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07th Jun 2023

Bilious Vomiting in Dogs

by Emma Lee

Commonly known as ‘the hunger pukes’, Bilious vomiting syndrome (BVS) is a condition historically associated with early morning vomiting of bile. It is a term sometimes used to describe a condition where dogs are sick with a yellow fluid (called bile) or froth but not food after not eating for a long period of time.

What is Bile?

Bile aids in the digestion process by breaking down lipids (fats). Bile cells continually produce bile which travels down to the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, or it can enter the gallbladder, where it is stored. It is a yellowish green bitter substance.

What causes my dog to vomit bile?

When the dog’s stomach is empty there is nothing to absorb the stomach acids and bile. This can cause nausea and bilious vomiting. It can become an ongoing cycle, as nausea and vomiting can make a dog reluctant to eat and therefore cause an empty stomach, which can bring on bilious vomiting.

What can I do if my dog is vomiting bile in the mornings?

Bilious vomiting commonly occurs in the mornings after the dog has had an empty stomach overnight. You can try holding back a small amount of their food allowance to give just before bed. Or you could try to change their feeding times so that their last feed is later in the day.

What should I feed my dog after vomiting bile?

If your dog is otherwise happy in itself and still has an appetite, then you could offer a small meal of their usual food. If your dog is feeling nauseous or uncomfortable, then a small meal of home cooked food may be more appealing and easier to digest. If vomiting bile becomes a regular occurrence, you could try more frequent meals or changing the times of your dogs’ meals to try and avoid the stomach being empty for long periods of time.

When should I worry about my dog throwing up bile?

If your dog vomits bile once, there is generally no need for alarm. However, vomiting bile can be a sign or symptom of other issues such as gastrointestinal inflammation, pancreatitis, liver disease and toxin exposure. A visit to your vet to discuss may be needed.

Speak to a nutritionist

If you need more advice or guidance on what to feed your dog who you can get in touch with the Burns Health and Nutrition Team on our helpline page. We’ll be happy to provide individually tailored advice on the right food type and amounts for your dog.

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by Emma Lee