All About Dog Vomit: Why Is My Dog Throwing Up?

Updated on November 26, 2016
All About Dog Vomit
All About Dog Vomit | Source

Just Talking About Dog Barf

Dog vomit and dog ownership go together like peas and carrots, but still you may ask, Why is my dog throwing up? How can I prevent it? Do I need to take my dog to the vet?

In this article, I will discuss some of the common causes of vomiting in dogs, what you can do about it, and when you should be concerned about more serious conditions. I'll also be offering up some well-deserved levity (come on, it's DOG VOMIT) and anecdotes to make this unpleasant experience a tad more bearable.

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Penny at about four months. What a ham.
Penny at about four months. What a ham. | Source

My First Experience With Dog Vomit

When my dog Penny was a puppy, she threw up every morning and every evening for about a week, but only in the wee hours of the morning and in the middle of the night. She'd start making those terrifying hacking/snorting noises, waking me up, but (bless her heart) only giving me enough time to get her halfway to the door, where she'd puke all over the carpet. I read online that it might be because she was going to bed with an empty stomach, so I tried giving her a little bit of kibble before bed. Of course, this only resulted in EVEN MORE dog vomit. Needless to say, I had

I read online that it might be because she was going to bed with an empty stomach, so I tried giving her a little bit of kibble before bed. Of course, this only resulted in EVEN MORE dog vomit. Needless to say, I had that fleeting thought of "Good God, what did I get myself in to adopting this animal?"

You see, Penny is the first dog I've ever owned, and I wasn't used to this kind of thing. During those first months, I got a brief glimmer of what it must be like to have a baby. Oye. Bless you, mothers of the world. You are saints.

After multiple vomit sessions, I took her to the vet, who performed a blood test then suggested a higher protein diet. When going to the pet store to get her new food, a worker there gave me a much more logical diagnosis...

Penny's (now safe) dog kibble storage bin aka the "Vittles Vault."
Penny's (now safe) dog kibble storage bin aka the "Vittles Vault." | Source

Dog Vomiting from Rancid Kibble

My puppy Penny had been vomiting for a week, only at night, and the vet told me it was because she wasn't eating enough protein. At the pet store, I lamented with a worker over my plight, and she offered some ridiculously simple insight:

Pet Store Worker: "Where are you storing her kibble?"

Me: "In one of those plastic bin things for dog food."

Pet Store Worker: "But where are you storing it?"

Me: "Outside. On the side of the house."

Pet Store Worker: "Is the bin ever in the sun during the day?"

Me: "Yes."

Pet Store Worker: "That's your problem. The oils in the kibble can go rancid. It's probably what's making your dog sick."

Me: "Heh, heh... oops?"

Dumb move on my part. It turns out I was dosing my dog with rancid kibble that went bad because I stored it in the sun. It never occurred to me that dry dog food could go bad like that. So I bought one of those big bags of dog food from the pet store (because HELLO, it's cheaper) and poured it into a glorified trash can that I got from Big Lots.

Tips to Prevent Your Dog's Food from Going Bad:

  1. Store your dog's dry food in a cool, dry place. A garage is great for this, so long as it doesn't get too hot during the day. If your garage often turns into an oven, bring the food inside and store it somewhere out of the sun.
  2. If you have a smaller dog, buy a smaller bag of dry dog food. That way, the oils in the food won't go bad before you get to the bottom of the bag.
  3. Store your dog's food in an airtight container. Not only does it keep the bad stuff out, it keeps the bad smells in, and keeps the food longer. I've got a link to the exact one I use below.
  4. Clean anything that comes in contact with the dog kibble (the container it's stored in, scoops, your dog's bowl) on a regular basis, with soap and water.
  5. To avoid having to clean the big container you keep the dog's food in (which can be cumbersome and difficult), store the dog food in the bag inside the container: Cut the top of the bag off and put the whole thing inside of the storage container. The bag acts as a liner that will be thrown out every time you get a new bag of dog food.

Dog Food Storage

Gamma2 Vittles Vault 25 lb Airtight Bucket Container for Food Storage, Food Grade and BPA Free
Gamma2 Vittles Vault 25 lb Airtight Bucket Container for Food Storage, Food Grade and BPA Free

This is the exact container that I use to store my dog's kibble. The Vittles Vault does an excellent job keeping air, moisture and bugs out of dry dog food. A 15 lb bag (with the top cut off) fits in this container perfectly.

