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Is it normal for dogs to throw up white foam?

Is it normal for dogs to throw up white foam?

We all get an upset tummy from time to time. If you find that your dog has thrown up white foam, there’s no need to immediately panic. White, frothy vomit could mean a number of things and could be nothing to fret about. However, there may be an underlying health condition connected to your dog’s symptoms and may be an early sign of something more serious.

Why is my dog’s vomit white and frothy?

Nothing has us pet owners flying off the couch or out of bed quite like the sound of a dog retching. A dog vomiting every once in a while is totally normal though. It’s the frequency at which they are vomiting that may be a sign of a larger issue.

You may have noticed once or twice that your dog’s vomit is white and frothy instead of the partially digested food from an earlier meal. Pale, foamy vomit is caused by excess gas in the stomach. The reason that it isn’t “chunkier” is likely because there is nothing else in their stomach to force out aside from gas bubbles, saliva, mucus and maybe some stomach acid or other gastric juices.

Dog pet sick vomit Dog pet sick vomit liquid dog vomit stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What is the underlying cause of a dog vomiting white foam?

Even if your dog is throwing up white foam instead of their actual food, this is still a sign that your pup’s stomach may be irritated. Gastric irritation can be caused by a whole host of things, ranging from minor to more severe ailments. 

One of the most common causes for white, frothy vomit is excess gas in the stomach. This is particularly common in the case of dogs who eat too fast and in brachycephalic breeds (squishy faced dogs like bulldogs and pugs).

A few other irritants to your dog’s stomach might be:

  • Your dog ate human food that was too rich in sugar, salt or fat. Even though many pet owners like to share food from the dinner table or let their dog lick their plate clean, this human food may actually be very irritating to a dog’s stomach.
  • Ingested something that was toxic or poisonous. This could include a number of things including: house plants, cleaning/hygiene supplies, toxic human food (like chocolate), herbicides or insecticides,etc.
  • They ate too much grass. Dogs eating grass isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. A dog could be eating grass because they are bored or curious. However, it may still cause some minor irritation, therefore inducing vomiting.
  • Skipping meals. Certain dogs are actually sensitive to having an empty stomach, which results in canine acid reflux. This condition occurs when bile in the intestines moves backward into the stomach after a period of not eating. The bile along with extra gas in your dog’s stomach, causes them to vomit. In this case, frothy vomit may be white or yellow. 
  • Heat stroke. When dogs have heat stroke, they pant excessively and will gulp down more air. In combination with feeling nauseous and likely not eating, vomiting is usually one of the symptoms of heat stroke.
  • Food poisoning or stomach bug. Just like humans, dogs can get a bacterial or viral infection in their digestive system. As a result, vomiting often accompanies if they are not feeling well.
Leaves of green grass in the white foam of piles of dog vomit Leaves of green grass in the white foam of piles of dog vomit on dirt land dog vomit stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Unfortunately, your dog vomiting white foam may also be a sign that your dog may have another underlying illness. A few health conditions that may cause your dog to have pale vomit are:

  • Bloating: This condition is most common in senior dogs and certain specific breeds like labradors and golden retrievers. Bloat is the expansion of a dog’s stomach gas, fluid, or food which causes them to vomit. It may sound mundane but bloat can actually be quite a severe illness in dogs.
  • Congestive heart failure: In its final stage, CHF causes breathing to become more difficult and fluid to build up in different regions of the body, including the stomach. This usually causes vomiting in dogs with CHF.
  • Pancreatitis: This disease is the result of severe inflammation of the pancreas. If your dog is suffering from pancreatitis, it is likely they are in bad shape and experiencing a number of digestive problems, including frequent vomiting.
  • Kidney disease: If a dog’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly, toxins such as ammonia and nitrogen can build up in the body. This, in turn, can cause nausea and vomiting.

How to treat it

According to veterinarian Dr. Pendergrass, “If you suspect your dog is just having indigestion from an upset stomach, the best thing you can do to treat it is to make sure they stay hydrated.” Make sure your dog always has access to clean water. In more serious cases where they refuse to drink, use a syringe to make sure they stay hydrated. You can also soak their kibble in water or feed a high moisture food like fresh cooked dog food.

To help with the irritation in your dog’s stomach, you can withhold food for up to 12 hours. Alternatively, you can also feed them a simple, digestible meal of boiled chicken and white rice with a little bit of pumpkin.

Dog eats fish Dog eats a small herring dog vomit stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

If vomiting persists or you suspect a more serious cause, get your dog to the vet. Your veterinarian is your best resource for all things pet health!

Golden retriever retching
Golden retriever retching

View Sources

Ollie. (2022) “Why is my dog throwing up white foam?” https://blog.myollie.com/dog-throwing-up-foam/ 

Trupanion pet care (2021). “Kidney failure in dogs”. https://trupanion.com/canada/pet-care/dog-kidney-failure#:~:text=When%20a%20dog's%20kidneys%20fail,directly%20related%20to%20kidney%20failure

Small door veterinary. (2020). “Congestive heart failure in dogs.” https://www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/congestive-heart-failure-in-dogs 

The canine journal (2022). “My Dog Is Throwing Up White Foam: Do I Need To Worry?” https://www.caninejournal.com/dog-throwing-up-white-foam/ 

Flexner, Simon. "The constituent of the bile causing pancreatitis and the effect of colloids upon its action." The Journal of Experimental Medicine 8, no. 1 (1906): 167.

Watt, Barbara E., Alex T. Proudfoot, and J. Allister Vale. "Hydrogen peroxide poisoning." Toxicological reviews 23, no. 1 (2004): 51-57.

Paravicini, Patricia Veronica, Kathryn Gates, and James Kim. "Gastric dilatation organoaxial volvulus in a dog." Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 56, no. 1 (2020): 42-47.

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