Monday, February 19, 2018

Reasons Why Dogs Vomit Bile Vs. Food

dog upset stomach

We've all been there—watching our dogs heave and retch, but did you know that not all episodes of "throwing up" are the same for dogs?  In fact, dogs can vomit food, bile or simply regurgitate. While these might seem similar, they each have distinct reasons why they occur.

Vomiting is a complex reflex that involves the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth. It typically occurs due to illness, ingestion of toxins, motion sickness, or dietary indiscretion.  When dogs vomit, it often brings up partially digested food along with gastric juices.  Often times, you might notice your dog first licking his lips or circling around seemingly uncomfortable. Vomiting is often preceded by signs of nausea, such as drooling, restlessness, or retching, and may be accompanied by other symptoms like lethargy or abdominal discomfort.  After throwing up, dogs may attempt to eat their vomit and seem to feel better after the food has been expelled. 

Regurgitation, on the other hand, is a passive process that involves the effortless expulsion of undigested food or liquid from the esophagus or pharynx, without the forceful abdominal contractions associated with vomiting. Regurgitation occurs when food or liquid refluxes back into the mouth or throat, often due to issues with swallowing, esophageal dysfunction, or acid reflux.  A dog may be just walking by and a small amount of liquidy undigested food just spills out.  Unlike vomiting, regurgitation typically occurs soon after eating or drinking and may not be preceded by signs of nausea.  It is often a symptom though of dog acid reflux.   

Vomiting bile, also known as bilious vomiting, involves the expulsion of yellow or greenish fluid known as bile from the stomach. Bile is a digestive fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, which aids in the digestion and absorption of fats. Dogs often vomit bile in the morning when the stomach is empty. Unlike vomiting food where the dog may be nauseated and restless, vomiting bile is often due to build up of acid in the stomach.  The dog may be first attempting to eat grass to ease their stomach discomfort.   Food can coat the stomach and provide a buffer to absorb the excess acid.

Dogs can experience three forms of expulsion from the digestive tract: vomiting, regurgitation, and vomiting bile.  Understanding the distinctions can help identify the diagnoses and manage the symptoms.  Regardless if your pup experiences recurrent or persistent vomiting, regurgitation, or vomiting bile, it is essential to consult your veterinarian for proper evaluation and management.