Bilious vomiting syndrome in dogs is a relatively common occurrence. This syndrome is characterized by a tendency to vomit as a reaction to the overproduction of bile in the system.

Dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome will typically vomit after not eating for several hours. While this condition is not serious in and of itself, it can nonetheless cause a number of different related problems in pets. It's important that you address this issue as quickly as possible so as to be better able to treat it in your pet, as it is a highly manageable condition.

Symptoms of Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

Dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome will tend to vomit in the morning after they have not eaten food for several hours. When the stomach is empty, the acids are better able to cause irritation, which can ultimately lead to a propensity to vomit. The symptoms of this condition include the following:

  • Morning or late night vomiting
  • Vomit with yellow-colored bile
  • Signs of visible distress or pain surrounding vomiting periods

Because the dog’s stomach is empty, all that comes up is fluid, mucus, and often some bile, which tinges everything an orangey-brown color. Dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome are normal in all other respects … no diarrhoea, weight loss, poor appetite, etc.

There is no known reason why dogs develop Bilious Vomiting Syndrome, however the most commonly cited theory is that something is amiss with the normal “housekeeping” contractions of the gastrointestinal tract that should occur in between meals. As a result, fluid within the first part of the intestinal tract (the duodenum) moves backwards into the stomach resulting in irritation of the stomach’s lining and vomiting. This explanation has resulted in some veterinarians calling the condition reflux gastritis.

Treating Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

There are a number of methods by which you can help to treat your pet's bilious vomiting syndrome. One of the best ways to do this is to minimize the amount of time that your pet will go in between meals. Some vets recommend spreading the same amount of food out into multiple meals throughout the day. Others advise that you give your pet his evening meal shortly before he goes to sleep for the night rather than earlier on.

Whatever the underlying cause, most dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome respond very well to a simple form of treatment, feeding them their normal food right before bedtime and again first thing in the morning.

If feeding the dog late in the evening and early in the morning doesn’t improve matters, you should speak to your vet who may recommend some health work that may mean checking bloods, a urinalysis, a fecal examination, and abdominal X-rays to make sure that the dog is truly as healthy as he or she appears to be. In some cases, additional laboratory testing, an abdominal ultrasound, and/or scoping of the GI tract may also be recommended.

When a dog that is suspected of having bilious vomiting syndrome doesn’t get better with more frequent feedings alone and other causes of chronic vomiting have been ruled out, medications can be added to the treatment plan. Some dogs respond to drugs that reduce gastric acidity (e.g., famotidine or omeprazole) while others do better with metoclopramide, a medication that increases the frequency of contractions within the small intestines, or maropitant, a broad spectrum anti-vomiting drug.

Even when dogs with bilious vomiting syndrome are treated with medications, they should continue to eat a late evening and early morning meal. 


Veterinary Centers of America
American College of Veterinary Surgeons
UC Davis
American College of Veterinary Surgeons


This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the advice provided by your veterinarian.