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What is Vomiting Bile?

Although vomiting is a familiar symptom of many illnesses, vomiting bile is less common and can indicate something more serious. Bile can be described as a foamy liquid that is most often yellow but can be dark green, yellow-brown or a light yellow. It is a bitter tasting fluid produced by your dog’s liver. It’s goal is to help digest lipids in the small intestine as well as neutralize excess stomach acid before entering the upper intestinal tract. Here are some prevalent causes of vomiting bile:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Bilious vomiting syndrome

These are not all of the possible causes of bringing up bile, as vomiting is such an often seen symptom and can have an array of reasons for appearing. Expelling bile is not always dangerous, but in some cases, it can be. It is best to not overlook vomiting bile, as it could possibly be caused by something serious.

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Why Vomiting Bile Occurs in Dogs

If your dog vomits bile but appears to have no other alarming symptoms and returns to normal afterwards, taking them to the vet should not be necessary. If they throw up bile twice a week or daily, take them to the vet.


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the dog’s pancreas. This can be caused by a high-fat meal, for example allowing him to eat bacon drippings or greasy and oily foods. Other causes include some medications, metabolic disorders, hormonal diseases, genetics and abdominal surgery. Pancreatitis can make your dog sick and can cause abdominal pain, severe vomiting, depression, dehydration, a hunched posture and often a fever or diarrhea. These symptoms will often arise within 24 to 72 hours after ingesting the meal. Overweight and obese dogs seem to be more at risk, along with certain breeds like Yorkshire Terriers and Schnauzers due to their genetics.

Intestinal Blockage

A dog with an intestinal blockage will vomit because the food will not be able to make it past the blockage and will have to come back up. Symptoms of intestinal blockage include repeated vomiting, dehydration, severe abdominal pain, constipation, gagging and loss of appetite. Blockages can usually be caused by the swallowing of small items that are hard to ingest, like plastic or rocks, items that are slow to digest, like bones, or objects that are too big to pass through. In older dogs, it can be caused by masses. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease can be triggered by a chronic irritation in the dog’s intestinal tract. This can cause vomiting of bile that will flow into the small intestines. Nutrition, genetics, abnormalities of the immune system and infectious agents can all play a part in causing inflammatory bowel disease. Common signs aside from a dog heaving bile include diarrhea, blood or mucus in the stools, which will occur more frequently but in smaller amounts, and weight loss. In severe cases, your dog can develop a fever, become depressed and refuse to eat.

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

Your dog can develop bilious vomiting syndrome and begin to consistently throw up bile because they have been on an empty stomach for too long. The stomach will then secrete acid and mucus which will create bile. Since the stomach is empty, there will be nothing to absorb the acid, which will become irritating. Your pet will become nauseated and will start to vomit the bile. This can start to happen if the stomach is empty for around 8 hours or more. This is often more common in middle-aged to older dogs, but no dog is immune.

What to do if your Dog is Vomiting Bile

Dogs who develop pancreatitis will often require prescription food and some antibiotics until they get better. Dogs with intestinal bowel disease may require a higher quality diet that is free of by-products, grains and fillers. Diagnosis will include a complete blood count, urinalysis and a thorough physical exam. Treatment will include supplemental fluids, medication to reduce the amount of vomiting and pain relievers if your dog seems to be experiencing pain. The overall goal is to correct dehydration, maintain the balance in fluid and electrolytes as well as providing nutritional support. Pancreatitis can be dangerous if not treated, and veterinary intervention is advised. Intestinal blockage will be diagnosed by considering the dog’s history, taking x-rays and a physical examination. Getting rid of the blockage will vary in methods depending on the location. In many cases, surgery is a common solution. For small items, mineral oil may help it to pass, and sometimes offering a high-fiber diet every 4-6 hours can help. 

Diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease will require a physical exam, history, laboratory findings, x-rays or ultrasounds, biopsy and any other procedures required to rule out other possible illnesses. Curing it will include dietary management, immunosuppressant medications, antibiotics and various other therapies. Inflammatory bowel disease can be controlled but not cured completely. Your pet will need a proper diet and medications long-term in order to reduce the symptoms. Bilious vomiting disease is rarely serious and can be cured, but taking your pet to the vet will still be necessary in case they need medication. Treating this disease may include antacids like cimetidine, famotidine or ranitidine. If your vet suspects bilious vomiting disease, they will want to eliminate any other potential causes by doing some blood tests, fecal analyses, and imaging of the gut by doing ultrasounds or endoscopy. If your dog develops gastritis due to long-term exposure to bile, they will most likely require medication.

Prevention of Vomiting Bile

To prevent vomiting bile, avoid feeding your dogs fatty foods. This can include fat trimmings from the meat that you eat for dinner, which you should never feed to your dog. If your dog is known to eat small objects, prevent them from doing so by monitoring them or keeping small items away from their reach. This will help prevent intestinal blockage.

To help against bilious vomiting syndrome, feed your dog smaller and more frequent meals, and sometimes a bedtime and early morning snack. Keep track of the time of day that they seem to be vomiting bile the most often, so you know when they have an empty stomach and require more food. This will keep the stomach active and prevent the vomiting of bile. Giving them a carbohydrate rich meal, such as pasta or boiled rice a few hours before bedtime can also help, as these foods will be slow for the stomach to digest. Provide your pet with a diet that is healthy and contains all of the required supplements, like vitamins and minerals.

Cost of Vomiting Bile

Costs for treating these illnesses vary. Treating pancreatitis will be about $2200 and intestinal obstruction can cost $3000. Finally, inflammatory bowel disease can require $2800 to treat.

Vomiting Bile Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

American Pit Bull Terrier
4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Vomiting up yellow foam.

Changes: This past Sunday we went away with our two dogs to a Hotel that allows pets and we are staying in a hotel.
On Monday at 6pm I had both my 4 year old dogs vaccinated with required Distemper and Bordetella vaccine for daycare.
On Tuesday and Wednesday both dogs went to doggie daycare.
On Thursday one of the dogs had thrown up alot of her food. At lunch I gave them some steak. Later that night she threw up again but this time the vomit was a yellow foamy slimy consistency. At 8:00 I tried giving her some chicken and plain mashed potatoes because it was recommended in something I read.
At 5:30 am she started retching and threw up slimy yellow stuff, but not much like before. She's not acting herself.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Vomiting with or without bile may be caused by a variety of different causes; there may be a side effect of vaccination, a small infection, stress, foreign object, poisoning among many other causes. Vomiting is a vague symptom commonly seen as the first symptom in hundreds of different conditions; try to withhold food for 12 hours and then feed a small portion of boiled chicken and rice to see if she can keep it down, if she is still having issues or she develops other symptoms like fever or anything else concerning visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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