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Dog Throwing Up White Foam: What Does it Mean?

Is your dog throwing up white foam? In the majority of scenarios, this is actually nothing to worry about. It happens to all dogs, although some are more prone than others. 

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from gastrointestinal problems - problems like acid reflux, indigestion, or just an upset stomach. When you consider how little attention a dog pays to what they eat, what’s astounding is how little they throw up!

However, excessive vomiting or coughing up white foam can be a problem if it occurs regularly, so always keep an eye on your dog’s behavior. In this article, we’ll explain why dogs throw up white foam and when you should be worried. 

When should you be concerned about a dog throwing up?

You may be asking yourself “why is my dog throwing up?” Well, your dog maybe throwing up white foam for several reasons. Primarily, it’s because they have trapped air in their stomach, or their stomach has been upset by something they’ve eaten. 

Owners are often concerned because foaming is a well-known symptom of rabies (a serious condition to contract!). In this case, though, the white foam is vomited up not because of rabies but because there’s nothing else to throw up in the stomach.

Most of the time, you do not have to worry. However, sometimes, the reason behind your dog vomiting could be a cause for concern.

What should I do if my dog is throwing up white foam?

If your dog doesn’t normally throw up white foam, then don’t worry too much about it. They probably ate something bad around the house, or they simply have indigestion or acid reflux. A dog throwing up yellow bile or a dog throwing up undigested food right after they’ve eaten is also normal, to some extent. 

Unless it happens regularly, there’s little cause for concern. A dog vomiting white foam constantly, or a dog being sick after every meal, is cause for concern and does require medical expertise. Extensive dog vomiting (white foam or other vomit) can be a sign of a disease, illness, or medical condition - so go to the vet if it’s an abnormally common occurrence. 

The primary reasons for dog vomiting white foam include the following: 

  • Indigestion 
  • Acid reflux
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Toxicosis
  • Infectious disease
  • Rabies 
  • Bloat

Let’s explore the causes of dog vomiting white foam in more detail, so you know when your dog needs medical attention and when they’ve just eaten something rotten!

Indigestion 

The most common cause when your dog vomits white foam is simply indigestion. Humans suffer from indigestion, dogs suffer from indigestion, and so do many more animals!

Indigestion is most often caused by eating the wrong thing. Dogs really aren’t picky when they are rummaging around the home or the garden. They’ll eat anything on the floor, in the flowerbed, in the bins, or anywhere else they can get into. 

It’s a wonder that dogs don’t throw up more. If you’re concerned about what your dog is eating, then you’ll need to keep track of their movements. Try to avoid leaving crumbs lying around, don’t feed them under the table, and try to stop them from eating grass (yes, grass is often the biggest culprit for an upset stomach!). 

Acid reflux 

Dogs also suffer from acid reflux (just like humans!), and some dogs can be more susceptible than others. If your dog is coughing while they vomit white foam, it’s likely to be acid reflux. This occurs when bile enters the stomach, leading to regurgitation.

Acid reflux can also cause yellow vomiting (which is bile and stomach acid). Acid reflux is fairly normal, but it can be irritating and even painful if it continues for an extended period of time. Seek out advice from your vet if this is the case, as they may be able to prescribe medication or recommend a better diet or meal plan for you to adopt. 

Pancreatitis 

Pancreatitis is a more serious condition to look out for, but thankfully, it’s not quite so common as acid reflux or indigestion. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas stops producing enzymes, produces too many enzymes, or when the enzymes are being disruptive rather than doing their job!

The pancreas is necessary for digestion (it produces the necessary enzymes), and so vomiting can be a symptom of this condition. Pancreatitis can be fatal if left unchecked, so veterinary attention is required for a diagnosis and treatment. 

Pancreatitis will be accompanied by other symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a drastic change in behavior - it will be clear that your dog is suffering from more than a case of acid reflux. 

Gastrointestinal obstruction

Vomiting can be a sign of gastrointestinal obstruction, causing blockage and inflammation. Vomiting is an attempt by the body to dislodge the obstruction. This might be accompanied by coughing or choking, and if your dog can’t relieve the obstruction, you will need to see the vet. 

In serious cases, your dog may need to undergo x-rays, ultrasounds, or endoscopy to allow the obstruction to be located. If it can’t be removed through induced vomiting (the vet will know how to make a dog throw up properly), then surgery is the final option. 

Obstructions can be caused by all manner of objects your dog may have ingested (accidentally or purposefully). 

Toxicosis 

In rare circumstances, vomiting can be a symptom of toxicosis - in other words, poisoning. There can be any number of toxins that have been ingested through bad food or your dog eating the wrong thing (rat poison is a huge problem for dogs). 

Dogs can also be stung by snakes or insects when they are in the garden or out for a walk. In this case, you might notice other symptoms, too, such as a bite mark or bleeding. Toxicosis is serious, and can quickly prove to be deadly, so seek urgent veterinary attention. 

Infectious disease

Infectious diseases also lead to vomiting, although there are also going to be many other potential symptoms too - depending on the infection itself. 

The most common infectious disease contracted by dogs is Kennel Cough, which affects the respiratory system and can induce vomiting. 

Infectious diseases are usually treated with antibiotics. Your dog will need lots of rest to recover, too, so consider setting up a bed ramp for dogs to help them get around the house easily. To avoid spreading the disease, your dog will need to be quarantined in the house, too. 

Rabies

A distinctive symptom of rabies is white foam, but thankfully, rabies is incredibly rare due to widespread vaccination. Rabies is a viral disease that’s spread through biting, and it can quickly be fatal in dogs (and humans). 

Rabid dogs foam at the mouth, but they’ll also have other symptoms, including aggression, distress, and anxiety. Rabies can’t be treated in dogs; it can only be prevented. There is a rabies vaccine, and you should ensure your dog has this when they are young. 

Bloat

Bloat (or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus) is a serious gastrointestinal condition that requires urgent veterinary attention. 

This occurs when the stomach essentially fills with gas, and it can lead to a serious and fatal rupture. Bloat is quite rare if your dog follows a regular meal plan. It’s thought to be more common in oversized breeds rather than your average or small-sized dog. 

Treatment involves decompression - essentially releasing the bloat from the stomach. It’s not pleasant, but it will save your dog’s life. 

How to prevent your dog from throwing up

There can be a wide range of reasons as to why your dog is vomiting, and it’s not really feasible to stop your dog from puking once it’s started. Remember, though, if it’s only happening irregularly and there are no other symptoms present, then there’ probably not much to be concerned about. 

What you can do, however, is prevent them from throwing up. Keep an eye on what they eat, how often they eat and try to avoid leaving unsuitable food lying around the home. Monitor their activities outside and inside, and ensure they aren’t tucking into something they shouldn’t be!

If the cause of the vomiting is more serious, then you need to seek veterinary advice to diagnose the underlying cause. They can run a diagnosis and investigate the cause of the vomiting, allowing the cause to be treated and future vomiting prevented. Acting swiftly can even save your dog’s life if there is a medical emergency.  

Dog throwing up white foam: the last word

If your dog has thrown up white foam for the first time, then it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Like humans, dogs also suffer from a range of gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux and indigestion. 

However, if your dog keeps throwing up white foam or regularly throws up their food, then you should seek out the advice of a veterinary professional. The first step your vet will take is to thoroughly examine your dog. Although it could be nothing, it could also be a sign of illness or a more serious underlying medical condition.

If your dog has thrown up white foam, then bookmark this article for future reference.

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