Coffee Grounds in a Dog’s Vomit: What Is That Dark Grit in My Dog’s 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. So instead, in the vomit, it looks like coffee grounds.

Coffee Grounds in a Dog's Vomit: What Is That Dark Grit in My Dog's Vomit?

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

Could it be actual coffee grounds?

Couldn’t a dog get into the 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. However, if that’s what happened, you’re not in the clear. You might be looking at potential caffeine poisoning. Caffeine toxicity generally ranges from moderate to severe.

The symptoms of caffeine toxicity can include the following:
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • 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 your dog is feeling.

Coffee grounds that are not from coffee

What appears like coffee grounds might not be coffee grounds at all but digested blood.

Vomit containing “coffee grounds” be accompanied by 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 will likely refuse their food, be lethargic, and have 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 the following:

  • gastritis
  • trauma
  • severe vomiting
  • foreign body
  • mass/tumor
  • liver disease
  • pancreatitis
  • Addison’s disease
  • drugs (e.g., NSAIDs, corticosteroids)
  • 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 then vomited) or bleeding disorders. In such cases, you’d likely see many other red flags along with vomiting coffee grounds.

Does any of these sound to you like not being an emergency?

Categories: Blood in vomitCoffee grounds vomitSymptomsVomiting

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. Gosh, anything that looked like coffee grounds in my dog’s vomit would send me racing to the vet. This is terrific article on what coffee ground in your dog’s vomit could be and what to do if you see it. I’m sharing this article with all my dog parents.

  2. Good grief this sounds scary whichever way you look at it. I would not have thought if it as dried blood but your explanation makes total sense – and its scary and YES I would be at the vet right now!

  3. This is good information to know! We learned this from our pediatrician when one of our kids was sick.

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