Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish
As pet owners, we want our furry companions to be healthy and happy. However, dogs can experience a variety of health issues, including vomiting.
Vomiting in dogs is a common occurrence and can be caused by several factors, including dietary indiscretion, gastrointestinal inflammation, intestinal blockage, and ingestion of toxins. Signs of nausea include excessive drooling, licking or smacking the lips, and swallowing excessively.
Dogs vomit for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are anything to be worried. However, there are times when it’s a sign of a serious health condition. We’re going to help you discover the different reasons why a dog might vomit, including what different colored vomit might mean to your dog’s underlying health.
When to Bring Your Dog to a Veterinarian
While vomiting can be a relatively common occurrence in dogs, brown vomit can indicate an underlying health issue that requires medical attention. Here are some situations in which you should consider taking your dog to the vet:
- If your dog is repeatedly vomiting brown liquid or is unable to keep any food or water down.
- If your dog is lethargic or has a lack of appetite.
- If your dog has other symptoms in addition to vomiting, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, or dehydration.
- If you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxic substance or a foreign object that could be causing the vomiting.
- If your dog is exhibiting other concerning symptoms such as fever, difficulty breathing, or seizures.
Your veterinarian can perform a physical exam, run diagnostic tests, and determine the underlying cause of your dog’s vomiting.
Treatment options may include medication, dietary changes, or other interventions depending on the underlying cause.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek veterinary care to ensure the well-being of your furry friend.
Reasons Why Your Dog is Throwing Up Brown Liquid
1. Intestinal Blockage
An intestinal blockage prevents food from passing through the intestines. As a result, the digestive process is disrupted. The stomach, however, continues to produce gastric juices and bile. Once they build up enough, there’s no where to go but out.
The brown liquid vomited is likely partially digested food, gastric juices, and bile. Bile is a greenish-yellow fluid produced by the liver to aid in digestion. If your dog vomits bile mixed with partially digested food, it could have a brown color.
Note: Seek urgent veterinary care if you suspect your dog has an intestinal obstruction or blockage.
Although some dogs with intestinal parasites won’t have any signs at all, others may experience vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, poor coat, and a pot-bellied appearance.
Roundworms or tapeworms may be visible in your dog’s vomit, especially if there is a heavy infestation.
3. Empty Stomach
Dogs who haven’t eaten in a while may throw up bile, which has a greenish-yellow color. If it appears brownish it’s possible your dog ate something he or she shouldn’t have, like another dog’s poop.
4. Bleeding Ulcers
Stomach ulcers are open sores that occur in the lining of the stomach. They can be very painful and may cause your dog to vomit blood mixed with gastric juices and undigested food.
Vomit the looks like coffee grounds could be digested blood. This is considered an urgent medical condition.
5. Undigested Food
Undigested food can remain in the stomach longer than it should. When that happens, it leads to fermentation and the production of gases. These gases can cause the stomach to become distended, and the pressure can cause the dog to vomit.
When bile mixes with undigested food, it can create a brown or yellowish-brown color.
6. Eating Feces
Dogs sometimes eat other dog’s poo. It’s a disgusting habit. If your dog is throwing up brown liquid that has a putrid smell, and you know your dog has been eating feces or has in the past, that could be what he or she is vomiting.
7. Acid Reflux (Bilious Vomiting Syndrome)
Dogs with acid reflux tend to vomit bile or a white, foamy substance. However, if your dog has diagnosed gastrointestinal issues and starts vomiting anything that has a dark brown color, it could be blood.
Anything that looks like blood in vomit (dark brown, coffee ground consistency) requires medical care.
Pancreatitis is a condition that causes the pancreas to become inflamed. If the inflammation disrupts the normal flow of digestive enzymes, it can cause a condition known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).
EPI can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog has pancreatitis and is vomiting brown liquid, it may be caused by the combination of undigested food mixed with digestive fluids.
9. Dietary Indiscretion
Some dietary indiscretions result in an upset tummy or vomiting. In that case, what you’re seeing could just be whatever offending thing your dog just ate.
Sometimes, however, dogs can swallow sharp objects or things that can cause internal injury. Blood that looks dark red, dark brown, or black could be a sign that your dog has internal bleeding. This requires urgent veterinary care.
10. Gastrointestinal Inflammation or Irritation
Gastrointestinal inflammation, or gastroenteritis, is a common condition in dogs. It can be caused by any number of things including:
- Dietary indiscretion
- Bacterial infection
- Food allergies
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can cause a dog to vomit a combination of bile, gastric juices, and undigested food.
