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

dog throwing up yellow foam
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Is your dog throwing up yellow foam? If so, you may be wondering what could have caused it and whether or not it’s something you should worry about.  

Although there are many potential causes of vomiting in dogs, the most important step you can take if your dog is sick is to see your veterinarian for any vomiting that is persistent or accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. To help you determine whether your dog’s vomiting is cause for concern, read on to learn more about throwing up yellow foam and what to do about it.

Why is my dog throwing up yellow foam?

Just like humans, dogs can vomit for dozens of different reasons. Your dog may have eaten something that upset his stomach, caught an infection, or may be experiencing an inflammatory condition.  Some common conditions that can cause a sudden onset of vomiting in dogs include:

  • Gastroenteritis 
  • Dietary indiscretion 
  • Foreign body 
  • Gastric or intestinal obstruction 
  • Pancreatitis
  • Car sickness 
  • Toxin exposure  
  • Other gastrointestinal conditions 
  • Any conditions causing nausea 

Because the symptoms of these conditions can all look alike, it is very important to have the problem diagnosed by your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian is essential to help you identify the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting and determine whether or not the problem is serious enough to warrant medical intervention.  In most cases, your veterinarian will recommend treating the vomiting to help your dog feel better and to prevent complications from the vomiting.

dog sick

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 What do dog vomit colors mean? 

 Unfortunately, the color of your dog’s vomit often gives very little information about the reason why your dog is vomiting.  Dog vomit can be different colors depending on the contents of your dog’s stomach, how recently your dog has eaten, and the presence of bile in the vomit.  

For example, if your dog is vomiting yellow foam, his stomach is likely empty and the yellow color may be caused by bile or stomach acid in the vomited contents.  If the vomit is tinged pink or red, this may indicate the presence of a small amount of fresh blood.  Yellow, brown, or orange vomit can occur due to the presence of partially digested food in the stomach.  Although the color of the vomit can tell us a bit about your dog’s stomach contents, it cannot be used to accurately diagnose the cause of your dog’s vomiting, so it is important to see your veterinarian for a full evaluation.

What to do if your dog throws up yellow foam 

If your dog’s vomiting lasts more than 24 hours or is accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or any other changes in health or behavior, then it is very important to see your veterinarian for an evaluation. 

Some causes of vomiting can be severe or life threatening, so it is necessary to seek veterinary care quickly.  Your veterinarian will perform a full head-to-tail physical examination and may recommend some additional diagnostic testing to help determine what has caused your dog’s vomiting.  These tests may include blood work and radiographs (x-rays) of your dog’s abdomen to evaluate the digestive tract.  In some cases, an underlying cause for the vomiting is identified and treated.  In others, we never know for sure why your dog started vomiting, but the issue resolves with supportive treatment.  

dog lying on sofa

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can I treat my dog’s vomiting at home? 

Although it may be tempting to try to treat your dog’s vomiting at home, this is not recommended.  Many human prescription and over-the-counter medications are often not safe for dogs and may be toxic.  Similarly, home remedies for vomiting may be unsafe or ineffective.  In general, it’s best not to give your dog any medications or home remedies without first consulting your veterinarian for advice.

Treatment for vomiting in dogs 

If an underlying cause for your dog’s vomiting is identified, your veterinarian will recommend a specific treatment to address this problem.  For example, if your dog has ingested a foreign object, surgery may be required to remove the object from the digestive tract and relieve the obstruction.  Other causes of vomiting may require specific prescription medication or a special diet.  Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely and monitor your dog for any changes.

In many cases, no specific cause for the vomiting is ever pinpointed.  These cases are often treated with supportive care only.  This typically includes medications to relieve nausea, antacids to reduce stomach acidity, fluids to rehydrate your dog, pain medications to keep your dog more comfortable, and a bland diet to help settle your dog’s stomach.  Your dog may need treatment for a few days to help get his digestive system back on track.   

Preventing vomiting in dogs 

Is your dog a chronic vomiter?  If so, it’s best to discuss this problem with your veterinarian to find an appropriate diet and treatment regimen to stop your dog from vomiting. If your dog is regularly throwing up yellow foam, this can be a sign of acid reflux or other chronic gastrointestinal upset.  Your veterinarian may recommend a change in your dog’s feeding schedule or a daily medication to help prevent the vomiting.

You can also prevent vomiting by ensuring your dog does not have access to any food, treats, or table scraps outside of his normal diet.  Keep any chemicals or household cleaners out of reach and be sure to keep your dog supervised outside to ensure he does not eat anything he shouldn’t. Take away any toys that are damaged and make sure your dog does not eat the pieces or the inner stuffing, which could cause a blockage in the digestive tract.  Most importantly, take your dog to the vet for regular examinations and preventive care to catch potential problems early and ensure he stays healthy. 

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.