By Rita Hogan
Anyone who’s spent a lot of time around canines knows this for a fact.
The most common form of vomit is bile or bile reflux. It’s yellow or greenish in color and usually odorless.
This is yellow bile vomit. It can have the consistency of goo, be full of mucus … or air-filled and foamy.
Your dog vomiting might cause you concern … but yellow bile in vomit is actually quite normal.
What Is Bile?
Bile comes from the liver and gallbladder.
It breaks down fats and oils in the small intestine … it helps your dog’s body to absorb nutrients.
The digestive process uses bile continuously throughout the day. The liver and gallbladder release bile into the small intestine … to prepare for digestion.
Bile is essential for proper digestion in small amounts. But it sometimes builds up in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract. And then it can cause your dog to feel uncomfortable and vomit.
Bile can often accumulate and flow through the pyloric sphincter into the stomach. It then travels up into the esophagus (between the stomach and mouth).
The pyloric sphincter is usually a one-way valve. But sometimes due to pressure … or not able to close properly, bile flows in the wrong direction.
So let’s talk about why your dog might vomit bile.
3 Common Reasons Your Dog Throws Up Bile
Here are some of the common reasons your dog might vomit yellow bile.
Heat in the gastrointestinal tract can be a reason your dog vomits bile.
Heat can come from inflammation in the stomach and small intestine. This happens when fluids that circulate run low.
So when your dog has an empty stomach … he might vomit bile.
Lack of food can cause bile to build up and irritate your dog’s stomach lining. Usually this happens overnight … so your dog will throw up soon after he wakes up.
Acids in a dog’s stomach are similar to ours … but digestive secretions aren’t released in the same way.
Your dog’s digestive system releases bile and enzymes even if he hasn’t eaten.
This type of bile vomiting is sometimes known as bilious vomiting syndrome. People also call it hunger pukes.
This type of vomit cools the stomach and brings down heat. As dogs age, vomit happens more due to an empty stomach.
What To Do About It
This condition has an easy fix:
• Feed smaller meals and …
• Give your dog a snack at bedtime
These two things will help him avoid nausea in the morning.
2 Feeding Kibble
Feeding your dog kibble can cause bile vomit.
Kibble can dry out the digestive tract and increase heat. Kibble absorbs moisture in the digestive tract. That causes the stomach to expand and overproduce stomach acids.
What To Do About It
Feed your dog a fresh, whole food, raw diet. This is always the best choice for your dog.
But … if you must feed kibble, divide it up into 3 or 4 small meals and feed throughout the day.
3 Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities can cause inflammation (gastritis) … which leads to bile reflux.
Certain foods cause an immune response and rapid inflammation. This produces excess bile and nausea.
In this situation … you may also see diarrhea from heightened food motility through the intestines. You’ll also likely see undigested food in the stool.
While there are common reactive foods like soy, corn and wheat … any type of food can cause a reaction.
It can often happen if you give foods that are too warm or cooling for your dog’s individual constitution. (This article lists neutral, warming and cooling foods.)
New foods or additions to your dog’s current diet can also be upsetting to the stomach. When you introduce a new food, try it first in a separate meal before adding it to your dog’s regular food.
Gastritis is a fancy word for an irritated stomach.
Sometimes you’ll see your dog eat grass or dirt … and then throw up yellow bile mixed with grass. Dogs do this to help cool the stomach. Gastritis is usually due to food sensitivities.
What To Do About It
If your dog has severe gastritis … give his digestive system a break by:
• Fasting for 24 to 48 hours, or …
• Giving room temperature or slightly warmed bone broth for 24 to 48 hours
Inflammatory vomiting weakens the spleen. So it’s important to avoid serving your dog’s food cold or straight out of the fridge.
If your dog frequently vomits bile, here are some other things that can help you get to the bottom of it.
Keep A Journal Of Your Dog’s Schedule
Record your dog’s daily eating (and vomiting) habits. Keep notes of:
• Your dog’s mealtimes
• What food he eats
• When he vomits
• What day and time
• What it looks like
• Any other symptoms
It can be helpful to snap a picture of the vomit. You can keep it to compare later … or to show your vet if you have to take your dog in for an exam.
Sometimes your dog may have other symptoms along with vomiting yellow bile. You may see diarrhea, fever, low appetite or lethargy.
Jot down details about the who, what, where and when. It can help you recognize patterns you might not notice otherwise.
4 Herbal Solutions For Yellow Vomit
Here are some herbs you can use to help with your dog’s yellow vomit. Read the descriptions and find the one that best fits your dog.
Meadowsweet is good for acidity in the stomach, over-reactivity and pain. It’s well indicated for dogs who are thin, cool and lacking vitality.
Dried herb: Give twice daily with food:
• 150 mg. for extra small dogs to small dogs
• 300 mg for medium dogs,
• 500 mg for large to extra large dogs
Tincture: 1 drop for every 10 pounds twice daily before eating. Dilute in a small amount of water and drop into mouth.
