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What color is stomach bile in dogs?

Understanding the color of your dog’s vomit can provide important clues as to what is going on inside their body. Vomit that is yellow or greenish in color often contains bile, a fluid produced by the liver that aids in digestion. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the various colors of dog bile vomit and what they might indicate about your dog’s health.

What is Bile?

Bile is a digestive fluid produced continuously by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. It contains water, electrolytes, bile salts, cholesterol, phospholipids, bilirubin, and other organic molecules. The main functions of bile include:

  • Breaking down fats – Bile emulsifies fats, turning them into smaller droplets that are easier for enzymes to digest.
  • Eliminating waste – Bile carries waste products like bilirubin out of the body through feces.
  • Aiding absorption – Bile salts help the small intestine absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.

In most cases, bile travels from the liver through the bile ducts into the gallbladder where it is concentrated and stored. When food containing fats enters the first part of the small intestine (duodenum), it stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder into the intestine to aid digestion. This is why dogs may vomit bile when their stomach is empty – the bile builds up and irritates the stomach lining.

Normal Bile Color

Normal, healthy bile is typically olive green to golden yellow in color. This greenish-yellow pigment comes from bilirubin, a waste product formed by the breakdown of worn out red blood cells in the liver. Bilirubin gives bile its characteristic color.

Here are the typical colors of normal bile:

  • Olive green – Most bile is this greenish shade.
  • Golden or yellowish green – As bile concentrate in the gallbladder, the pigment saturation increases.
  • Yellow – Highly concentrated gallbladder bile is a deeper golden yellow.

As long as the bile color falls somewhere in this normal pigmentation range, it is nothing to worry about health-wise. However, abnormal shades of bile vomit can sometimes indicate an underlying issue.

Abnormal Bile Colors

While normal bile vomit is olive green to yellow, some dogs may produce bile of an unusual color due to health conditions. Here are some abnormal shades of bile and what they may signify:


Orange bile vomit often indicates the presence of blood in the bile. Potential causes include:

  • Gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis)
  • Gallbladder mucocele (fluid-filled gallbladder)
  • Gallbladder rupture
  • Gallbladder torsion
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach ulcers

Blood in the bile turns it a darker orange-brown color. This requires prompt veterinary attention to diagnose and treat the underlying condition.

Dark Brown or Black

Very dark, tarry-looking bile could mean blood has been present in the bile for a longer period of time. Causes include:

  • Ulcers
  • Tumors
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Toxin ingestion
  • Liver or gallbladder disease

Black or dark brown vomit warrants an urgent vet visit as it indicates digested blood in the gastrointestinal tract.

White or Gray

A thick, mucoid bile that is white, gray or even light blue in color may point to a gallbladder issue like:

  • Gallbladder infection
  • Gallbladder mucocele (distended gallbladder)
  • Gallbladder rupture
  • Bile duct obstruction

This unusual bile color is often accompanied by vomiting. See your vet promptly if your dog’s bile appears white or grey.

Red or Pink

While rare, some dogs may vomit up bile that is a bright red or pink color. This is often seen in cases of:

  • Bile duct cancer
  • Cholangiohepatitis (liver and bile duct inflammation)
  • Gallbladder torsion

Red bile vomit containing blood requires an immediate trip to the emergency vet for diagnosis and treatment.

What Does Normal vs. Abnormal Bile Vomit Mean?

Now that we’ve covered the various colors of bile your dog may vomit up, what do these normal and abnormal shades indicate? Here is an overview:

  • Green or yellow bile – This normal colored bile vomit alone may just indicate your dog’s stomach is irritated due to excess bile, something that calls for monitoring but not alarm. It can often be managed with diet.
  • Orange, dark brown or black – Abnormal dark bile colors point to digested blood in your dog’s GI tract, a potentially serious sign that warrants prompt veterinary care.
  • White, grey or red – These unusual hues suggest inflammation, infection or obstruction of the gallbladder or bile ducts. This requires rapid diagnosis and treatment.

While any vomiting merits attention, abnormal bile colors are especially concerning and should never be ignored. Catching conditions early greatly improves outcomes.

What Causes Bile Vomiting in Dogs?

There are several possible causes for a dog vomiting bile, both normal and abnormal in color. Here are some of the most common reasons:

Excess Bile Production

The liver constantly makes bile to aid digestion, producing up to 1,000 ml per day. Usually the gallbladder stores this bile until eating a meal triggers its release into the small intestine. If the gallbladder becomes overfilled with bile, it can irritate the stomach and cause vomiting. This often happens when a dog’s stomach is empty for too long.

Dietary Intolerances

Food allergies or intolerances may trigger excess bile production, resulting in vomiting yellow bile. This bile helps flush the irritant food components out of the stomach. Common dietary triggers include wheat, corn, soy, eggs, dairy and chicken.

Toxin Exposure

If a dog ingests toxins, the bile can help induce vomiting and eliminate the poison from the body more quickly. Exposure to toxins like medicines, household chemicals, plants, foods and insecticides can all stimulate bile vomiting.

Gastrointestinal Blockages

Foreign objects, bones, rocks or other masses that obstruct the GI tract can prevent bile from entering the small intestine properly. The backed up bile may cause vomiting instead. Tumors or polyps in the bile ducts or intestines can also block bile flow.

