Vomiting is always a concern for dog owners. The first thing you think of is what they might have gotten into. The next thing you wonder is how sick your dog is going to be. It’s even more worrisome if your dog vomits anything that looks white and foamy!
Dogs vomit for a number of benign causes.
Motion sickness, eating something foul from the garbage, or even gagging on grass can cause a dog to vomit white foam. If it only happens once or twice and your dog is otherwise healthy (eating, drinking, and behaving normally), observe your dog and watch for other signs of illness.
On the other hand, continuous vomiting, whether it’s white, foamy, or another color altogether, is your signal to contact the veterinarian.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the common reasons why a dog might be vomiting white foam, when to call the veterinarian, and things you can do at home to help ease your dog’s upset stomach.
Why Does My Dog’s Vomit Look White and Foamy?
Vomit that resembles white, foamy slime is the result of digestive secretion gone awry. The reason for the color and appearance can be due to any of the following:
Bile is a yellow-green digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The gallbladder acts as a “holding tank” for bile until it’s needed to aid in digestion. It plays a crucial role in the digestive process, enabling the absorption of fats and other nutrients while maintaining the balance of the digestive system.
Dogs with an empty stomach may vomit excess bile which can look white or yellow in color with a frothy appearance.
Dogs experiencing gastrointestinal irritation may produce a lot of mucus. When the dog vomits, that mucus mixes with gastrointestinal juices and air, causing a white, foamy appearance.
Some medications, including antacids, may cause a dog’s vomit to look white and frothy.
17 Reasons Why Your Dog is Vomiting White Foamy Slime
Every dog owner knows that dog’s vomit. The trick is trying to determine if it’s serious enough to warrant a visit to the veterinarian.
You know your dog better than anyone, so if something doesn’t seem right or your dog is showing other signs of illness, contact your veterinarian. Vomiting accompanied by diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, or fever should be seen by a licensed veterinarian.
The following are some reasons why your dog may be throwing up white foam:
1. Dietary Indiscretion
Dogs don’t always make good food choices if left to their own devices. Unfortunately, dogs are likely to pick up on the scent of something rotten (or dead) swallow it before you have a chance to react.
The ingestion of foreign objects (toys, bones, rocks, personal items, etc.) can lead to serious health problems in dogs including intestinal blockage, perforations, and internal injuries. Blockages can be life-threatening and require urgent medical care.
2. Eating Too Quickly
Dogs that eat too quickly are more likely to vomit because they are swallowing a lot of air along with their food. This air can cause their stomach to stretch and become distended, which can trigger the vomiting reflex.
Sometimes fast-eaters gulp down large chunks of food that are hard to digest. The result is an overproduction of digestive acids that can lead to vomiting. In fact, eating too quickly can disrupt the normal digestive process. As a result, bits of undigested food may appear in your dog’s vomit.
3. Eating a Large Meal
Some dogs just don’t know when to stop eating. If left to their own devices, these dogs will eat until they are physically sick. Large meals can lead to stomach distension which can trigger the vomiting reflex.
4. Dietary Changes
A dog’s digestive tract needs time to adjust to new food. Abrupt changes can lead to gastrointestinal upset, which is why a gradual switch is recommended.
5. Food Allergies
Food allergies occur when a dog’s immune system reacts to a particular ingredient in their food. This reaction can cause digestive upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Other signs that your dog may have a food allergy include itchy skin, paws, or ears.
6. Bilious Vomiting Syndrome
Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) is a condition where dogs vomit yellow bile or froth from an empty stomach. This tends to happen after the dog hasn’t eaten for a while. For example, they may vomit early in the morning after not eating all night.
Some dogs will show signs of nausea including lip smacking, drooling or showing less interest in food. It’s not a dangerous condition on it’s own, but it could point to an underlying health condition. If your dog is showing signs of BVS, have him or her seen by a veterinarian.
7. Ingestion of Toxins or Poisons
Household cleaners, pesticides, herbicides, human medications, rodenticides, and plants that are toxic to dogs can cause a dog to vomit.
