Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
A dog vomiting white foam is something that can be concerning to witness. Before getting super worried though, it's important to take a deep breath as getting panicky in most cases won't help.
While it's possible to list several common causes of a dog vomiting white foam, your best bet is to see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment, especially if the vomiting doesn't resolve and persists.
Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec shares 13 potential causes of dogs vomiting bubbly white foam along with potential treatment options.
Help, My Dog Is Vomiting White Foam!
A dog vomiting white foam is a distressing experience for every dog parent. If the vomit is in the form of foam or bubbly saliva, the distress is even bigger.
In such a case, the worried owner wonders whether this is normal and what may be causing it. So what causes dogs to vomit white foam?
Generally speaking, there are many reasons for a dog to vomit white foam – from mild gastrointestinal upsets and acid refluxes to severe respiratory infections and kidney problems.
What Does This Mean?
When someone says dog vomit, the first thing that comes to mind is the chunky vomit with undigested pieces of dog food. However, sometimes vomit can be foamy and bubbly.
Namely, dogs throw up white foam when there is excess gas in their stomachs or when there is nothing left besides air and some juices.
In such cases, the white foamy vomit is a mixture of saliva, air bubbles, and shaken gastric juices.
13 Causes of Dogs Vomiting White Foam
When a dog vomits white foam, there are various potential culprits. To make things easier to understand we will review the most common causes.
1) Ate Grass
Dogs are prone to eating grass especially when they sense a tummy upset. The grass-eating behavior is in fact an attempt to relieve the discomfort and many dogs eat grass frantically.
This is because grass irritates the stomach lining both physically and chemically and induces vomiting.
A dog that eats grass is a dog with a possible GI tract issue and many need adequate help—fluids, bland diet, probiotics, or even antibiotics, depending on the underlying issue causing the upset.
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However, finding the real culprit is of paramount importance.
2) Dietary Indiscretions
Dietary indiscretions are quite common in dogs. This fancy term describes the situation in which a dog eats a non-edible item like sand, leaves or dirt.
Dietary indiscretions result in tummy upsets—vomiting, diarrhea, gassiness, appetite changes, and abdominal pain.
A dog with tummy upset requires symptomatic therapy and proper training to prevent similar scenarios in the future. Here are 15 signs of an upset stomach in dogs.
3) Ingested a Toxin
Many household items and chemicals pose a danger to dogs. Some of those toxins can be found in the kitchen (chocolate, dough, grapes), bathroom (bleach, toilet water, cleaning products), garage (antifreeze, paints, varnish), and garden (plants, insecticides, fertilizers).
Ingesting these toxins leads to vomiting accompanied by an array of signs and symptoms specific to the toxin.
An intoxicated dog needs urgent veterinary attention and administration of antidotes, intravenous fluids, and supportive therapy.
4) Ate Human Foods
While chocolate, xylitol-containing foods and grapes are directly toxic to dogs, there are many human foods that are not straightforward dangerous. However, they can be problem-causing if consumed in larger amounts or on a more frequent basis.
Such human foods include overly salty, sugary, fatty, and spice delicacies.
Feasting on these foods leads to digestive upsets followed by bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, and tummy aches. Supportive care and a bland diet for upset stomach in dogs are critical for fast and smooth recovery.
5) Gastric Dilation and Volvulus
Gastric dilatation and volvulus is a condition in which the stomach rotates around its axis and starts to distend causing pressure on the surrounding organs.
It is more likely to occur in dogs large and giant dogs with deep chests.
A dog with bloat is in life-threatening danger and requires immediate veterinary attention. The vet needs to decompress the stomach and then perform surgical repositioning.
In dog breeds at high risk, the condition can be prevented with a special surgical technique.
6) Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
Bilious vomiting syndrome is the canine equivalent of acid reflux in humans. The exact reason for the bile getting backward within the digestive system is unknown but the condition is more common in dogs with Giardiasis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dogs with this biliary vomiting syndrome vomit bile or white froth after not eating anything for a couple of hours – usually in the morning, before the first meal of the day.
