Why Does My Shih Tzu Throw Up? 8 Reasons + White Foam Vomiting

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, it’s that you will have a puking Shih Tzu at some point. Shih Tzu puppies are prone to throwing up a variety of colored puke including yellow or white foam, undigested food, clear liquid, mucus, bile, slime and many other weird and wonderful vomits.

But whatever the age of your dog, when your Shih Tzu throws up it’s going to be worrying. It might be due something as simple as them eating too fast. Alternatively, you might have a Shih Tzu that vomits up sick all the time, which could signal a serious health problem.

I am not a vet, but I am a dog owner who has a lot of experience with vomit. Nice, I am sure you would agree! The bottom line is; if you are worried then please do consult with your vet. But before you do that, here’s what I personally know about the reasons why your Shih Tzu throws up, and what the different types of vomit and sick could mean.

Why your Shih Tzu is vomiting and puking

There are multiple types of vomit and regurgitation that can affect Shih Tzus. I’ve consulted with my own vet and read professional forums to give you an idea of what they could all mean, and what action you should take.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up white foam?

The reasons your Shih Tzu keeps throwing up white foam so much are very varied. In the majority of cases it won’t anything serious, but for peace of mind seek professional advice.

The first thing you need to do is to check what has been thrown up by your Shih Tzu. It might not actually be vomit but could be them clearing their airways. It might instead be some saliva that they need to regurgitate.

shih tzu vomits
Your Shih Tzu could throw up after eating. They will need some TLC and rest. (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/pet-shih-tzu-dog-puppy-2530265/)

Vomiting and regurgitating are two different things, and I will explain the differences at the end of this article. But for simplicities sake, I am going to address both things as the same thing; throwing up.

Causes of white foam vomit

1. Indigestion and stomach upset

Your Shih Tzu could be throwing up white foam just because they have an upset tummy. The most common reason is gastroenteritis where they have an empty stomach and then puke up a white foam vomit.

This condition is also known as bilious vomiting syndrome. The bile produced can not only be white but also have a yellow color. Sometimes it’s smelly too.

Handy Hint: Here’s a list of the most dangerous foods that a Shih Tzu can eat.

2. Puking up something they ate

Shih Tzus love to put anything in their mouth they can get their teeth around, particularly during the puppy teething phase. It might be that they ate something their stomach disagrees with.

If your Shih Tzu hasn’t eaten in a while, they won’t have any food to puke up, so the foreign objects they ingested can get puked back up as a white foamy or slimy material.

3. Kennel cough

One of the more common reasons Shih Tzus throw up white foam will be kennel cough. It’s not actually vomiting but instead is where your Shih Tzu coughs so hard they expel white foam out of their mouths.

Kennel cough can be contracted when your Shih Tzu has been exposed to other dogs, usually in kennels as the name suggests. It is an upper respiratory infection that your vet can treat, typically being treated in a week to 10 days.

Handy Hint: Here are all the things that young puppies can get sick from when they stay in boarding kennels for the first time.

4. Bloat

Bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus) is one of the most serious reasons for Shih Tzus puking up white foam and slime. They can become sick very quickly and will need to be seen by a vet quickly.

It occurs when their stomach becomes twisted after expanding. The stomach can expand when filled with food, fluid, or gas which then puts pressure on their internal organs. If not treated quickly it can stop blood flowing to your Shih Tzu’s heart… so it is potentially fatal.

White foam will be vomited up when the nothing can get in or out of the Shih Tzu’s stomach. It’s more common in elderly dogs.

You can reduce the chances of bloat and white foam vomit by making sure your Shih Tzu doesn’t over exercise after eating. Some vets recommend you wait a good 30 minutes after their meal, even with light walks.

Handy Hint: Here’s how long and why you should wait to walk your dog before and after they have eaten.

5. Pancreatitis

Another serious health condition that results in your Shih Tzu throwing up white foam is pancreatitis. This is an inflammation of the pancreas, which is an organ that aids digestion of food.

Your vet will need to diagnose this condition, but other signs to look out for include your Shih Tzu hunching his back up, being in obvious pain around their abdomen, having diarrhoea, not eating properly, being listless, and becoming dehydrated due to not drinking enough.

6. Kidney disease

Another serious possibility related to white foam vomit can be kidney disease. Other symptoms to look out for can include increased urination or pooping the house when your Shih Tzu was previously house-trained.

White foam puking can be an early indicator of the disease. However, with early treatment, Shih Tzus can go on to have a good life with a reduced chance of any further complications.

7. Parvovirus

Parvovirus can be contracted through exposure to other dogs, in particular contact with faeces. It’s a viral infection that will become apparent within a week of contraction, with white foam vomiting and blood in diarrhoea.

