Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
What Exactly Is Dog Bile?
If your dog is vomiting yellow fluid, unless he lapped up something yellow, chances are it's your dog's bile. What exactly is dog bile, and why is it produced? Bile is something that dogs, humans, and other vertebrates produce. While it's commonly yellow, it's a bitter-tasting fluid and ranges in color from dark green, yellow-brown, brown, or bright yellow in some cases. It's bitter in taste, and most dogs will not re-ingest it.
It's a fluid produced by the dog's liver, and its main function is to help the digestion of lipids in the small intestine. It also helps neutralize excess stomach acid before it enters the upper intestinal tract. While it's produced by liver it is stored in the gallbladder and mainly consists of 85% water, 3% mucus and 1% fats and some salts.
You are hardly aware of bile and digestive juices in dogs until they vomit it up and stain your carpets. Bile vomiting, at times accompanied by a white, frothy liquid, typically happens when the dog vomits on an empty stomach or after repeated vomiting once all the food has been brought up. Bile is irritating to the stomach when no food is present, so it's best to find out why the bile is presenting in the first place. We will look more into this in the next sections.
Why Would a Dog Vomit Bile?
Vomiting is not a condition, rather it's a symptom. Therefore, there isn't a direct, universal cure for all types of vomiting because the vomiting may have many causes. You will therefore need to have your vet run diagnostic tests if your dog is vomiting continuously, so the underlying cause can be addressed. Below are some possible causes for vomiting bile in dogs. Obviously, you'll need to see your vet for an accurate diagnosis, so this list is not to be used for diagnostic purposes. Also, keep in mind that bile vomiting can take place any time a dog vomits on an empty stomach, or has vomited so much, the stomach has been emptied completely of food and now bile is being brought back up.
A dog with intestinal blockage will keep on vomiting for the simple fact that mechanically, food cannot make it past the blockage. Everything eaten therefore will be brought back up. At times, the vomiting can be forcefully expelled (explosive, projectile vomiting). Affected dogs may have repeated vomiting, severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, constipation.
As the term implies this is the inflammation of the dog's pancreas. This condition often occurs as a result of eating a high-fat meal such as bacon droppings or other oily and greasy foods. Affected dogs become very sick and develop severe vomiting, a painful belly and often an accompanying fever. The symptoms often occur within 24 to 72 hours after ingesting the fatty meal. Affected dogs often require a course of antibiotics and prescription food.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
At times, a chronic irritation of the dog's intestinal tract may trigger irritable bowel disease which may lead to bile vomiting. In this case, the solution may be as simple as switching to higher quality diet free of grains, fillers and by-products.
Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
In this case, the dog vomits bile because his stomach has been empty for too long. What happens is that on an empty stomach, the stomach secretes acids and mucus, and on top of that, bile is produced which flows into the small intestines. When the stomach is empty, there's nothing to absorb the stomach acids/bile which can be very irritating. Soon, the dog feels nauseated and a cycle of empty stomach-nausea-vomit-empty stomach-nausea-vomit is created.
This cycle often takes place in dogs during the night when the stomach is empty for over 8 hours or in dogs who are fed one meal per day only, leaving the stomach empty for longer periods of time. The treatment consists of antiacids such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid) or ranitidine (Zantac). Feeding more frequent and smaller meals also helps. A bed-time and early morning snack can also help break the cycle. Often, this condition is diagnosed once other causes for vomiting bile have been ruled out.
And of course, the list doesn't end here. Bile vomiting may be also caused by a vast array of other problems such as the presence of toxins, liver disease, infectious diseases, liver problems, pesky parasites, abrupt dietary changes, allergies, stress and more. To learn more about causes of vomiting read "why is my dog vomiting?"
The Problem With Chronic Bile Vomiting
An episodic case of bile vomiting may often resolve on its own and the dog remains bright and alert. However, repeated bile vomiting may soon become troublesome. The problem is mainly not the fact that the dog cannot keep food down, but the fact that the dog loses fluids quickly and risks to become dehydrated because bile is 85% water and salts and electrolytes are lost. Young puppies dehydrate quickly and should be seen immediately if they vomit repeatedly.
According to Bethlehem Veterinary Hospital you should as a general rule of thumb see your vet if:
- You have a young puppy or an old dog
- The vomiting is projectile and violent
- Your dog cannot keep water down
- Your dog vomits for more than 1 day
- Your dog vomits for more than 3 times in one hour.
- Your dog is lethargic and appears in pain.
- There's blood in your dog's vomit under the form of bright red or black coffee-ground
- You suspect your dog may have a blockage or was exposed to toxins
- Your dog appears dehydrated
As mentioned, dehydration and the loss of electrolytes is the main concern. If your dog is vomiting bile repeatedly you'll need to keep him well hydrated. The problem is that sometimes dogs with an upset stomach cannot hold down food or water when they're sick. Basically, their stomach is too upset and not ready for the workload. This is why vets often recommend to fast the dog for 12 to 24 hours (very young pups may be fasted for less, like 6 hours) and give water slowly and gradually. Gulping loads of water all at once may cause the dog to vomit again and again. For more on how to rehydrate a dog, read my hub on "How to rehydrate a vomiting dog".