Sterilite 18748606 Medium Nesting ShowOffs, Clear with Blue Aquarium Handle and Latches, 6-Pack
Sterilite 18748606 Medium Nesting ShowOffs, Clear with Blue Aquarium Handle and Latches, 6-Pack

I use this guy when we travel with the dog. Since the Vittles Vault is a bit clunky, you could also keep smaller portions of kibble in one of these things and refill it each week. I recommend lining it with a trash liner and changing that out periodically – it's much easier than cleaning it with soap and water.

Lazy Penny lazes about.
Lazy Penny lazes about. | Source

Common Causes of Vomiting in Dogs

As it is with people, there are some other illnesses, conditions, and situations that can cause vomiting in dogs.

  • Allergies to Specific Foods — Some dogs don't tolerate certain common dog food ingredients. Your dog may be sensitive to grains, certain kinds of proteins, or additives/fillers. If you suspect this is the case, your best bet is to try a "limited ingredient" dog food (or foods with one protein source, like chicken or fish), or one that cuts out grains completely.
  • Table Scrap-itis — Feeding your dog foods that it's not used to can cause vomiting, as well. Spicy foods can cause problems on both ends (wink wink). In general, I limit the people-food that I feed my dog to relatively bland meats and non-harmful veggies or fruits. I also save these treats for special occasions and only give tiny portions.
  • "Food Poisoning" — I probably shouldn't put "food poisoning" in quotes because it can happen to dogs the same as it does in people. If your dog eats food out of the trash, rancid kibble, or old/expired food, there is the potential for illness and vomiting.
  • Toxic or Poisonous Foods/Items — There are certain foods that we can eat, but dogs cannot. In addition, there are tons of plants, household objects, and chemicals that can result in poisoning or toxicity, causing your dog to throw up. Some of these items are more dangerous than others, so it's important to keep an eye on other symptoms and get your pet to the vet or animal hospital ASAP. I've written about things that are poisonous to dogs to help you determine the cause of your pet's illness.
  • Digestive Obstruction or Blockage — Your dog could have eaten something that is obstructing or completely blocking off a portion of its digestive tract or even esophagus (which probably won't result in vomiting, but in dry heaving). If your dog is throwing up clear or yellowish frothy bile, there is a chance that this was caused by something your dog ate that is now lodged in its gut somewhere. The vomiting is the body's way of trying to expel whatever it is that is stuck. Obviously, veterinary intervention is needed in these cases.
  • Stomach Issues — Other issues can cause the frothy bile throw up, including gastritis, pancreatitis, or peritonitis. Dogs afflicted these conditions need to be seen by a vet.
  • An Empty Stomach — If your dog is throwing up the frothy bile at night or in the morning and isn't displaying any other symptoms, there is a chance it is because the poor thing is starving. Well, maybe not starving, but it certainly could be hungry. Try feeding a tiny portion of food or a few treats before bed. I've gotten into the habit of feeding my dog one of those dental cleaning sticks before bed each night.
  • Motion Sickness — Aw. Dogs can get carsick! If your dog is throwing up only in the car or on a boat or something, there is a good chance it's got doggy motion sickness.
  • Behavioral Issues — Your dog might be stressed out, eating too fast, or eating then exercising too vigorously. Are you picturing a dog with sweat bands on, running on its hind legs on a treadmill? 'Cause I am.
  • Bloat — If your dog is trying to throw up, but nothing is coming out, there is a chance he/she has a condition called bloat (aka gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV). Bloat is a general term that refers to gas build-up in the stomach in cases where the stomach is also twisted (gastric torsion). It is a very dangerous condition most common in larger, deep-chested dogs (from Great Danes to Basset Hounds) and requires a vet's care.
  • Other Serious Conditions and Illnesses — This list is not comprehensive, but the following serious illnesses and conditions can cause vomiting: kidney/liver problems, ulcers, enterocolitis, parvo, distemper, diabetes, and cancer.

She thinks she's people.
She thinks she's people. | Source

My Dog is Vomiting, What Do I DO?

If your dog has thrown up once, doesn't seem to be experiencing any other discomfort, and isn't displaying any other symptoms, there are steps you can take to ease their stomach. If you are unsure about anything, call your vet for advice.

This is what I do for my dog Penny when she throws up:

  • In general, whenever Penny throws up but is otherwise asymptomatic, I put her immediately on a bland diet of plain white rice and boiled chicken. I've also substituted rice for peeled boiled potato.
  • You also want to make sure that your dog is well hydrated, as vomiting can cause dehydration. If you're having problems getting him/her to drink water, try ice cubes.
  • Don't force your dog to eat and try to make it comfortable while its tummy is recovering.
  • Also be sure to clean up the vomit immediately, as just about every dog I've ever met loves to chow down on its own barf. Gross.

