Persistent, projectile or bloody vomiting is an emergency. Unproductive retching is an emergency.
If a dog vomits bile in the morning every now and then, it is not an emergency.
However, it's not something I'd ignore if it happened to my dog more often than once in a blue moon.
What is bile?
Bile is a fluid which is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When a dog eats, bile is released into the first part of the small intestine to aid digestion and removal of waste materials from the body.
A dog will vomit bile when it makes its way into the stomach, causing irritation and vomiting. There are theories why this happens but the exact reason(s) have not been determined.
A popular theory is that it happens when a dog's stomach remains empty for a prolonged period of time.
Which would make sense as bilious vomiting commonly happens in dogs fed only once a day and a popular remedy is feeding more frequent, smaller meals, and/or giving a snack before bed.
On the other hand, in nature, canines often go for prolonged periods of time without eating and their systems should have developed to handle such things.
Here is what in my opinion doesn't add up:
- bile is released into the intestine after ingestion of food
- bile accumulates when the stomach is empty
See the problem there? If it is food that triggers the release of bile, why would an empty stomach foster excess accumulation? Logically, those two statements don't work together.
Diseases involving inflammation of the intestine and changes in gastrointestinal motility can be at a root of this problem.
Now, that makes much more sense. Something other than the absence of food in the stomach must be triggering this. Intestinal reflux perhaps? Except the GI tract is designed to keep moving food and fluids forward, not backward. When things are moving in the opposite of intended direction, something is causing it. And that something is what, ideally, should be identified and addressed.
With her IBD, Jasmine would get stomach upsets during which she sometimes would vomit bile. Her intestine was, however, chronically inflamed, and her motility was slow. The better we managed her IBD, the less frequent her stomach issues.
More frequent meals and/or bedtime snacks usually help. However ...
Is it solving the issue? While getting rid of the morning vomiting seems satisfactory, what about the problem that might be brewing under the surface? Such as perhaps IBD or other inflammatory process in the GI tract?
Morning bilious vomiting is not an emergency but I do believe it warrants investigation.
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