Inflammatory Conditions

Pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, gallbladder disorders and stomach inflammation inhibit normal bile flow and digestion, sometimes leading to bile vomit. In severe cases, the vomit may be tinged orange or brown from bleeding.


Tumors affecting the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and upper GI tract can interfere with bile production and transport. Some types of cancer also cause bleeding, resulting in bloody orange or brown vomit.

What to Do if Your Dog Vomits Bile

If your dog throws up bile, here are some important steps to take:

  1. Note the color – Make note of whether it is green/yellow or an abnormal shade like orange, black or white.
  2. Watch for further vomiting – Some occasional bile vomiting may resolve on its own, but recurrent vomiting indicates a problem.
  3. Check for other symptoms – Look for lethargy, diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss, belly pain or fever.
  4. Call your vet – Especially if abnormal colored bile or additional symptoms are present.
  5. Withhold food temporarily – Rest the stomach by not feeding for 6-12 hours.
  6. Reintroduce bland diet – Once vomiting stops, try small amounts of boiled chicken and rice.
  7. Avoid fatty foods – Stick to a low-fat, highly digestible diet temporarily.
  8. Consider medications – If vomiting persists, your vet may prescribe antacids, anti-nausea drugs or stomach protectants.
  9. See your vet promptly – For repeat bile vomiting or any concerning symptoms along with it.

While brief bile vomiting may resolve with fasting and a bland diet, recurrent or abnormal colored vomit warrants veterinary attention to diagnose and treat any underlying condition.

How is Excess Bile Vomiting Diagnosed?

To determine the cause of a dog’s bile vomiting, a vet will utilize:

  • Medical history – Important details include diet, toxin exposure, duration of vomiting episodes and any concurrent symptoms.
  • Physical exam – Feeling the abdomen for pain, masses, enlargement of organs.
  • Lab tests – Complete blood count, chemistry panel and urinalysis assess organ functions like liver, kidneys, pancreas.
  • Imaging – X-rays, ultrasound or CT scans of the abdomen check for foreign objects, tumors, gallbladder issues.
  • Endoscopy – A camera inserted into the GI tract lets vets examine the stomach, bile ducts and small intestine internally.
  • Biopsy – Taking small tissue samples for examination under a microscope can identify some cancers and inflammation.

Based on the test results, vets can pinpoint whether an obstruction, liver disease, pancreatic disorder, cancer or other condition is responsible for the bile vomiting.

Treatments for Bile Vomiting

Treatment options for excessive bile vomiting in dogs depends on the underlying cause but may include:

  • Diet Change – Prescription low-fat or hydrolyzed protein diets may help with intolerances.
  • Anti-nausea Medications – Drugs like Cerenia and Zofran can control nausea and vomiting.
  • Gastroprotectants – Coating agents such as sucralfate may protect the stomach lining from bile irritation.
  • Antibiotics – For bacterial infections associated with bile vomiting.
  • Steroids – Help reduce inflammation from conditions like IBD or pancreatitis.
  • Surgery – Removal of tumors or foreign objects blocking bile flow.
  • Further testing – Biopsies taken via endoscopy or surgery to diagnose cancers or inflammatory disease.

Quick therapy improves a dog’s prognosis for conditions like ingestion of toxins or intestinal blockages. However, vomiting related to serious diseases like cancer may have a guarded outlook.

Preventing Bile Vomiting

You can help prevent your dog from vomiting bile by:

  • Feeding smaller, more frequent meals
  • Keeping your dog on a consistent feeding schedule
  • Avoiding fatty foods
  • Refraining from strenuous exercise right after eating
  • Following up on food intolerances
  • Keeping garbage and toxins out dog’s reach
  • Monitoring for foreign object chewing or swallowing
  • Getting prompt treatment for gastrointestinal illness

While some occasional bile vomiting is normal, keeping a close eye on your dog’s symptoms and getting veterinary attention for recurrent vomiting can help uncover any problematic underlying issues requiring treatment.


While most bile vomit is the typical olive green color, unusual hues like orange, black or white can be a reason for concern. Abnormal colored bile could indicate blood from gastrointestinal bleeding or infection and inflammation of the gallbladder or bile ducts. Any recurring bile vomiting or vomit in unusual shades warrants a trip to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. With prompt care for serious underlying conditions, dogs can make a full recovery and see their normal appetite and energy return.

In summary:

  • Bile is a digestive fluid that aids in fat breakdown and waste elimination
  • Normal bile is green to yellow, while abnormal colors like orange/black indicate GI bleeding
  • Common causes include excess bile, food reactions, toxins, blockages and inflammation
  • Recurring or abnormal colored bile vomit necessitates veterinary assessment
  • Diagnostics include blood work, imaging, endoscopy and biopsy
  • Treatments range from diet change to surgery depending on the cause
  • Preventive steps include scheduled feeding, avoiding fatty foods and prompt treatment of illness

Knowing what to look for in your dog’s vomit can help alert you to potential problems requiring veterinary care. While alarming, abnormal colored bile should prompt timely diagnosis rather than panic. With your vet’s guidance, steps can be taken to relieve your dog’s nausea while getting to the root of any underlying condition.