If nothing is working or if your dog is refusing food, you should take your dog to get checked out at the vet to make sure there isn't a major underlying problem.

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet

As always, when in doubt, see a vet. If there's a serious medical condition, reading articles like this or others like it won't cure your dog. Likewise, reading stuff on the Internet is not going to definitively diagnosis a major illness. In addition to testing and treatments, your vet may be able to prescribe anti-nausea medications to ease your pet's discomfort.

If you observe any of the following symptoms, get your dog to a vet or animal hospital ASAP. It could be a sign of a serious problem that requires immediate medical intervention:

  1. Diarrhea or other irregular dog poops.
  2. Projectile vomiting.
  3. Vomit that has something unusual in it, like blood (it may appear red or look like coffee grounds which is actually digested blood), worms, or pennies (US pennies contain zinc, which is extremely toxic to dogs and people).
  4. Lethargy (an overall tiredness or lack of energy).
  5. Ongoing or continuous vomiting, or vomiting that goes on for more than one day.
  6. Vomiting despite the fact that your dog hasn't eaten recently.
  7. Bloating in the stomach or abdominal area.

An Important Video About Zinc Toxicity

Sources and Further Reading

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Shay Marie

    Comments: Thanks for stopping by, friends. Let's talk about vomit.

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      • profile image

        Deborah hart 11 days ago

        Why is my dog just vomiting water when a he drinks

      • profile image

        Terri 5 weeks ago

        OK so my dog had this problem and here was his problem. He was not digesting his food. When he ate he practically inhaled his food. He at fast and did not chew it. To remedy this, we now put his food in a coffee grinder and then feed it to him. The problem stopped immediately and has not returned in almost a year. We did not have a coffee grinder initally so we used a hammer and broke it up which was not easy and tried that until we got a coffee grinder. Sadly, I took him to the vet first and spent $200 to find out nothing was wrong with him before I figured this out. I hope this helps!

      • profile image

        Babs 2 months ago

        Our rescued Shiba Inu throws up every night /morning a yellow stomach bile , and I’ve tried everything people tell us! I feed him 8:00am and 5:00pm. We’ve tried the half of cup of food at night before bed & again very early morning 5:30am he also tried different foods, but still happens! My other dog is on a diet, so I feel bad because I’m not giving him all the treats and snacks our other dog is getting .

      • profile image

        Marianne 8 months ago

        I am really worried about our one one year old puppy so much so I keep a chart of good days and bad days, he has been to the vet he had an xray and we thought we had the answer, his chew bones,little bits had lodged in his stomach, we dumped the chew bones and he seemed to get better, until he manages to eat a stick or grass and then he throws up mucus with blood we thought maybe the chew bone had irritated his stomach lining, he can go a week and his fine, playful with the other dogs, eating seems happy and we think everything is good then he does it again, so worried

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 11 months ago from Southern California

        @Kathy jannone In general, when it comes to the health of anyone's pet that's not my own, I'm always going to recommend that a professional be called. Call your vet and they can help you determine how serious it is and whether there are other symptoms present.

      • profile image

        Kathy jannone 11 months ago

        My min pin 8 yrs, with slight allergy problems, threw up to nite within 10 mins, 8 piles large approx 5-6" in diameter. That looked like un-digested food or poop looking logs but no smell. I can't find my there motel to take his temp. What should I do? Watch him or what?

      • profile image

        Kacey 15 months ago

        What do you do if it look like they ate something from outside and puked it up

      • profile image

        Jennifer Malcolm 16 months ago

        my 12 year old pitbull vomited a white and red slimy thick substance

      • profile image

        Sarina Elliott 16 months ago

        My friend told me that if u pick up a puppy that has tapeworm u could get it to if u pick up the puppy after it vomit on the bed and put it down off the bed. Is that true?

      • profile image

        angela mclellan 16 months ago

        my puppy is being sick once a day he does not heave or anything it just comes out it looks and smells like a solid poo apart from this he is active wet nose eats well drinks well he is 12 weeks old he does not eat poo by the way lol

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 18 months ago from Southern California

        @Benjamin -- Could she be eating her food too fast? If you think that might be the a problem, you can try putting a tennis ball in her food to slow her down. They also make dog bowls called "slow feeders" for this. (disclaimer: I'm not a vet!)

      • profile image

        Benjamin 18 months ago

        I'm not sure what's wrong with my dog. She gets plenty of excercise. Eats healthy, food shows no sign of spoilage (food kept inside). At random moments especially after eating she will cuddle up to me or my girlfriend and vomit right in our laps. The dogs nose is still wet. I make sure she has plenty of water. If I catch what she is about to do and remove her she won't vomit. Is it stress, diet, etc....? She's my furry baby, plz help.