It is a fatal disease but should be rare as long as your Shih Tzu has had the correct vaccinations as a puppy. Parvovirus should only be contracted by an unvaccinated Shih Tzu so it’s an unlikely cause of throwing up white foam for responsible dog owners.

8. Rabies

Another unlikely reason for white slimy foam can be rabies. It’s going to be very rare in countries such as the UK and United States, but it still a possibility.

Dogs with rabies will foam at the mouth.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up yellow foam?

Yellow foam sick can also relate to many of the possibilities I’ve already listed under the white foam section, but it can sometimes differ if it’s a yellow bile and liquid.

A Shih Tzu that throws up yellow liquid and bile could have:

  • Bilious vomiting (the most likely): in simple terms, a stomach upset.
  • Bowel problems: an irritation in the GI tract.
  • Pancreatic problems: an inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Intestinal blockage: your Shih Tzu’s meal can’t get to the stomach.
  • Stomach ulcers: can also result in weight loss, fever, and pain.
  • Liver problems: your Shih Tzu may not be able to digest food properly.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up brown liquid?

Brown bile and vomit will often smell like dog poop… and that can actually be what it is in some cases. Puppies, Shih Tzus included like to eat dog poop for a variety of reasons including:

  • Seeking out nutrients that aren’t getting their diet.
  • Simply due to hunger as gross as that sounds.
  • Sometimes for attention knowing it will get a reaction.
  • Sometimes due to boredom or stress (for example, kennel stress in dogs)

Brown vomit won’t always be dog poop though, it could be blood that has become browner inside of the mucus and bile being thrown up. It could result from:

  • Blocked intestine.
  • Bleeding ulcers.
  • Something that they ate.
  • Possible gum disease or tumors where the brown color signifies bleeding.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up clear liquid?

A clear and foamy slime or foam that doesn’t include any undigested food could be related to a range of medical issues. If there’s no food in the clear liquid, it probably isn’t due to anything your Shih Tzu has eaten.

Doctor Jeff Werber, a well-respected vet based in Los Angeles, explained to PetMD.com that clear liquid vomit could indicate something other than a reaction to food:

“Fluid means we are looking at some other reason, such as kidney, liver, pancreas, or severe gastritis, where the cause is not food or an irritant. It could also indicate oesophageal reflex which is like our heartburn.”

However, it’s key to not panic if your Shih Tzu is throwing up a clear liquid as there could be a far simpler explanation.

On another vet website I read a comment from a professional. They said that dogs who are distressed will often start to drool heavily. That can often be mistaken for vomit when in fact if no food comes up, it’s not actually puke, and could be just excessive drooling.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up green liquid?

Green bile and vomit shouldn’t be viewed as seriously as some of the other sick colors. For example, dogs love to eat grass and weeds and so anything they throw up will be of a natural green color – sometimes even lime green in appearance.

Here’s a breakdown of what green foam or liquid could mean in your Shih Tzu’s vomit.

  • Plants or grass: dogs will eat grass to sooth their stomach, clean their insides, make up for a lack of minerals, or due to boredom and anxiety. When the organic material is ingested the chlorophyll in the grass will stain the vomit a green color. If you can see plant-based matter in your Shih Tzu’s vomit, it’s not a cause for concern but do try to discourage them eating grass.
  • Green bile: green vomit could signal bile being thrown up. Bile is stored in your dog’s gall bladder and is designed to absorb fats and breakdown other nutrients. Green bile can reflux into your Shih Tzu’s stomach, but that color also means its fresh. But it might also mean there is something stuck internally, so consult with your vet.

Why does my Shih Tzu throw up pink or red foam?

A Shih Tzu that throws up pink foam could have a tummy bug. The act of vomiting hard can actually burst some of the smaller blood vessels in your Shih Tzu’s stomach, which then dilutes into the vomit and mucus to create a pink tint.

Alternatively, it could be a stomach ulcer. However, as soon as you see any signs of pink sick it almost certainly means there is a degree of blood in their vomit, so should be checked out by a vet as soon as possible.

Small ulcers or damage to the stomach lining can be treated with medicines and your Shih Tzu should normally respond very well to treatment in a few days.

Handy Hint: This breed is also very susceptible to skin problems, here’s what to look out for.

Other reasons why your Shih Tzu could be sick

Aside from the serious possibilities regarding Shih Tzu puking I’ve already detailed, there are some other occasions where your Shih Tzu could be sick. I’ve listed those below, giving examples of when your Shih Tzu might throw up vomit and why.