2 Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow root calms the stomach and decreases heat. It coats and soothes the gastrointestinal tract, bringing down inflammation.
Marshmallow Root Dosage
Use a capsule of marshmallow or take chopped root and infuse it in cold water overnight. You can give either one with food.
For capsules, use the following amounts twice daily:
• 1/2 capsule for small dogs,
• 1 capsule for medium to large dogs
• 3 capsules daily for extra-large dogs (2 capsules morning and 1 in the evening).
For an infusion, take 2 Tbsp of marshmallow root to 2 cups water and let it sit overnight. Strain and give these amounts twice daily:
• 2 tsp for extra small dogs
• 3 tsp for small dogs
• 2 Tbsp for large dogs
• 4 Tbsp for extra large dogs
Chamomile helps decrease spasms and inflammation in the digestive tract. It coats and soothes the mucosa and tissues. It also helps prevent acid and bile reflux.
Make an infusion with 2 Tbsp of chamomile to 1 cup of almost boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Let it cool and strain. Give these amounts 2 to 3 times a day:
• 1-2 tsp for extra small dogs
• 3 tsp for small dogs
• 1-2 Tbsp for large dogs
• 3-4 Tbsp for extra large dogs
When there’s inflammation (gastritis) in the digestive tract I like to use a combination of herbs. You can mix chamomile and lemon balm leaf infusion with marshmallow glycerite.
Directions: Infuse chamomile and lemon balm as described above. Mix 4 oz of cooled infusion with 20 drops of marshmallow. Use the same dosage schedule as the chamomile infusion.
Here’s another blend for yellow vomiting, from holistic veterinarian Cheryl Swartz. (She’s the author of Four Paws Five Directions). It’s a mix of goldenseal root, dandelion root and chamomile. It cools and calms the stomach and removes stagnation from the liver.
Directions: Blend the following ingredients:
• 1 oz of spring water
• 10 drops of golden seal tincture
• 5 drops of dandelion root tincture
• 5 drops of chamomile tincture
Give these amounts 2-3 times a day.
• 1/2 dropper for small dogs
• 1-2 droppers for medium dogs
• 2-3 droppers for large dogs
Licorice coats the digestive tract and has a cooling effect. You can use it short-term for reducing acute bile vomiting as well as heartburn.
Use a licorice glycerine extract. Give these amounts twice daily, on an empty stomach, for 1-10 days during an active episode of bile vomiting.
• 3 drops for extra small dogs
• 5 drops for small dogs
• 8 drops for medium dogs
• 12 drops for large dogs
• 15 drops for extra large dogs
In most cases, vomiting bile is something you can resolve yourself at home. But there are some times when you might need to consult your holistic veterinarian.
When To See A Vet
Vomiting yellow bile is common. But sometimes your dog may have other symptoms that mean it’s more serious.
Let’s go over a few conditions that warrant bringing your dog to the vet.
Some dogs will eat things that aren’t edible … like socks or hard toys. These objects can cause a blockage inside the digestive tract.
If your dog’s vomiting bile but also has constipation or can’t keep any fluids down … take him to the vet right away.
Bloat or GDV
Torsion or bloat is another type of blockage. It’s also called GDV – gastric dilation and volvulus. This is a deadly condition and it happens fast!
The stomach fills with gas and twists, closing it off at both ends. If your dog has some of these symptoms, don’t delay in getting him to a vet.
• Vomiting yellow or white foam, or trying to vomit with nothing coming out
• Tight stomach
• Pale gums
• Looks distressed
Don’t stop to wonder about it. Timing is everything when it comes to bloat.
Giardia is a parasite that causes vomiting. Yellow bile vomit can be one giardia symptom. Other symptoms include profuse diarrhea and possible lethargy.
If you suspect that your dog has giardia, take a fecal sample to the vet for analysis. If the test is positive, here are some natural ways to manage it.
Inflammation of the pancreas is painful and sometimes serious. Pancreatitis is usually because your dog can’t digest fats and oils.
Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. Symptoms include lethargy, spasms, decreased appetite, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
If you see these symptoms, it’s best to get your dog into the vet for an exam.
Severe Gastrointestinal Upset
If your dog has chronic, severe yellow bile vomiting … it can be a symptom of a larger gastrointestinal issue. This could include things like cancer, ulcers, or chronic inflammation.
In these cases your dog may have additional symptoms like …
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
When your dog vomits yellow bile without any other symptoms, it isn’t anything to worry about. Just keep in mind the above situations that warrant a trip to the vet.
Most of the time, you can troubleshoot vomiting yellow bile at home.
Rita Hogan CH– is a canine herbalist and co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals, an herbal remedy company for the All-Natural Dog. Rita combines nature with her love for dogs by offering consulting that focuses on dogs as individuals: mind, body and spirit. Her practice incorporates herbal medicine, complementary therapies and environmental stewardship to help dogs and people find balance and partnership with nature. Connect with Rita through her website canineherbalist.com