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What should you do when your dog is vomiting bile?

French bulldog looking sad advice
© Pixabay

To vomit is to be a dog. Vomiting is a common pastime of dogs and, is more often than not, caused by them eating something that doesn’t agree with them.

By Nick Whittle

Updated on the 19/12/2019, 15:26

Motion sickness causes a dog to be sick just like it does a human. But when a dog’s vomitus contains foamy yellow-green fluid, and if she is sick more than usual, it is time for a health check.

Bilious vomit can have a number of origins, and some warrant more attention than others.

What is bile?

Bile is made in the liver. It passes from the liver to the gall bladder, a little sack that sits below the liver and which is connected to the first part of the dog’s intestine. When food passes from the stomach into the intestine, the gall bladder is told to squeeze out some of its stored bile to break down the food.

There are several reasons why a fluid which is meant to go down through the tubes of the digestive system goes up. One of these is called Bilious Vomiting Syndrome or BVS, or early morning bilious vomiting: the bile makes its way back up into the stomach and causes irritation resulting in a vomit of bile.

Dogs most likely to suffer with BVS are young, mixed-breed and castrated male dogs.

There are some other reasons that your dog may have bile in her vomit:

  • Gastro-intestinal diseases or inflammations
  • Pancreatitis
  • Intenstinal blockages
  •  Parasitic infections

Causes of a dog's bile vomit

Let us look at the above causes more closely and add recommended treatments of each.

Gastro-intestinal diseases or inflammations

Serious stomach illnesses cause your dog to vomit bile. Ailments such as cancer or an inflammatory bowel disease also cause weaknesses of the 'gates' that stop food and bile from re-entering the stomach.

To vomit excessively and over a long period of time wears down the structures of the stomach and exacerbates the problem.

Treatment: Rehydration with water and electrolytes is the first line of defence against a worsening GI infection; if necessary, antibiotics are also be administered.


Pancreatitis is defined as the inflammation of the pancreas, and vomiting bile is one of the symptoms of pancreatitis. It most often affects dogs who have passed middle age and that are overweight. Although its causes are not completely understood it can flare up after a dog ingests foods of an especially high fat content.

Certain breeds of dog are more prone to the condition than others including the miniature schnauzer, miniature poodle and cocker spaniel.

Treatment: Antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary infection is discovered. Because pancreatitis is very painful for a dog, a treatment usually includes the administering of pain killers. A low-fat regimen will also be recommended.

Bile vomit is due to excessive sickness.
Some breeds of dog are more prone to bile vomit than others.  © Pixabay

Intestinal Blockages

Excessive vomiting eventually forces bile into the stomach. One of the causes of continued retching may be an intestinal blockage. If this is suspected, medical intervention should be sought promptly since a blockage can lead to the rupture of the bowel. Severe pain and lethargy in combination with the bilious vomit may indicate such a problem.

Treatment: Urgent medical intervention is necessary. A vet will ascertain by various measures whether or not your dog’s bowel is blocked. If it is, your dog may need to undergo emergency surgery.

Parasitic infections

Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms may cause gastric inflammations which result in bile vomit. Bacterial infections such as Giardiasis that cause the dog to vomit excessively achieve the same result.

Liver flukes can be present in the bile duct and the gall bladder. In small numbers they are not seen to threaten the health of the dog. However a fluke infection that is more severe may cause the animal to develop progressive weakness.

Treatment: Various worm treatments specific to the infestation are available, and for bacterial infections of the gut your vet may recommend a course of antibiotics. Dogs diagnosed with Giardia are usually treated with a medication such as fenbendazole.

What complications arise by excessive vomiting?

A complication of extreme sickness is dehydration. 85% of bile is water, but the substance also contains electrolytes and minerals that your dog’s body needs to survive.

Young puppies vomiting bile are especially prone to dehydration and should be watched carefully for any signs of bilious vomit. When one of the following is observed of your dog you should contact your local vet for advice:

  • Dry retching
  • Violent vomiting which includes bile
  • Food and water not kept down
  • Vomiting for more than a day
  • Vomiting three or more times in one hour
  • Vomitus containing blood
Bile irritates the stomach and causes sickness.
Young puppies vomiting bile are especially prone to dehydration.  © Pixabay

Most treatments of conditions that cause a dog to vomit include the replenishment of body fluids to prevent from dehydration. The need for a fasting diet in addition to this is determined by the nature of the underlying causes.

Vets often recommend owners to not feed a dog with a gastric irritation for up to 24 hours.

Careful attention should be paid to your dog’s diet. An allergy or intolerance to certain foods can also bring about bilious vomiting. What your dog investigates on her walks you must also be aware of.

Dogs are lovers of any type of substance that has a strong foody smell, and her desire to eat matter that may have already been regurgitated, or is decaying or infected will see a recurrence of her sickness.