You might also like this awesome infographic on the reasons for vomiting.

why dogs vomit
Why dogs vomit infographic by petMD.com

After drinking water

There are a few different reasons why your Shih Tzu could be vomiting after drinking water, including:

  1. They could have drunk the water too fast which will stimulate the dog’s gag reflex.
  2. It could look like water but actually be a mix of gastric juices, saliva, and water.

In the second example, it might be because your Shih Tzu hasn’t eaten for a long time, has a digestive blockage, or even one of the more serious conditions listed further up this page.

As with all vomiting, for peace of mind please call your vet if you don’t think it’s related to your Shih Tzu drinking too much too quickly.

In the morning or late at night

Shih Tzus that throw up in the morning or late at night will usually do so due to their eating habits. If your dog has gone a long time without eating, when the food hits their stomach it can irritate the bile reflux.

Morning sickness can also be just that; related to pregnancy. Here’s a list of more possible reasons your Shih Tzu could be sick in the morning:

  • Colitis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Reflux gastritis.

Handy Hint: Here are the signs to check for if you suspect your Shih Tzu is pregnant.

Stress, excessive excitement or anxiety

I have never met a Shih Tzu who doesn’t get excited, especially when it’s feeding time. They still have their competitive pack mentality from puppyhood, so will try and eat their food as fast as possible to stop anybody else getting a look-in.

When dogs eat too fast, they can throw up. The same happens with humans, so it’s not really that surprising.

However, Shih Tzus can also be sick when they get excited outside of mealtimes. This can be due to being stressed and anxious. It’s because their stomach muscles become tense and their bodies react with vomiting.

After over-eating or eating too fast

Coming back to the quick eating now, and there’s a good reason why your greedy Shih Tzu will be sick and puke up;

  • They don’t give themselves enough time to chew larger pieces of food.
  • They can swallow lots of air which will then be regurgitated back up.

When on car rides

Just like humans, dogs can suffer with car sickness. Motion sickness isn’t the only reason your Shih Tzu pukes in your car though… it could also be due to the stress of not liking car journeys.

If you have a puking Shih Tzu in your car, try to introduce them to smaller car journeys at first so they learn there’s nothing to be worried about.

After exercise or on walks

Imagine for one moment that you ate a huge dinner and then immediately went for a 10-mile run. Can you imagine what would happen? I think we all know…

And it’s the same with Shih Tzus. If they eat heavily and then exercise or over-exert themselves, that food can quickly get puked up.

shih Tzus exercise and vomiting
Just like humans, Shih Tzus can also get sick after heavy exercise. (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/shih-tzu-dog-puppy-animal-cute-dog-5538105/)

I would recommend that you don’t walk your Shih Tzu for at least 2 hours after eating. Some vets say that exercise so soon after eating can lead to bloat, torsion, or GDV (gastro dilation-volvulus) all of which can make your Shih Tzu throw up.

After the exercise, let your Shih Tzu cool down for at least 30 minutes before letting them eat. These two tips should in theory mean your Shih Tzu no longer vomits after exercise or walks.

When you should call the vet

There are a lot of scary reasons why your Shih Tzu throws up in this guide. But I don’t want you to panic, in most of the cases listed here, the slime and bile will just be due to a stomach upset and something your Shih Tzu ate.

I am a firm believer in letting the professional decide, so when our dog has vomited, in most cases we’ve called the vet if we can’t see any undigested food in the sick.

Here are some signs that you should definitely call the vet after vomiting:

  • Your Shih Tzu throws up all the time and vomiting last more than 24 hours.
  • Your Shih Tzu is in obvious signs of pain or lethargic.
  • Your Shih Tzu also has blood in their stools.
  • Your Shih Tzu is projectile vomiting.

Is it vomiting or regurgitation?

I mentioned earlier that these are actually two different things. They can also have very different causes. Here’s a quick explainer:

  • Vomiting: this is when materials coated with bile come up from the stomach. Your Shih Tzu will start to retch, hunch, lick his lips, and drool. It will probably be a mix of digested food coated in a yellow bile.
  • Regurgitation: this is when your Shih Tzu throws up undigested food covered in saliva, mucus, and slime. It comes up from the oesophagus or pharynx so won’t have actually reached as far as the stomach.


I hope I’ve given you some insight into why your Shih Tzu is vomiting or keeps throwing up his food.

With most Shih Tzus it won’t be an indication of a serious health problem, but I would always err on the side of caution and speak to your vet. I would especially say this if you are wondering why your Shih Tzu puppy keeps throwing up – these young pups need a closer eye looking at them at all times.

You might also like…

There’s a wealth of helpful information on this blog about looking after Shih Tzus. Here’s a selection of the most recent.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/shih-tzu-puppy-shih-tzu-puppy-dog-5273249/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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