What can you tell from the colour of your dog’s vomit?
If you're a dog owner, chances are you're no stranger to the occasional bout of vomiting. But did you know that the colour of your dog's vomit can actually tell you a lot about their health? Here's a quick guide by Family Vet and Bridge Vet Centre vet Joann Bennett to help you interpret what your dog's vomit is trying to tell you.
If you're a dog owner, chances are you've seen your dog feeling poorly and then bring up a bit of vomit at some point. Dogs as a species are quite “good” at vomiting. As odd as that might sound, essentially it’s not abnormal for some dogs to be a little sick, then carry on like nothing happened. But equally it’s important to know when you should take further action. So put down your sandwich if you want to read on, because we’re discussing everything vomit related!
Overview of different colours of vomit:
One thing that can help you tell what’s causing your dog to vomit is checking the colour of the vomit itself – disgusting as it sounds!
Is your dog actually vomiting?
Ok so your dog has brought something up, what do you do now? Firstly it is useful to know if your dog has actually vomited or is there another reason. Could it be that your dog has a cough and the retching has caused something to come up, could it be that your dog is regurgitating (which is different from vomiting) or is your dog truly being sick.
Telling the difference can be really useful as treatment will depend on what’s wrong.
If your dog is retching it can be a sign of kennel cough, heart disease, or simply an irritated throat. Usually these dogs bring up foam, although on occasion can retch enough to bring up some stomach contents. However, sometimes a retch can be a dog with a completely empty stomach that has a blockage in their guts that has nothing to come up. If your dog is repeatedly retching always contact your vet.
If your dog is regurgitating (bringing up undigested food) it could simply be that your dog ate too much too fast, but if it is happening regularly it can be a sign of conditions such as megaesophagus, Myasthenia Gravis or a blockage. Regurgitation tends to be straight after eating and the food isn’t digested.
True vomiting tends to be preceded by drooling, a grumbly tummy, stretching, contracting of the tummy and ribs, and your dog looking a bit unsettled. If you are unsure though, film what your dog is doing. It might not be an attractive video to share on your socials, but it can really help your local vets to see what’s going on.
What can you tell from the colour of your dog's vomit?
Dog vomit comes in a variety of different colours. So what could the different colours mean?
Green vomit is quite common, and can be seen alone or at the end of your dog bringing up food. The most common reasons for this colouring are stomach bile or from your dog eating a lot of grass. If your dog brings up a small amount of bile, then carries on as normal, it should not be a cause for concern, but if you are worried at all, or if this happens repeatedly, then contact your vet.
When the vomit doesn’t have as much bile in it, it tends to look yellow as opposed to the brighter green. As with the green vomit, a one off of this, with the dog then appearing normal again, is likely to not be an issue, but always contact your own vet with any concerns.
If your dog is one for eating things they shouldn’t then you might see some blue vomit. This can be caused by numerous things, but one of the most important to watch out for is if your dog could have had access to brightly coloured rat poison, which is always an emergency and you should contact your vet asap!
A small amount of white, mucousy type vomit, is often not a cause for concern, if your dog then goes on with their normal business like nothing happened. Although if your dog is repeatedly trying to bring something up and foam comes up, then you should contact your vet in case your dog has bloat. This bloat means your dog is not managing to vomit, even though they want to, and have a twisted stomach which is a veterinary emergency!
Bright red vomit is a sign of blood being in the vomit. Small flecks of blood can be seen in the vomit of dogs who have been sick repeatedly as their throat gets irritated. Other causes can include stomach ulcers, inflammation, poisoning and blood clotting disorders.
Sometimes the blood can also come from areas the vomit passes through on its way out, like the teeth and mouth. Bringing up pure red blood is a cause for concern, and you should contact your vet. Sometimes this blood can look a little darker, which can be due to the blood getting partially digested by the stomach acid, and may suggest something like a stomach ulcer, so get in touch with your vet in those cases too.
This is also a situation where it makes a lot of sense to make sure your dog is truly vomiting or whether they are retching from a bad cough, as the blood will come from different body systems, so investigation and treatment will be different.
Black vomit can occur because your dog has eaten a big pile of mud or dirt. It can also be a sign of digested blood. This can be due to conditions such as a bleed in the stomach, a blood clotting disorder, or a bleed in the mouth that has then been swallowed, and the blood digested in the stomach for a bit.
Often your vet will describe digested blood as looking like coffee grounds, so quite dark brown/black. If your dog is vomiting this kind of colour you need to speak to your vet!
As a lot of dog’s eat brown coloured food, it’s not abnormal to see a brown colouring to some partially digested food coming back up. The smell is an important aspect of brown vomit though, as if it’s not their food that’s coming up and it smells like poo, this could be a cause for concern.
If your dog has just woolfed down some fox poop, and brought it back up, then it’s likely to be that, but vomit that smells like it came from the other end can be a sign of a blockage in your dog’s intestine, so contact your vet immediately if your dog’s vomit smells like poo.
If the vomit smells like chocolate, this can also be a concern and you should contact your vet, as your dog may have helped themselves to some chocolate, which is toxic to dogs.
Other colour of vomit?
Vomit can also come in various colours if your dog has been eating something brightly coloured. Some brightly coloured treats can contain toxic sweeteners so check the ingredients in these cases and contact your vet.
The texture of vomit
As well as colour and smell, we can also look at the consistency of vomit. Often when a dog vomits they will bring up their food, and if this is a one off and your pooch goes back to normal, this shouldn’t be a concern. If you are worried at all though, always contact your vet.
As we said before, a foamy consistency can be a sign of a twisted stomach and bloat, a veterinary emergency, so if your dog is bringing up foam, seek veterinary advice.
Another common texture is when we see something we shouldn’t. A piece of chewed up ball? Sweet wrappers? If your dog is repeatedly vomiting and bringing up bits of toy for example, give your vet a call as it could be that another piece of this toy is blocking their stomach or intestine.
What to do for different types of vomiting?
- If your dog is sick once, brings up their dinner, but then carries on like normal and is bright and happy, chances are it is nothing to worry about. However if you are concerned at all, always contact your vet.
- If when your dog vomits that one time, they are bringing up blood, dark brown/black vomit, it smells like poo or you know they have eaten something potentially toxic, then contact your vet immediately for further advice. The same goes if your dog appears unwell or in pain at all.
- If your dog is repeatedly vomiting, then phoning your vet is your next step to getting a bit more information on what’s happening and what treatments might be necessary. Filming the vomiting is always a good idea, and can really help your vet to see what’s happening at home. Also taking in a “sample” of the vomit to your appointment, can let them take a look at it as well.
The information on this article should only be used as a guide, and should never replace advice or treatment given by your veterinarian.
Further info on poisonous plants to dogs
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