The treatment entails regular use of antacids and special feeding regimes.
7) Fungal Infections
Dogs like to feast on droppings from other animals. While some types of poops are harmless, others hold hidden risks.
For example, bird and bat droppings often carry fungal pathogens which once consumed can trigger fungal infections.
The clinical manifestation of a fungal infection is similar to any other digestive upset. The management is also similar—lots of intravenous fluids, bland diet, supportive therapy, and a mix of antibiotics and antifungals.
Pancreatitis is a painful and serious inflammation of the pancreas. It is usually associated with high-fat food and it can occur in two forms—acute and chronic. A dog with pancreatitis will vomit, have diarrhea, and refuse to eat.
Chronic pancreatitis requires life-long management and carefully crafted diets low in fats and oils.
Acute pancreatitis is harder to manage and is considered an emergency. If left untreated, the acute inflammation of the pancreas can be fatal.
9) Kennel Cough
Canine cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a contagious disease affecting the respiratory system. The pathogens causing the infection are present in densely populated environments like kennels, boarding facilities, pet shelters, and doggy daycares.
A dog with kennel cough will have trouble breathing, make unusual sounds, cough up white foam, and experience nasal discharge.
There is no particular treatment except for supportive care. The disease can be prevented with regular vaccination.
10) Tracheal Collapse
Tracheal collapse is a condition in which, the tracheal rings, giving the windpipe its circular shape, collapse and make it flat. The condition can occur in any dog but it is most common in small, toy dog breeds.
In addition to obstructing the airway and impairing breathing, tracheal collapse can make dogs cough up and spit white foam. The issue is progressive, and if left untreated, can be fatal. There are surgical correction options but almost all dogs need life-long medication.
Heatstroke occurs when dogs are exposed to extremely high temperatures for short time or moderately high temperatures for a prolonged time. Every dog can experience heat stroke, but the risk is higher in dogs with thick coats and short snouts.
A dog with a heat stroke is likely to vomit white foam, have diarrhea, drool a lot, and develop red gums.
As the condition progresses, it will lose coordination and may collapse. Cooling the dog down is critical, but it should not be done suddenly as it may result in shock.
12) Kidney Problems
Kidney problems in dogs occur in two forms—acute and chronic. Both forms can be triggered by various underlying causes like infections, toxins, and severe dehydration. Kidney problems are progressive and can lead to permanent damage or failure.
A dog with kidney problems will drink a lot of water and either urinate a lot or not at all. In both scenarios, vomiting white foam is possible. The exact treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Rabies is the least likely culprit, but it is definitely worth mentioning and reviewing. A rabid dog will vomit white foam especially during the advanced stages of the infection. In fact, the classical image for rabies depicts exactly this scenario.
Although there is no cure for rabies, it should be noted that the condition is 100% preventable with vaccination. Regular vaccination is also the reason why rabies is eradicated in most countries.
Course of Action
If your dog is vomiting white foam, it is important to stay calm and carefully evaluate the situation. You need to determine whether your dog is presenting any additional worrisome issues or if the vomiting is an isolated symptom.
Then, you need to call your trusted veterinarian and explain the situation. Based on the information you provide, the vet will give recommendations: to wait and see how the issue develops or to have your dog brought to the clinic.
In both cases, it is critical to follow the vet’s advice and recommendations. Never attempt to self-treat your dog at home as you can make things worse. Keep in mind that many human medications are toxic to dogs.
All in all, as you can see from the above-explained, the reasons for vomiting white foam vary from benign and self-limiting to severe and in need of urgent veterinary attention.
Since determining the underlying cause is not something you can do on your own, it is best advised to seek veterinary help as soon as your dog starts vomiting white foam. If there are additional clinical signs and symptoms, the need to call the vet is even more urgent.
The sooner you seek help, the sooner your canine friend will be back to its normal and non-vomiting self, and the sooner you will get peace of mind.
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.
© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli