is something serious. Instead, it’s best to take your dog to your veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and any necessary treatment. 

Treating vomiting in dogs 

The treatment for vomiting in dogs depends on the underlying cause of the vomiting. If your dog simply has an upset stomach from eating something he shouldn’t have – like something smelly he found out in the yard! – then your veterinarian may prescribe a medication for nausea to stop your dog from vomiting.  In many cases, this is all that is needed to stop the vomiting and get your dog back to his usual tail wagging self again!

If your dog’s vomiting is caused by a more severe issue, such as pancreatitis, then hospitalization may be necessary to provide your dog with more intensive care.  Your veterinarian may prescribe treatments such as intravenous fluids (IV fluids), anti-nausea medications, antacids, antibiotics, appetite stimulants, and a bland diet while your pet is in the hospital. 

Although it can be scary to leave your pet in the hospital, quick and aggressive treatment can help your dog get better faster.  When your pet is ready to go home, you may need to make some additional changes to his diet or daily routine to prevent the vomiting from recurring.  Make sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations closely.

Unfortunately, if your dog is vomiting from ingesting a foreign object, then surgery is necessary to remove the obstruction safely.  Your dog will likely need to stay in the hospital for a day or two following the procedure for monitoring and follow-up care.  When your dog goes home, he will likely need to be on antibiotics and pain control medications for several days. You will also need to keep your dog very calm and quiet while he heals from the procedure.

Preventing vomiting in dogs 

If your dog has been vomiting white foam, no doubt you are wondering how to prevent this from happening again in the future. To help prevent your dog from vomiting, feed a healthy diet as recommended by your veterinarian and avoid feeding too many treats.  Avoid any sudden diet changes, which can cause an upset stomach and lead to vomiting.  

Keep household cleaners and chemicals out of reach and be careful to keep your dog away from any areas where they’ve been recently used.  Be sure to take away any broken or shredded toys so that your dog does not ingest small pieces, and keep any other objects your dog likes to chew out of reach.  Finally, keep human foods out of your dog’s reach – especially toxic foods like chocolate, onions, and grapes! 

Vomiting white foam may be more than just an upset tummy 

If your dog has been vomiting white foam, it’s worth visiting your veterinarian to investigate the source of the problem.  While many causes of vomiting can be minor, some can be more serious and can require immediate medical attention.  Your vet can help you get to the bottom of the problem, so you  and your dog can get back to your daily routine! 

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Since obtaining her doctorate in veterinary medicine, Dr. Racine has worked exclusively in small animal general practice. Her work has been featured in blog posts, articles, newsletters, journals, and even video scripts.