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 22 months ago from Southern California

        @kane I'm not a vet, but I've never heard of a connection between ice and renal health. I do know hydration is very important for kidney function, so it's possible feeding a dog ONLY ice could be a problem because they might not get enough water and could become dehydrated. Based on what I've read, if a dog is not drinking anything because they are sick, crushed ice is a better than nothing.

      • profile image

        Kane 22 months ago

        My dog only really throws up when he drinks too much water really fast he drinks a whole bowl then does the smile and puffs his cheeks then i run him outside, i got told by my vet not to give him ice because it can cause kidney failure.

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        Patty 2 years ago

        my bichon vomits clear or yellow looking phlegm maybe once or twice a week I will state she can be grazer what to do

      • profile image

        AnswerMaaan 2 years ago

        Two things that can turn everything around 1) Slow feeder bowl and 2) Natural dog food, low in Corn, Wheat or Soy Proteins (or none at all). Our Min Pin started vomiting everything at about two years, he was a rescue dog and we adopted him at 9 months. He had no problems with eating whatsoever but for some reason after the first (and only) time we boarded him at our vet he developed "problems". At first it was once a day where he would throw up food, sometime just bile, then it became anytime he ate. Vet ran some tests and gave us medication for him. When that didn't resolve the issue they wanted to do more tests including ultrasound. We had been feeding him what I though was good quality food (Eukanuba) but I decided to do some research of my own into why dogs vomit. I came across the benefits of a slow feeder bowl, how it mimics the way dogs in the wild would eat as they would take their time feeding on a carcass, not scarfing a bowl of food down in 2 minutes. We bought him a nice round slow feeder that looks like a maze and it takes him about 1/2 hour to finish 1 cup of food. I also found a brand of food that is low in fillers dogs cannot easily digest: Blue Buffalo. They make a Rocky Mountain Recipe for small breeds and he loves it. Now the only time he loses his lunch is when he decides to eat something that's not actually food (hello Spring!) but we're working on that.

      • profile image

        Tucanharry 2 years ago

        I have an 11 yr old west highland. Just about every morning he vomits up white milky fluid. Like an old man cough mucus. Once he coughs it up he's fine. Not a lot but seems to happen more in the colder weather. Vet didn't seem concerned but why does he do this??

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 2 years ago from Southern California

        @Jess - because I'm not very bright. :)

      • profile image

        Jess 2 years ago

        Why on earth would you store your dog food outside??

      • profile image

        Tammy Miller 2 years ago

        Our Labradoodle has a crazy strong gag reflex which results in his whole body convulsing in the throwing up. Should he being looked at?

      • profile image

        Sophiasacto 2 years ago

        I know this is an older article but here' hoping: anyone ever heard/seen their dog puke up a weird fleshy round chunk? It almost looks like a tumor or something but it's shiny, smooth and reddish and is about the size of a golfball (no we don't have golf balls lying around). It's definitely organic matter, and idiot think it's from a rat or anything he could've eaten. It's so weird! If it happens one more time I'm gonna take him to a vet.

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

        I'd call your vet.

      • profile image

        lesly 3 years ago

        My dog keeps throwing up and it has a yellow color he is not eating and not moving around a lot he looks like he hasn't eaten he also hasn't pooped or peed in the last 24 hr and idk what to do?????

      • profile image

        jose lopez 3 years ago


      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

        My husband was able to get a trash can under the dog last week. He was really proud of himself. I've never had to deal with much hassle on the other end. Holy cow that sound terrible.

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        Becca 3 years ago

        Oh, how we all know that horrible hacking/retching sounds that give you just enough time to throw something under them to catch the vomit. I gave up a long time ago trying to get the outside or on hard floors when I heard that.

        Another fun one to watch out for is the runs, we had a bout of it during my finals week a few years ago. Nothing like missing finals to take a dog out every 10-20 minutes with brown water spewing from the back end. Not even slightly solid, just pure liquid. I'm glad she survived it, but it wasn't fun for a few days. The vet said as long as she was drinking water and eating plain food, it should clear up in a day or two. I thought it was never going to end.

      • profile image

        xtalmania 3 years ago

        Ha, my lil silky terrier just threw up the leftovers from last night!!! I didn't know that vomit looking like coffee grounds is digested blood. That is a side effect warning on my anti-depressant... kind of scary!

        Great lense, check mine out about grooming. I'm new to squidoo.

