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23 May 2022


Dog Throwing Up White Foam: Causes and Treatments

While white foamy vomit is usually benign, there may be underlying health reasons why your pup is throwing up. Here’s how to know the difference and some at-home tips for calming your dog’s digestive tract.

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If your dog is throwing up white foam, your first reaction may be worry or fear. But there’s no reason to panic. In many cases dogs who occasionally vomit white foam are simply experiencing temporary digestive upset that can be addressed at home. But if your pup is throwing up repeatedly there may be cause for concern.

Here’s what you need to know about why dogs vomit white foam and how you can help your sick pup.

Why Is My Dog Vomiting White Foam?

Pale frothy vomit that resembles foam or bubbly saliva (as opposed to chunkier dog vomit containing undigested food) can occur because of excess air or gas in the stomach. Your dog is most likely throwing up this white foamy liquid—a mix of saliva and gastric juices—because there’s little else in their stomach to purge. 

What Causes a Dog to Throw Up White Foam?

Gastrointestinal (GI) distress is the most common reason why dogs vomit white foam. Foamy vomit may also occur if a dog has excess gas in their stomach, which can lead to abdominal discomfort and nausea. If your dog is experiencing indigestion and their stomach is empty, they may vomit this pale, frothy liquid or foam.

But what’s causing your pup’s digestive dilemma? Gastrointestinal distress is a common response to many situations and circumstances. Single-episode vomiting may be caused by benign irritants such as:

  • Eating grass or other outdoor materials
  • Experiencing heightened stress, anxiety, or nervousness
  • Suffering from motion sickness (e.g., car rides)
  • Having an empty stomach 

Best Food for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

Can Vomiting White Foam Signal More Serious Problems?

In some cases, vomiting white foam can indicate a more serious underlying health problem, especially if it’s occurring frequently or accompanied by other illness signs such as coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, or tremors. Call your veterinarian if you are concerned by your pup’s behavior or clinical signs. Serious conditions associated with foamy, white vomit include:

  • Kennel cough (canine infectious tracheobronchitis) — Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Vomiting will likely be accompanied by a strong cough and sneezing or a runny nose.
  • Tracheal collapse — This condition, which primarily affects toy breeds, occurs when the tracheal rings that reinforce a dog’s windpipe begin to collapse. Affected dogs also develop a honking cough which may be worsened when walking on a collar and leash.
  • Bloat — Also known as gastric dilation, bloat occurs when the stomach fills with air. If bloat occurs, your dog’s abdomen will appear distended. If the stomach twists, this condition is known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV) and requires emergency surgery. 
  • Bacterial or fungal infection — Bacteria can enter your pup’s digestive tract through spoiled or contaminated food. Fungal sources include environmental yeast, which is often found in bird or bat droppings. Other clinical signs include diarrhea, shaking, and appetite loss.
  • Acid reflux —  Like humans, dogs can experience acid reflux when gastrointestinal fluid flows into the esophagus.
  • Pancreatitis —  Pancreatitis is a painful inflammatory condition that occurs when digestive enzymes leak from the pancreas and attack surrounding tissue. Acute pancreatitis in dogs can be triggered by dietary indiscretion (i.e., eating sugary, fatty, or spicy human food). 
  • Kidney injury or disease —  When your dog’s kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they may exhibit extreme changes in thirst level, pale gums, and frothy vomit.
  • Toxin ingestion — Vomiting is a common clinical sign for many pet toxins.
  • Heat stroke — When dogs overheat, they experience rapid internal changes that lead to sickness (e.g., vomiting, lethargy), incoordination, and potentially fatal organ damage.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Throwing Up Blood

How to Treat a Dog Who’s Throwing Up White Foam

Immediately contact your veterinarian if your pup is experiencing any concerning signs. These situations require professional veterinary intervention. Do not attempt at-home treatment.

However, if  you know your pup chowed down on some grass earlier and they’re otherwise behaving normally, it is probably safe to monitor them at home.

You may attempt to calm your pup’s irritated gut by withholding food for up to 12 hours. Offer ice cubes instead of water until their visible signs subside. When your dog is ready to eat again, offer a small amount of easily-digestible food such as boiled chicken and rice. If they tolerate the meal, gradually ease your pup back to their normal diet over the next 48 to 72 hours and watch for further vomiting.

Recover and Reset with Bland Diets for Dogs

How to Prevent Persistent Vomiting in Dogs

Although initially it’s a relief to learn that your veterinarian can’t determine a medical cause for your pup’s persistent vomiting, it can also be frustrating. Fortunately, there are a few things you can try at home to minimize the mess and stop your pup from throwing up.

  • Change your pup’s food — White foamy vomit may not contain any food, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s current diet isn’t upsetting their digestive system. Try rotating proteins or switching to a fresh food diet. Every Ollie recipe is gently cooked to preserve nutrients and increase digestibility.
  • Keep a consistent feeding schedule — Delayed meals can upset your pup’s stomach, so feed in a timely manner to avoid pre-meal vomiting.
  • Give a bedtime or morning snack — Feeding a small food portion before bedtime or immediately after waking up may help settle your pup’s stomach and reduce irritating acid buildup.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety — Stress is a frequent but often overlooked precursor to vomiting in otherwise healthy pets. Observe your pup’s behavior and strive to minimize possible stressors. Exercise is a great way to decrease stress in pets and humans, so go ahead and take a nice long walk! 
  • Keep a journal — One way to identify potential patterns or triggers is to record your pup’s vomiting episodes on a calendar or in a journal. Make note of any other changes such as increased excitement (e.g., a neighbor came to visit), unusual foods or treats, or other events (e.g., your dog came in from playing and drank a lot of water) that preceded—and potentially triggered—their episode. Follow up with your veterinarian if you notice a pattern or potential cause.

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The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.

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