There are plenty of things your dog can get into that may cause mild to severe toxicity. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic substance, contact your veterinarian right away. If you can’t get in touch with your veterinarian, contact an emergency veterinary clinic.
The following are some examples of toxic substances that dogs have been known to ingest. Signs that your dog may have gotten into something toxic include sudden vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, extreme salivation, loss of appetite, dry heaving, weakness, lethargy, pale gums, racing heart, coughing or vomiting blood (which may appear brown).
- Certain plants
- Prescription medications
- Cleaning chemicals
- Rat poison
12. Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)
Dogs with HGE will experience vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Symptoms can appear suddenly and may include:
- Diarrhea (bloody sometimes)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
13. Eating Too Quickly
Some dogs just eat too fast. They get so excited about food that they gobble it down faster than their bodies have a chance to realize what’s happening.
Eating too quickly can cause a dog to choke on their food. It can also lead to a condition called bloat or gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV).
Dog Vomit Color Guide
Vomit can be any color, and a specific color isn’t necessarily cause for concern.
The exception to that would be if you see anything that resembles blood or has the appearance of coffee grounds. Any unnaturally bright colors in your dog’s vomit could be a sign that your dog has gotten into a toxin of some kind.
When reading this guide, keep in mind that there are different textures, consistency, and multiple colors that can appear in a dog’s vomit. Sometimes you’ll know right off what it is. Other times, you may have to watch for other signs of illness.
If you ever have any concerns about your dog’s health, contact your veterinarian. This post is not meant to be medical advice.
Yellow Vomit in Dogs
Vomit that looks like yellow foam is likely due to stomach bile. It can occur occasionally for no good reason or it could be a sign your dog is having gastrointestinal problems.
Dogs with kidney disease or kidney failure may also vomit yellow.
Green Vomit in Dogs
Vomit that appears green could be a sign of elevated bile or could signify too much grass in your dog’s diet. If it jus happens once, it’s probably not a cause for concern. If your dog has been eating grass, you may see bits of the grass in the vomit.
Green vomit can also be a sign of a bile duct obstruction in dogs.
Blue Vomit in Dogs
If your dog’s vomit is blue or has a blue tinge, it could be a sign of something toxic. If you know your dog just ate something like blue frosting off a cake, it’s likely something like that.
The worse-case scenario would be that your dog has gotten into something poisonous, like rat poison.
White Vomit in Dogs
White foamy vomit could just be a mix of saliva and mucus. It’s common to see when dogs vomit on an empty stomach and may even have a bit of yellow-green bile in it.
Red Vomit in Dogs
Red vomit could be a sign of fresh blood and should be investigated by a veterinarian. However, if you know your dog recently got into a can of beets, or red frosting, it makes sense that the vomit could be red.
Bloody vomit is always your cue to contact the veterinarian and schedule an appointment. If your dog is continuously vomiting seek medical care right away. Dogs can dehydrate very quickly, especially if the vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea.
Black Vomit in Dogs
Black dog vomit could signify and internal bleed and should be investigated by a veterinarian. It’s rare for a dog to vomit black. In fact, if you look closely you might notice the vomit is actually very dark red. This could be a sign of stomach ulcer or an undigested toxin.
That said, it could just be mud or excrement that your dog has eaten. Any vomit that looks like there could be blood in it or looks like coffee grounds is a sign of a serious condition. Contact a veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic ASAP.
Brown Vomit in Dogs
Brown vomit that looks like coffee grounds can point to digested blood and is a serious medical emergency.
In some cases, brown vomit can indicate more serious conditions, such as gastrointestinal obstruction or liver disease. If your dog vomits a small amount of dark brown liquid, monitor their behavior closely and seek veterinary care if the vomiting persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms.
Black, brown, and red vomit could all be signs of an internal bleed. Contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Is Your Dog Vomiting or is it Just Regurgitation?
There’s a big difference between vomit and regurgitation. When a dog vomits, the contents of the dog’s stomach are forcefully expelled from the body.
Regurgitation, however, is more like a burp. There are no abdominal contractions involved in regurgitation and the food that comes up has not been digested. Some dogs will regurgitate their food because they’ve eaten too quickly.
If your dog appears to regurgitate undigested food regularly, have a veterinarian make a diagnosis. Sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying condition like megaesophagus, Addison’s disease, or gastric reflux.
For pet parents, it can be alarming to see their furry friends vomit, especially if the dog is vomiting brown liquid. If that happens, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dog over the next 24 hours to watch for other signs that there could be a problem.
Possible reasons for vomiting range from mild gastric upset to poisoning. The best thing you can do is watch for additional signs of illness and contact your veterinarian the minute you feel something isn’t right.
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