      • profile image

        Donna Cook 3 years ago

        Great lens! My Buffy throws up Puppy Chow, but not Puppy Beneful. No more Puppy Chow for her. Had cats for 30 years. Taffy, AKA Princess Barf Her Guts, always threw up at precisely 4 AM. Doggy barf is so less frequent.

      • profile image

        mkraz 3 years ago

        @dozersmomma: Have they ruled out gastric ulcers? My 12 y/o bulldog was vomiting and had a practically invisible gastric bleed and ultrasounds, abdominal x-rays, vomit, urine AND stool samples couldn't find the cause. They had me put him on a diet of pasta and cottage cheese for 4 days then did another stool sample. (Apparently ALL commercial dog food has some amount of animal blood in it (yum), hence the "clean diet" he was on). Sure enough, in the clean sample the lab found microscopic particles of blood. He was put on Prilosec and an oral medication that coats the stomach lining (given 4x a day!) to give the ulcers a chance to heal themselves. Sure enough...the vomiting stopped almost immediately and the ulcers healed after about a month of this treatment! Good luck! (These tests and treatments were done by an internal medicine specialist. I don't know if you have access to one and/or if you've already been to one but if not, I recommend giving that a try.)

      • profile image

        cyndyl 3 years ago

        Our dachshund often throws up after eating his breakfast, but almost never after eating his dinner, which is the same food. Any ideas?

      • profile image

        rickpatel 3 years ago

        @dozersmomma: It may be a food allergy. Try putting your dog on a homemade diet. It has worked wonders for me. Small meals several times a day may help also.

      • profile image

        dozersmomma 3 years ago

        Thanks for the article, very useful. I have a 9 year old rottweiler, who has steadly been going to vet now 3-different vets since Dec 2013 for vomiting. He has been on every diet imaginable, been on anti vomiting med's, have had to hospitilized for dehydration, even have ultra sound scopes down.... and the vet still hasn't been able to give me any type of answer on what the cause is. If any of you have a suggestion, please please please contact me... I am getting desprite at this point. Our most recent vet adventure, we were told that we are running out of options and need to start considering what's best for his quality of life. I am not ready to give up on him, he acts normal, eats and drinks normal, just can't keep anything down. He is generally a happy boy.

      • Merrci profile image

        Merry Citarella 4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

        Great article and a lot of important information for dog owners, Shay Marie! A lifetime of owning dogs and their dry kibble and I never knew it would go bad. Enjoyed your writing style too. Very entertaining while you educate us! Really appreciate the info!

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 4 years ago

        Some great basic dog owner information. Enjoyed the photos.

      • tracy-arizmendi profile image

        Tracy Arizmendi 4 years ago from Northern Virginia

        Great lens with awesome information! Had no idea dry dog food could go bad like that either. We have always kept LolaBelle's in the garage, but will be more aware of this potential problem during the hotter months. My LolaBelle vomits when she is stressed out. It is so random and she looks so pitiful afterwards. Poor babies!!!

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        Sherry Venegas 4 years ago from La Verne, CA

        Very useful information. Thanks for these doggy tips and knowledge.

      • captainj88 profile image

        Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

        Fun way to tackle a subject that affects a lot of loving pet owers.

      • jennabee25 profile image

        Jenn Dixon 4 years ago from PA

        My last dog used the barf as a puppy. You'd find him sulking around it with a guilty look on his face. I'd tell him he couldn't help it and it wasn't his fault. Our tummy's get sick sometime, I'd say. Of course, he didn't understand, but I hope I was comforting to him as a spoke.

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        ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

        Great lens! My dog throws up usually after eating grass!

      • dakadare profile image

        dakadare 4 years ago

        Our dog used to vomit a lot as well, but has seemed to have grown out of it.

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 4 years ago from Southern California

        @syerodriguez: Changing people's views on dog vomit is a personal goal of mine. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      • shay-marie profile image

        Shay Marie 4 years ago from Southern California

        @Erin Mellor: I just pulled some kind of fruit pit or plant seed out of my dog's mouth that she had found in the yard. They will eat anything.

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        syerodriguez 4 years ago

        I never imagined I'd be reading about Dog Vomit, but I just did. Your article was entertaining, and your Dog is pretty cute. Projectile Vomiting gives s strong visual. Thanks for your informative post

      • Erin Mellor profile image

        Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

        I'm dogless at the moment, but this is really useful. My dog used to barf up random things he'd eaten in the park, but still he kept eating them (and he'd eat his vomit if given the chance).

      • Arod17 profile image

        Arod17 4 years ago

        I really liked this article, this will be very helpful to prevent my dog from vomiting.