If you suspect your dog has swallowed anything toxic, contact your veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian isn’t available, contact an emergency veterinarian clinic or call Animal Poison Control.
Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation volvulus, is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs. When a dog experiences bloat, the stomach becomes distended with gas which can cause the stomach to twist on itself, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach and other organs.
The exact cause isn’t known, but the condition seems to affect large and deep-chested breeds (boxers, Dobermans, etc.) who eat food rapidly and then engage in strenuous exercise. That said, it can happen to any breed.
Bloat can cause a dog to vomit white foam, which is often a sign of excessive stomach acid. When the stomach twists, it can cause the dog to regurgitate the contents of their stomach, including partially digested food and stomach acid.
The white foam that is produced is often a mixture of the regurgitated stomach contents and excessive amounts of saliva, which the dog produces in an attempt to neutralize the stomach acid.
Bloat is a medical emergency, and it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if you suspect that your dog is experiencing bloat.
9. Kennel Cough
Kennel cough, more recently known as canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), is a group of highly contagious infections that affect the upper respiratory tract.
CIRD is easily spread among dogs in close quarters such as at animal shelters, at the dog park, or in boarding facilities. Symptoms of kennel cough include:
- runny nose
The infection can irritate a dog’s respiratory and digestive system, leading to stomach upset and vomiting, The white foamy slime produced is usually a mixture of partially digested food, mucus, and saliva.
10. Pancreatitis (Inflammation of the Pancreas)
Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas, an organ located near the stomach, becomes inflamed.
A healthy pancreas produces digestive enzymes that help to break down food in the small intestine. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, these digestive enzymes can begin to break down the pancreas itself, causing further damage and inflammation.
In some cases, pancreatitis can cause a dog to vomit white foam. This is because the inflammation in the pancreas can cause digestive upset, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The white foam that is produced is often a mixture of partially digested food, mucus, and saliva.
Symptoms of pancreatitis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Remember how we noted that dogs may vomit due to dietary indescretion? Well, that same dietary indiscretion can also cause acute pancreatitis.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2). This virus primarily affects the digestive system, leading to nausea and vomiting. Any white foam produced in the vomit is likely a mixture of partially digested food, mucus, and saliva.
In addition to vomiting, dogs with parvovirus may also experience:
- Abdominal pain
If you suspect your dog has parvovirus, seek medical attention. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work or a fecal test to confirm the diagnosis. Parvovirus is especially dangerous in puppies who can dehydrate very quickly. Treatment for parvovirus may include medications to manage symptoms, fluid therapy and supportive care.
Rabies is relatively rare in developed countries where vaccination (in many areas) is mandatory. That said, rabies remains a concern in developing countries. This deadly viral infection is transmitted to dogs through the bite of an infected animal. Unfortunately, there is no test to detect rabies in dogs.
Signs of rabies in dogs include:
- Foaming at the mouth
- Sensitivity to touch or light
- Behavior changes
- Fear of water
13. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in dogs is a condition in which the digestive tract becomes inflamed, causing a variety of symptoms. The exact cause of IBD is not fully understood, but is thought to be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, infections, food allergies, and an overactive immune system.
Diagnoses typically involves a physical examination, laboratory tests, radiographs, and sometimes an endoscopic exam. Treatment may involve dietary changes, medication, and in some cases surgery, depending on the severity of the disease
14. Motion Sickness
Motion sickness is a common cause of vomiting in dog, especially puppies. The causes of motion sickness can be physical, psychological, or both. Most dogs outgrow it, but if motion sickness continues to be a problem for your dog, seek veterinarian guidance.
A sedative or anti-nausea medication may be warranted in some situations.
15. Kidney Disease
Signs of kidney disease in dogs include weight loss, nausea, vomiting, pale gums, loss of balance or stumbling, excessive drinking, excessive urinating, and lethargy.
For more information on kidney failure in dogs, please read: The Reality of Chronic Renal Failure in Dogs.
