Thursday, June 21, 2018

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Coffee Grounds in Vomit

When talking about blood in vomit, I touched on the fact that blood doesn't always look like blood, meaning doesn't always have the typical bright red appearance. Fresh blood does, blood that has already been digested does not. Instead, it looks like coffee grounds.
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Coffee Grounds in Vomit

I don't want to freak anybody out with graphic images, so I just include illustrations. But if you want to see what that really looks like, there is an example photo here.

Couldn't a dog just get into garbage and eat some coffee grounds?


Well, everything is possible, particularly with dogs. If that were the case, you should be able to find evidence of that quite easily. If that is the case, you might be looking at potential caffeine poisoning. Caffeine toxicity generally ranges from moderate to severe.

The symptoms of caffeine toxicity can indeed include vomiting, diarrhea, as well as hyperactivity, restlessness, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, tremors ... and in severe cases seizures, collapse and death.

The urgency and actions you need to take depend on how much was ingested and how is your dog feeling.

Coffee grounds that are not from coffee


What appears like coffee grounds might not be coffee grounds at all but digested blood. This can be accompanied with black tarry stools. This too can be caused by a stomach ulcer, or it can be digested blood that comes from elsewhere, such as swallowed blood from the respiratory tract.

Your dog is likely to be refusing their food, lethargic and having diarrhea.

What can cause this?

The most common potential cause is damage in the GI tract; ulceration or erosion. It can happen as a result of gastritis, trauma, severe vomiting, foreign body, mass/tumour, liver disease, pancreatitis, Addison’s disease, drugs (e.g. NSAIDs, corticosteroids) and even mast cell tumors that are actually on the skin (they can release histamine etc leading to hyperacidity in the stomach).

Less likely causes are lung disorders (where blood is swallowed and the vomited) or bleeding disorders. In such cases, you'd likely see many other red flags along with vomiting coffee grounds.

Any of these sound to you like not being an emergency?


Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in your Dog: Vomiting
What Happens in a Dog's Body with Severe Vomiting?
Why Examine Your Dog's Vomit?
What's in the Vomit?
Blood in Vomit
Worms in Vomit

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

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31 comments

  1. This looks like a great resource for dog owners. It is so important to be aware of changes in your pet's behavior.

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  2. Glad to know to watch for this and what it likely is if I ever see it!

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    1. I hope you never see it either. The first time this became a concern for me, I had no idea what Jasmine's vet was talking about. I was describing Jasmine's vomit to him and he asked if it looked like coffee. And I had to paraphrase from Crocodile Dundee, "cream and sugar?"

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  3. Very informative post! I have never had a dog with blood in their vomit or stool fortunately, however, Junior has had a few bouts with diarrhea over the last year and a half that were suspect. He is raw fed so a very dark color diarrhea/loose stool is something I had seen before so I didn't freak out. That said, I did make a call to my vet and breeder just to check. I don't mess with black stools or vomit of any kind except for hunger pukes.

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    1. Hunger pukes are usually yellowish/pale in color, though, not dark.

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  4. I keep everything that can be poisonous out of reach from Layla and her being small it is easy. Coffee grinds go into a sealed compost bin which I put on the counter when I am emptying the coffee pot so none fall on the floor. I am a paranoid Jewish MOM

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    1. It's good to be paranoid. One cannot always prevent everything, though, dogs can get pretty crafty.

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  5. When I've seen it, it was bright red. Good to know that other colors can also indicate an emergency.

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  6. Great warning here. Never new about digested blood looking that way.

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    1. There is power in knowledge; that's why I'm sharing these things.

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  7. I read this thinking. I'd be at the vet's by now if this happened to a dog I new!! This is a red flag issue - vet first, worry later!

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  8. I'll have to look out for this, so far I've not seen anything like it in my dogs thankfully. Thanks for sharing.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. I don't know if you need to look out for this per se; would be hard to miss as well as not likely to be the only symptom.

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  9. Although I knew that blood in vomit was darker and looked like coffee grounds, I'm not sure that I'd remember if I saw it. A reminder like this is always appreciated.

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    1. It is not always darker; sometimes it can be fresh red blood as well. Depends on how long it stayed in the system. Both can happen.

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  10. It seems that my comments didn't go through the first time. I had always heard to look for black tarry stools or blood in the stool, but not coffee ground looking stuff in their vomit. Very informative post - thanks.

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    1. Sorry you had a hard time commenting. Yes, digested blood can show up both in stools and in vomit.

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  11. You always have such very informative and helpful posts. I learn so much. I had no idea about coffee grounds in vomit could actually be something other than coffee grounds like blood. Wow. Just further supports the idea that we as pet parents need to be viligent stay informed and attentive.

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    1. It is important to have some general knowledge, at least about emergency-type situations. Coffee grounds in vomit being actually coffee grounds is quite unlikely, unfortunately.

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  12. This is so important to know! I would've never thought what looks like coffee grounds could be blood.

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  13. Coffee grounds is a great analogy that I can remember. I hope I never see what looks like coffee grounds in any dog’s vomit, but I feel much more prepared to understand the severity of the situation now. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, it is easy to remember, particularly when one understands it. The first time Jasmine's vet asked me if her vomit looked like a coffee, I had no idea what kind of look he meant by that. As per Crocodile Dundee, "cream and sugar?" ;-)

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  14. I take on board all the information you post. For example, I check for black, tarry poop! This post is doubly informative with points about coffee grind blood and what to do if dogs actually get into coffee. Thanks for sharing this important information.

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    1. I hope I'm not adding to you being too paranoid :-)

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  15. Luckily I have never had my dogs vomit except once each induced by a vet (over 17.5 years in Isabelle's case) for eating something they shouldn't have. Good to know what to look out for though. So scary how many things can go wrong with family.

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    1. Never? Wow, you have some exceptional dogs! :-) I had dogs vomit everything from bile, grass, horse poop, sticks, plastic, feathers, rocks ...

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  16. Once again, I've learned something new from you. I would definitely rush my cats to the vet if I noticed something dark in their vomit.

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