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

dog throwing up yellow foam
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Have you noticed your dog throwing up yellow foam? There can be many reasons why this is happening, and some may be cause for concern. Vomiting in dogs is always abnormal and should be addressed by your veterinarian to get to the root of the problem. While some vomiting may be transient – lasting less than 24 hours before self-resolving – other types of vomiting can be more persistent.  

Whenever your dog vomits, noting the time, contents, and frequency of the vomiting is helpful for your veterinarian to make a diagnosis. Read on to learn more about dog vomiting, and what you can do to help if your dog is sick and throwing up yellow foam.

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 

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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.  

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Treatment for vomiting in dogs

Treatment for vomiting in dogs varies depending on the underlying cause of the vomiting. Sometimes, a specific cause is identified and a targeted treatment can be prescribed. For example, if your dog swallowed a foreign object that is causing a bowel obstruction, then surgery is the recommended treatment to remove the object and relieve the vomiting. If your dog is having an adverse reaction to certain foods, a prescription diet may be the recommended course of treatment. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s treatment instructions closely and return to your veterinary clinic for any recommended follow up visits to ensure the vomiting does not recur.

In many cases, we don’t know exactly why the vomiting occurred. In these cases, we may treat the vomiting with medications to alleviate nausea, antacids to reduce stomach acidity, fluids to rehydrate your dog, and gastroprotectant medications to coat and protect the lining of the stomach. Although these treatments are not specific to any one disease, often they help your dog feel much better and the vomiting episode resolves.

Although it may be tempting to try to treat your dog at home, you should never give your dog any over the counter medications or home remedies without first consulting your veterinarian. Many of these treatments can be toxic to dogs, particularly if they are not dosed appropriately. Don’t risk making your dog more sick – talk to your veterinarian first to find out what is and isn’t okay to give to your dog.

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. 

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com (opens in new tab) and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/ (opens in new tab)