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Why Is My Dog Vomiting

Vomiting is a symptom categorized in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as “Rebellious Qi”. It may often be called “Qi Counterflow” to indicate when things, or in this case, Qi is flowing in the wrong direction. Rebellious Qi is often used when Qi is flowing upwards instead of downwards.

The normal direction of Qi varies from organ to organ as follows:

Spleen-Qi: upwards

Stomach-Qi: downwards

Lung-Qi: downwards

Heart-Qi: downwards

Liver-Qi: in all directions and upwards

Intestines Qi: downwards

Kidney-Qi: downwards (but from some aspects also


Bladder-Qi: downwards

In acute cases, vomiting may be the first sign of an infection. It could also be that your dog ate something they were not supposed to and their body is expelling it from their system. In either case, if your dog doesn’t go back to normal within the day you should bring them to your vet for medical attention.

Some Biomedical Causes of Vomiting

Note: Always call your primary care Veterinarian to bring your dog in when they are vomiting. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and not meant to replace medical care.

  • Infection, inflammation
  • Gastro-Intestinal: gastritis, food intolerance, stomach cancer, postoperative
  • Mechanical: bowel obstruction, pyloric stenosis
  • Trauma
  • Cerebral, neurological
  • Physiological
  • Psychogenic: stress, anxiety
  • Medications, poisons

As much as you may want to try to solve things holistically and naturally, an experienced veterinarian can rule out any serious biomedical reasons why your dog is vomiting.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, I look at vomiting through the lens of determining what pattern of disharmony presents itself.

First, we look at what other signs and symptoms present itself:

Accompanying signs and symptoms

  • acute with cramping abdominal pain – external pathogen or Liver Qi stagnation
  • with epigastric distension, belching and bad breath – food stagnation
  • with an emotional component – qi stagnation


  • with strong odors – Phlegm or Dampness
  • with emotion – Liver qi stagnation

Type of vomit

  • sour and foul smelling – Heat
  • with undigested food – food stagnation, yang deficiency
  • with dry retching – yin deficiency
  • watery and offensive – deficient and Cold or Phlegm fluids

Sudden Turmoil Disorder

  • vomiting and diarrhea at the same time – usually external pathogen or gastroenteritis


  • yellow foam – Heat
  • white foam – Cold
  • red blood – Extreme heat*
  • purple blood – Blood stasis*

Oftentimes, foam is categorized as bile. That might be the case but not always. It may also be that there is fluid in the lungs or stomach fluid that your dog is throwing up which is why I do not automatically state that “foam is bile”.

* I’m of the opinion that blood warrants a trip to emergency care. Please go to the nearest clinic near you


We will let veterinarians determine the biomedical reasons for why your dog is vomiting. From a food perspective, we look at how what your dog has been eating might have lead to this condition.

Any food that is in excess and not in line with your dog’s constitution can lead to a weakened digestive system.

Frozen: The cumulative effect in feeding frozen, or cold from the freezer/fridge to your dog weakens their digestive organs over time. Cold has a contracting effect and when that frozen or cold food hits the stomach, cells contract and while it may not be apparent the first feeding, if the body isn’t strong enough to handle this cold food, it will start to manifest in a weakened stomach over time.

Sticky: In TCM, dairy is considered to be a sticky food. It’s not meant for daily feeding. Too much raw goat’s milk, or kefir can lead to poor fluid metabolism due to digestive dysfunction and cause accumulation of fluids into Phlegm.

Raw: The body has to expend more energy digesting raw. If the dog is healthy, robust and has a lot of “yang” energy then raw is most likely something they can handle. But if their health is compromised, moving them to a cooked diet may be a good measure until such time that their strength rebounds. Proteins unfold when heat is applied and it’s easier for the body to digest so that the energy of the body is spent efficiently to fight off any disharmony instead of being used up for digestion.

Dry: The body’s fluids are depleted and digestive functions are weakened.

Under/Over Nutrition: The body is exposed to too little, or too much of a certain ingredient or supplement.

Inappropriate: The body is exposed to something it should not have ingested

Different Patterns

In Chinese Medicine, we look at what the body is communicating through pattern differentials. Vomiting may be caused by:

  • Stomach Heat
  • Stomach Cold
  • Stomach Qi Rebelling Upwards
  • Damp Heat
  • Food Retention
  • Blood Stasis

If your dog continues to throw up, it may be time to revisit their diet to address any of the patterns above.

This is where Chinese Medicine and intentional ingredient selection can help bring the body back in balance. If the wrong foods is making your dog throw up, the right food can help guide the body back to normal function.

What To Do If You Are Unable To See A Vet

In some extreme cases, you may be far from a vet, or not able to get in right away. In this case, make sure your dog is:

  • Very well hydrated. Offer water, bone broth, meat broth, canned pumpkin, baby food pureed (make sure it doesn’t have onions or xylitol).
  • Bland food. If they will not eat their meals, make a turkey, pumpkin and grain congee. And cook it in your crockpot overnight on low with a touch of bone broth.
  • Food treats: Mix ground turkey or ground beef with oatmeal. Grate some ginger (small tiny amount) into the mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: The use of grain is controversial among raw or cooked feeders. Keep in mind that if your dog isn’t eating anything, you have to figure out how to ensure it’s getting some food into it and oftentimes, they don’t have much of an appetite. Using vegetables or high-fiber grains might make things worse. In an acute, emergency, while rice can be high in glycemic load, if it is cooked over a long time, and has moisture….it may be the only way to get your dog to eat anything with their turkey or chicken as well as get some hydration into them. Pair it with lean protein, or lean chicken. If they cannot have poultry – lean beef would be the other option.


First, please note that puppies should never be fasted. Adults on the other hand can benefit from a fast. Resting their digestive system for a day may be what they need to recuperate. As mentioned above, be sure they are well-hydrated even during the fast.

Herbal Remedies

There are many Chinese formulas to address vomiting. Ideally, you would get this recommendation from your TCVM vet. If you need one I share his information below:

Dr. Dennis Thomas

Holistic Health Care for Pets
1707 E. 11th Ave, Spokane WA 99202
Call: 509-214-2676

If you would like to contact him via email: DrThomasHolisticvet@yahoo.com

I use him for my own dogs, and refer clients to him when a TCVM vet isn’t available in your city.

Different formulas warm up the digestive system, while others cool it down. In cases of food stagnation, certain formulas will purge food and help with digestion. In cases of Liver involvement, formulas can help alleviate stress. While others can help dry damp heat or resolve and transform Phlegm. As you can see there are more than one ways to approach which herbs will best suit your dog.

Closing Notes

It’s always important to work with your veterinarian when your dog is ill. At the same time, it is important to become aware of what steps you can take to prevent your dog from throwing up again in the future.

If you would like help through personalized recipes and herbal recommendations you can book a call with me here: DOG FOOD CONSULTATIONS.

Wishing you and your dog, good health!

Author Biography

Hannah Zulueta obtained her Certificate in Canine Nutrition from CASI Institute. She is also studying for her Doctorate in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbalism from the esteemed Pacific College of Health and Medicine.

She resides in San Diego with her three dogs, Maggie, Orbit, and Mr. Higgins.

She is available for one on one consultations. Additionally, you can find her sharing free content on Instagram.

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