This article is not to be used a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is vomiting, please see your vet for a proper assessment and diagnosis.
For Further Reading
- How to Stop a Dog From Eating Fast
A dog eating fast is not only a bad habit, but also a cause for concern since it may lead to several health problems. If you own a dog that wolfs down its food as soon as you put it down, be assured there are ways to address this problem and calm...
- Dog Health: Understanding Pancreatitis in Dogs
What is canine pancreatitis? Why does the dog's pancreas get inflamed? What are treatments for pancreatitis in dogs? Learn more about this debilitating condition.
- Vet-Approved Dog Upset Stomach Home Remedies
Is your dog upset stomach becoming a problem? Learn some effective vet-approved natural home remedies to treat your dog's upset stomach at home. Easy to make dog bland diet recipe, straight from your kitchen's pantry!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: What does it mean if my dog’s bile is pink?
Answer: Pink bile may be due to something pigmented your dog ate, but most likely it's due to presence of blood. It is possible that your dog vomited so forcefully or so repeatedly that a small blood vessel may have burst. Usually, this is minor and should be short-lived. However, there are also some more serious problems that could cause blood in a dog's vomit and this includes exposure to rat poison, stomach ulcer, bleeding disorder etc. If your dog continues to vomit pink bile or acts lethargic, has loss of of appetite or just acts differently, it may be important to see the vet.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Febie ann calilao on June 25, 2020:
What will do I have to do to my dog vomiting yellowwsh thick fluid and not eating nor drinking water?
Megan on January 06, 2020:
Hello early yhis afternoon my pitt ul threw up foam and a good portion of it FROM OUR COUCH he has done thia before but never acting like shaking juss purely ill! I have induced vomiting as my friend a vet said to due bc hours later around 8 pm he started vomitting thick slimy white foam its still very thick bubbles that dont pop throw up that white thick like a smootie is it a blockage?
sassy70 on May 05, 2019:
Now many communities have emergency vet services. We've had to bring our dog into the vet in an ER visit. Our dog just started vomiting bile and in the middle of the night. I'll be keeping an eye on her to see if anything changes. There are forbidden foods but that hasn't happened.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 31, 2019:
Cathy, with stubborn cases as such, it may help to see a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine. We saw one not too long ago and we did a GI panel, ultrasound and x-rays just to rule out other issues. She put our dog who vomited bile at night on Prilosec and Reglan and we feed 4 meals a day and it has been helping. Of course, every case is different, but the specialist is really the only one who sorted out things.
Cathy Johnson on March 28, 2019:
My dog has been vomiting bile (clear white foam) on and off for months we have visited the vets many times after christmas he was give carafate (1mg) and we had no instances for 2 months then all of sudden he started again after a few days we took him the vet and he ended up on a drip for dehydration and pain relief he was sent home after 24 hours he was given medication for 2 weeks (Losec (10 mg , Metrogyl 200mg, Carafate 1g, Maxalon 10mg) he stopped the medication 2 days ago but continued on the carafate, we have also been feedign him a small amount before bed and this morning he started licking the carpet and then vomited bile again...... and ideas as what and where we should go from here. He has all home cooked meals and treats as he has very sensative stomach
Lou Beaudoin on November 14, 2018:
My dog was prescribed 60 mg a day of Ompreazole .Along with two antibiotics he would not eat and on occasion he would throw up a yellow mucus file with the acid reducing pills had stopped after two days he would eat everything still taking the anabiotic’s and no throwing up bile is this normal along with two and I biotics he would not eat been on occasion he would throw up a yellow mucus bile when the acid reducing pills I had stopped after today’s he would eat everything still taking the anabiotic‘s and no throwing up bile is this normal ? Thank you in advance
Marsha on May 25, 2018:
This site is so awesome !! Unfortunately, some emergencies happen in the evening hours when all Vet offices are closed and you are in a panic. Being able to come here and find answers is quite a piece of mind and relief.
Victoria Selene on February 18, 2017:
My dog has episoded of vomiting yellow bile accompanied by diarrhea about 2-4 times yearly. He'shad x rays and scans and there is no visible cause. He's also had bloodwork which does not show elevated lipase which may indicate oancreatitis. If it goes on more than a day I take him to our vet who gives him an injection of Cerenia and literally within a couple hours he's good as new.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 07, 2016:
Thanks for the tip of using raw milk for dogs vomiting bile.
nustimom on April 06, 2016:
Raw milk works wonders for my dog when she has bilious vomiting. Raw cheese is also helpful.
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on September 01, 2013:
This is a good deal of information you have presented. Great job. I have a family member with a dog which has been vomiting occasionally.
Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on September 01, 2013:
Very good hub with information people who have dogs need. My dog's had pancreatitis in the past (her breed is predisposed to it), and the vomit was both yellow and foamy. If pancreatitis or any of the other conditions you wrote about are suspected, the dog should be taken to the vet quickly.
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