Why Is My Dog Throwing Up White Foam?

Dog puking in grass

Every dog parent knows the familiar sound of your dog gearing up to vomit. Most of the time, we just hope they make it to the floor and not the carpet, but sometimes it can be a cause for concern. 

One situation that might raise alarm bells is when you see your dog throwing up white foam. As much as this sight can be worrying, throwing up foam, in most cases, is likely not cause for alarm

What Are Common Reasons for Dogs Throwing Up White Foam?

Navigating the world of canine health can sometimes feel like a mystery. While throwing up a strange household object or something they ate from the backyard can have you unconcerned, anything unusual or unexpected is a good reason to investigate.

One concern that often perplexes dog parents is when their dog unexpectedly throws up white foam.

What Is Bilious Vomiting Syndrome? 

When our dogs throw up a frothy, white substance, one potential culprit can be Bilious Vomiting Syndrome (BVS). This condition arises when bile leaks into the dog’s stomach, causing irritation and vomiting. 

BVS is more common in dogs that have gone a long time without eating, typically overnight. This often presents as yellow bile or foam but can be white. Treatment can be feeding the evening meal later or giving a snack before bedtime. 

Sometimes an H2 blocker such as Zantac will be prescribed to reduce the amount of stomach acid produced.

What Is Indigestion or Gastrointestinal Upset?

As we might suffer from indigestion after a particularly rich meal, dogs aren’t immune to digestive distress. Consuming something unsuitable or a sudden change in their diet can cause gastrointestinal upset. When this happens, a dog’s stomach can produce excess gas or fluid, leading to white foam.

What Is Kennel Cough?

Another reason your dog might be vomiting white foam is kennel cough, a contagious respiratory disease. While primarily known for causing a persistent, honking, or hacking cough, in some instances, it can also lead to vomiting. 

This happens when the continuous coughing irritates the dog’s throat, leading to the regurgitation of white foam and phlegm. While kennel cough vaccines are routinely given, dogs can still contract this virus when exposed to another dog with kennel cough.

Antibiotics are sometimes given, although it will resolve on its own in time. Calling your vet is the best course of action if your dog seems ill, feverish, or is constantly hacking. Most often, your veterinarian will ask you to remain in your car and bring your dog to an isolation room to be examined, as it is highly contagious. Dogs generally recover quickly with no ongoing issues.

What Is Pancreatitis?

Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, can be another potential reason for vomiting white foam. If a dog consumes a high-fat meal, it can cause the pancreas to produce an excess of enzymes, leading to irritation and inflammation. 

It can also occur as a side effect of drugs or post-surgery. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite. While white foam can appear, if your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, medical treatment is necessary.

Mild cases generally resolve with no issues, but a serious case can be life-threatening, so a call to your veterinarian or a trip to the emergency clinic is the best course of action. White foam alone is not likely to be pancreatitis if your pet is not exhibiting any other symptoms or has not consumed a fatty meal or treat.

What Are Other Potential Causes of Your Dog Throwing Up White Foam?

While the reasons above are among the more common, other less frequent causes might include ingestion of toxins, the presence of tumors, or acid reflux. Each of these conditions presents its own set of symptoms and challenges, necessitating vigilance on the part of the dog parent.

Toxins are substances that can be harmful when ingested by dogs. Some toxins can irritate the digestive system and lead to vomiting. Certain household chemicals, plants (like lilies or azaleas), human medications, and even some food items that are toxic to dogs can provoke such a reaction. 

If a dog ingests a toxic substance, it may produce excess stomach acid, leading to irritation and subsequent vomiting of white foam. It is crucial to promptly seek veterinary attention if poisoning is suspected, as some toxins can have severe or even fatal consequences.

Tumors, both benign and malignant, can also cause white foam vomiting in dogs. Tumors may develop in the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach or small intestines. 

As these tumors grow, they can obstruct the normal flow of food and gastric juices, which may result in the regurgitation of white foam. Early detection and intervention play a vital role in managing tumors, making regular veterinary check-ups, and monitoring any unusual symptoms crucial to a dog’s health.

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing discomfort and potential damage. This condition can also manifest in dogs, resulting in vomiting. When acid reflux occurs, the dog may regurgitate a mixture of stomach acid and saliva, appearing as a white foam. 

Factors contributing to acid reflux in dogs include a weak lower esophageal sphincter, obesity, a hiatal hernia, or certain medications. Mild cases of acid reflux can often be managed with dietary adjustments and medication, but it is essential to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

When To Seek Veterinary Assistance

Our love and concern for our dogs often mean that even the slightest distress can have us running for the phone to call the veterinarian. It can be helpful to be familiar with the signs that indicate a reason to call the vet. 

Of course, you know your pet better than anyone, so even if they don’t show obvious symptoms, calling your veterinarian is the right course of action if you feel something is off or wrong.

What Signs Warrant Immediate Attention?

So what should you look for? If your dog exhibits prolonged vomiting, it’s not something to ignore. Continual vomiting can lead to dehydration, seriously affecting your pet’s health. This is true of diarrhea as well, and left untreated can cause a serious decline in health.

If the white foam your dog has vomited is accompanied by blood or unusual substances, it’s a clear red flag. Such symptoms can indicate internal injuries, ulcers, or more severe gastrointestinal issues. 

Similarly, signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, unresponsiveness, a swollen abdomen, significant behavioral changes, constipation, or fever necessitate immediate veterinary intervention.

What Is the Value of Timely Interventions?

Waiting and watching might seem like a practical approach in many of life’s situations. However, adopting a proactive stance is often more beneficial when it comes to our pets’ health. Early diagnosis provides clarity and can lead to more straightforward, less invasive, and often less expensive treatments.

Consider conditions like pancreatitis. While vomiting white foam might be an early sign, pancreatitis can lead to severe complications, including organ failure if left unchecked. Early intervention ensures the inflammation can be managed, often with dietary changes and minimal medication, ensuring your pet returns to their playful self in no time.

Moreover, conditions like kennel cough, while often self-limiting, can sometimes lead to pneumonia, especially in puppies, older dogs, or those with compromised immune systems. Timely veterinary consultations can ensure preventive measures, decreasing the chances of complications.

However, it’s not just about the medical side of things. Visiting the vet can also provide dog parents with peace of mind. There’s an undeniable relief in knowing you’re doing everything in your power to ensure your pet’s well-being. 

Final Thoughts on Your Dog’s Well-Being

Being a dog parent is a journey filled with boundless joy and moments of concern and uncertainty. When faced with the unusual sight of your dog vomiting white foam or any unusual symptom or behavior, seeking answers from your veterinarian is always a good action to take for both of you.

Sources:

Stomaching the Problem: Could Your Pet Have Bilious Vomiting Syndrome? | Tufts

Kennel Cough in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment | AKC

Pancreatitis in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | AKC

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Non-Brachycephalic Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals

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