It is not uncommon for dogs to sometimes bring up some yellow bile. Perhaps your dog suffers from chronic vomiting and has done this for some time, or maybe he has just brought up some yellow bile for the first time… Either way, this can be distressing for you as an owner and for your furry friend too. Understandably, you may be worrying about what has caused it. This yellow liquid you are seeing is usually a mixture of stomach acid and bile.
What is bile?
Bile is a natural digestive juice that is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When a dog eats, bile is released into the intestines to help break down the food. This means that the nutrients can then be used by the body for energy.
Why is my dog vomiting bile?
There are lots of reasons why dogs may bring up yellow bile. Figuring out the exact reason why this has happened can be challenging, particularly because many of the conditions which can cause this look alike. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are ten top reasons that dogs will vomit bile:
1) Bilious vomiting syndrome
If you notice that your dog throws up yellow vomit especially when he is hungry, he may have bilious vomiting syndrome. This occurs when the stomach has been empty for too long and bile and stomach acid irritate the lining of the stomach - this makes dogs feel sick. This is often seen when dogs are fed only once a day, or if they have had an empty stomach for eight hours or more.
Surprisingly, allergies to food or even substances in the environment can cause signs of stomach upset in dogs. You may be thinking that you haven’t changed your dog’s food so he can’t possibly have a food allergy. However, dogs can become allergic to any food at any time! Dogs with allergies will often also have skin problems such as itching or ear and skin infections so this may be a helpful clue.
3) Inflammatory disease
There are many inflammatory diseases that can affect the digestive system in dogs. One of these conditions is called ‘inflammatory bowel disease’ (IBD) which may also cause diarrhea, weight loss, and a poor appetite. Dogs with IBD may have periods when they are completely normal, and then be unwell at other times. This is one of the main causes of chronic vomiting in dogs.
Some internal parasites can cause dogs to vomit bile. Dogs will usually also have lower energy levels, diarrhea, eat less than normal, and may show signs of tummy pain.
5) Dietary indiscretion
Abrupt diet changes can cause a tummy upset. If your dog is prone to scavenging things that he shouldn’t, it may be that he has eaten food that doesn’t agree with him.
Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. This is usually triggered by eating fatty or oily foods. Dogs with pancreatitis can become very unwell and develop vomiting, a painful belly, and diarrhea.
7) Intestinal blockage
One of the most common causes of a blockage in the stomach or intestines is a foreign body. Dogs are naturally curious and unfortunately, some dogs are notorious for swallowing things they shouldn’t, such as pieces of clothing or toys. This can then cause an obstruction in the intestines, where food can’t make it past the blockage. In most cases, dogs will vomit repeatedly, have severe abdominal pain, lose their appetite, and can become very unwell. If you suspect your dog may have eaten something he shouldn’t have, it is essential you contact your veterinarian immediately so that emergency care can be provided if needed.
If a dog eats a harmful substance it can cause vomiting and other problems depending on what they have ingested. There is a range of hidden dangers even at home, such as chocolate, human medications, and cleaning products so it is a good idea to think about whether or not your dog could have accidentally swallowed any.
9) Liver and gall bladder problems
Problems affecting the liver or gall bladder include inflammation, infection, and cancers. Sometimes dogs with problems affecting the liver or gall bladder will get yellowing of the gums and eyes.
10) Certain cancers
Sadly, some cancers which affect the digestive tract can cause vomiting. Dogs with cancers will often have other signs too, such as weight loss, changes in thirst and energy levels for example.
What other signs should I look out for?
There are some accompanying signs which you may see if your dog is vomiting yellow liquid. It is useful to keep an eye out for some other changes which may help your veterinarian to narrow down what may be going on.
- Blood in the vomit
- Change in thirst (increased or decreased)
- Reduced energy levels (lethargy)
- Yellowing of the skin and/or gums
- Weight loss
- Change in behavior
How can we find out what is causing my dog to vomit?
To start with, your veterinarian will ask plenty of questions about your dog’s general health, his eating habits, and any medications he is on. Information about the appearance, timing, and frequency of the vomiting will be useful. A thorough head-to-tail examination of your pet will be performed. The information provided by yourself and the clinical examination will usually give some clues about what is more or less likely to be the cause of the vomiting. Based on this initial assessment, your veterinarian may recommend some diagnostic tests. This can include:
1) Blood and urine tests
2) Radiographs (x-rays)
3) Ultrasound scans
In some cases, it may be necessary to look into the food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and sometimes the intestines with a camera – this is called endoscopy. Biopsies can be taken – these are small samples of tissue that can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Surgery may be necessary in some cases to investigate and treat the cause of vomiting, for example, if there is an obstruction.
How can we treat chronic vomiting in dogs?
Following an examination and using the results of any tests, your veterinarian will be able to advise what ongoing treatment your dog needs, if any.
Your veterinarian may suggest simply feeding a different food or changing his feeding pattern. For example, dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome will often feel much better if they are fed smaller but more frequent meals. Similarly, dogs with IBD usually improve with changes to the diet, such as feeding ‘hypoallergenic’ food. This is a diet that has a limited number of ingredients and is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. Dogs suffering from pancreatitis need to be fed low-fat food.
Other treatments which your veterinarian may prescribe if your dog is vomiting bile include:
1) An anti-nausea injection or tablets
2) Gastroprotectant drugs which protect the stomach lining
3) Medications to reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach
If your dog is unwell and dehydrated, it may be necessary to place him onto a drip so that fluids can be given into the vein.
Frustratingly, there are many different problems that can cause dogs to vomit yellow bile. This ranges from a simple tummy upset after eating a different type of food, to more concerning diseases such as pancreatitis or an intestinal blockage. One isolated event is not usually a concern, but repeated vomiting can be troublesome. Vomiting can lead to dehydration and bile can cause damage to the digestive system if left untreated. If you have any concerns about your dog then it is always best to seek advice from a veterinarian.