A Guide to Dog Vomit Colors and Causes

Health & Wellbeing
February 6, 2022
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
Dr. Farshad Goodarzi - Animal Nutritionist
5 minute read
sick dog from dog vomit

Seeing your dog vomit can be a scary thing, especially if it seems to come out of nowhere. But the truth is that your canine companion can suffer from an upset stomach just like you do, and it’s often nothing serious that will disappear on its own.

Still, different colors of vomit can mean different things –some might require a diet change while others might mean it’s time to see the vet.

We’ve put together a dog vomit color guide to help you identify what could be happening.

Is your dog actually vomiting?

Vomiting occurs when your dog brings back up food that’s already reached the stomach. But if you see your dog eating or drinking too fast and almost immediately after throwing up, he’s probably regurgitating.

Another option is coughing. When dogs cough, they might actually spit out phlegm or a yellowish liquid. Although coughing doesn’t always bring up fluid, some dogs might retch at the end of a cough and bring up white foam or clear liquid. This can sometimes be a sign of kennel cough, so it’s important to see your vet if your dog coughs several times a day.

One way to figure out if your dog is regurgitating or vomiting is to focus on what happened immediately before. Vomiting is usually preceded by abdominal retching and tensing of the abdominal muscles. Some dogs also seem to curve their backs upwards as a sign of nausea.

What Causes Vomiting?

If you’re sure your dog is vomiting, the next step is to figure out what’s causing the upset tummy.

One of the most common reasons a dog vomits is gastroenteritis. This is caused when the stomach or intestines become inflamed. Gastroenteritis can happen if you change your dog’s diet suddenly, if your dog swallowed a foreign object, or if he ate something not great for him (like table scraps or greasy food). Dogs with gastroenteritis sometimes have diarrhea as well.

Other causes of vomiting include:

  • Parasites
  • Bacterial infection
  • Ingesting poisonous substances such as human medications (like ibuprofen, which is very toxic to dogs), chemicals (cleaning products, antifreeze, etc.), and certain plants
  • Motion sickness (usually after or during a ride in the car)
  • Serious medical issues, including severe allergic reactions, kidney or liver disease, and untreated diabetes

Dog Vomit Color Guide

The vomit colour is one of the most telling signs and can often clearly tell you what’s going on.

Keep in mind that when your dog throws up most of what comes out is likely to be half-digested food. If possible, first inspect the vomit to make sure there are no foreign objects in it. Then look at the color.

White or Yellow Dog Vomit

White and yellow vomits are rarely mixed with food. Instead, they tend to be in the form of just liquid or foamy bile that often indicates an empty stomach or acid reflux. This type of vomit tends to resolve on its own, but keep an eye on your dog – if this happens regularly, it could be a sign of gut inflammation, and you might need to contact your vet.

Green Dog Vomit

When a dog vomit is greenish, he’s probably vomiting on an empty stomach. Just as with yellow vomit, it often indicates that your dog suffers from acid reflux. While not a dangerous condition, it can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful, and your dog might need medication to help. Vomit can also look green if your dog has been snacking on grass, though you should notice pieces of grass in the vomit if this is the case.

Brown Dog Vomit

Brown dog vomit can be trickier to understand. If your dog’s kibble is a dark brown, the vomit colour could simply be regurgitated food from the esophagus – especially if the kibble is mostly digested when your dog throws up.

Coprophagia (the consumption of feces) can also cause brown vomiting and is more common than you might think among dogs.

There’s also a more serious reason for brown vomit in dogs: blood. When small traces of blood are present in vomit, they can sometimes look brown. To make sure it’s not blood, use white paper towels or a light cloth to clean up – if blood is present, you’ll notice the reddish color against the white of the cleaning materials.

Red Dog Vomit

As with brown vomit, red dog vomit can be caused by red food dye found in kibble or treats. If that’s not the case, then the most likely culprit is specks of blood in the dog’s vomit. While the amount of blood in brown vomit is usually small (which is why you don’t notice the blood right away), if the vomit is red in color, chances are the amount of blood is much larger.

Blood in vomit could be due to serious gastrointestinal issues and should be considered a medical emergency.

Black Dog Vomit

Black dog vomit is usually caused by digested blood. If your dog is throwing up digested blood, the vomit will have a granulated appearance, almost like used coffee grounds. This should always be considered a medical emergency, and your pup should see a vet ASAP.

When to See a Vet

Vomit is always a cause for concern, especially if it happens more than once during the course of a day. If you notice your dog looking particularly tired or if he has diarrhea, refuses to play or something feels off, contact your vet. Dark-colored vomit always merits a visit to the vet to find the underlying cause.

Other potential things you could find in dog poop are fur (if your dog is self-grooming or licking himself excessively due to stress, itchy skin or allergies) or worms. In both cases, talking to a vet is the first step to solve the problem. For example, to avoid excessive licking you might need to change your dog’s diet (if the licking is caused by allergies) or make changes at home to reduce stress. Worms can be easily treated with deworming medications, although severe cases might need treatment for several months to ensure both the adults and the eggs have been completely eliminated.

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