Some parasites, including lungworms and heartworms, can cause a dog to cough so violently that they wretch white foam. Any parasites that migrate through the airway as larvae can cause a similar reaction.
Any signs of cough, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a pot-bellied appearance, loss of appetite, or a poor coat should be investigated by a veterinarian.
17. Stress or Anxiety
Dogs can’t tell you they’re anxious in words, but they can show it in how they behave. Some dogs will subtly hide somewhere they feel safe and others will whine, pant heavily, bark, pace, refuse food, or become disengaged and depressed.
Visual cues that your dog is stressed include the tail between the legs, wide “whale-eye” appearance, head down, yawning, drooling, and excessive licking.
Dogs may vomit bile if they haven’t been eating properly due to stress.
When to Call the Veterinarian
If your dog once vomits white foam, there is likely no immediate cause for concern. Pet owners should watch their dog for the next 24 hours to ensure there are no additional signs of illness, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Change in stool color
- Excessive drinking
- Excessive urinating
- Behavioral Changes (which could indicate pain and stress)
Dehydration is dangerous for all dogs. If your dog is vomiting so much that he or she can’t keep fluids down, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian.
Younger dogs and senior dogs are at higher risk of complications including dehydration if not treated promptly.
At-Home Treatments for Your Dog’s Upset Tummy
Assuming there are no other signs of underlying health problems and your dog’s tummy is mildly upset, there are some things you can do at home to help ease the discomfort.
An easy bland diet to try is plain white rice (not fried) and boiled meat. The meat can be any type of low-fat protein including chicken or beef. Bland diets are useful in easing the symptoms of digestive upset. Your dog should be back to normal within a day or two.
Soft, cooked carrots can be blended into the mixture. Instead of carrots, you could also added a little canned pumpkin puree to the mix. The high fiber content in pumpkin can help firm up loose stools.
It’s important not to continue this diet for more than a few days because your dog needs a more complete and balanced diet. This is just for short-term treatment. If conditions persist, contact the vet.
Ready-made products like Purina Fortiflora can help to restore your dog’s digestive system to normal very quickly.
Ginger is a great, natural way to help sooth a dog’s upset stomach. There are also several supplements on the market designed to soothe a dog’s tummy. It’s a good idea to ask your veterinarian for advice on supplementation, especially if your dog is currently taking other medications.
If your dog is vomiting white foam, it could be due to various reasons, ranging from something as simple as hunger to a serious underlying health issue.
Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior, appetite, and stool, and seek veterinary care if the vomiting persists or is accompanied by other symptoms.
Remember, as a pet owner, you know your dog best, so trust your instincts and seek professional help when needed to ensure your furry friend stays healthy and happy.
Michael, D., and C. Twedt David. Gastrointestinal Pancreatic and Hepatic Disorders. Small animal clinical diagnosis by laboratory methods, 2012.
“Why Is My Dog Throwing up White Foam? Step by Step Guide.” Discover Magazine, www.discovermagazine.com/lifestyle/why-is-my-dog-throwing-up-white-foam-step-by-step-guide. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.
AskVet. “What to Give a Dog for an Upset Stomach: 5 Remedies | AskVet.” AskVet, 25 Feb. 2021, askvet.app/what-to-feed-a-dog-with-an-upset-stomach.
“Gastroenteritis in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital.” Vca, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/gastroenteritis-in-dogs. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.
UZAL.FRANCISCO. “Enteric Campylobacteriosis in Animals – Digestive System – Merck Veterinary Manual.” Merck Veterinary Manual, www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/enteric-campylobacteriosis/enteric-campylobacteriosis-in-animals. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.
“Food Allergies in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital.” Vca, vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/food-allergies-in-dogs. Accessed 14 Feb. 2023.
Linder, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Nutrition), Deborah E. “Stomaching the Problem: Could Your Pet Have Bilious Vomiting Syndrome?” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 17 June 2021, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2021/06/stomaching-the-problem-could-your-pet-have-bilious-vomiting-syndrome.