Causes of Dog Vomiting Bile
What Exactly is Dog Bile?
If your dog is vomiting yellow fluid, unless he lapped up something yellow, there are chances it's your dog's bile. What is exactly dog bile, and, most of all, what causes it to produce? Bile is something that dogs, just like me and you, and many other vertebrates, produce. While it's commonly yellow, it's a bitter tasting fluid ranging in color from dark green to yellow brown or bright yellow in some cases. Because it's bitter in taste, most dogs will not re-ingest it as they may do when they bring back up food that was recently ingested.
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. Following 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 atrray 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?"
Bile can be difficult to clean up from your carpet.
The Problem with Repeated 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".
Disclaimer: this article is not to used a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is vomiting, please see your vet for a proper assessment and diagnosis.
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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: Why is My Dog Vomiting?
This article addresses common causes of dog vomiting and a guide to help pinpoint the problem. If in doubt, see your vet as vomiting in dogs can be caused by serious problems.
- 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!