Vomiting is a normal, healthy function for dogs and cats. On occasion, pets eat things that do not agree with their stomachs or cats need to expel a hairball, and purging brings the body back into stasis, eliminating toxins within the stomach. This sort of sporadic vomiting is not cause for alarm; however, if vomiting is occurring on a regular basis, it could be indicative that something serious is wrong with your pet.
In determining if your pet has vomited and whether or not it is a serious health concern, you must first establish whether the hurling is vomit or regurgitation. Vomiting involves physical retching and heaving from the stomach, and the product expelled is fully digested and typically has a yellowish fluid (bile) present within it. Regurgitation is hacking from the throat, and the substance is not fully digested, remaining tubular in shape; usually you will see pieces of whatever your pet has swallowed within it. During regurgitation, a pet will lower their head and dismiss the food without a lot of effort. Regurgitation is often considered less serious than vomiting, though continual regurgitation and the inability to hold food down does indicate the need for immediate veterinary attention.
An interesting fact for pet owners! - Horses, rabbits, and rats are among the few pets that possess muscles around their esophagi that prevent them from vomiting.
Three stages of vomiting in pets
- Nausea – indicated by drooling, frequent swallowing, yawning, or lip smacking. Most pets will also find a space in which to hide
- Retching – the contracting of the stomach in a way that prevents them from relaxing so nothing comes from the mouth
- Vomiting – when food physically expels from the mouth
Pets need immediate veterinary care if they:
- Also have diarrhea and lethargy
- Are vomiting multiple times per day
- Are vomiting though they have not eaten in several hours
- Have a fever
- Have projectile vomiting
- Have vomit containing bright red blood, or if vomit looks like coffee grounds
- Show signs of depression or physical agony
- Vomits once in a day and continues to vomit the following day
Any of these symptoms can signify serious illness including ulcers, kidney or liver failure, distemper, cancer, diabetes, poisoning, or Addison’s disease.
Treatment for vomiting pets
Treatment for vomiting varies, depending on whether the vomiting is acute or chronic. Acute vomiting is vomiting that has occurred occasionally over a period of less than two weeks, whereas chronic vomiting has lasted frequently over a period of at least two weeks. During your pet’s physical evaluation, the veterinarian will discuss which form of vomiting your pet has been exhibiting and will ask questions about symptoms, such as whether food or bile was present in the vomit. Blood tests can be performed to determine the functioning of the pancreas, liver, and kidneys and can also determine if there are any toxins in the bloodstream. Digital imaging can discover any foreign bodies that might be present in the stomach or intestines.
Treatment will ultimately depend on the cause of the veterinarian’s findings and could range from medication to control vomiting to treatment for cancer if a tumor is found. Regardless of the diagnosis and treatment plan, pay close attention to your pet after treatment is implemented, and if any drastic changes occur, be sure to notify the veterinarian. Keep our office informed of any improvement or worsening of the condition, and follow-up with all appointments until the problem subsides.
Keep in mind that the following foods are harmful to most pets’ digestive tracts and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea:
- Baby food.
- Coffee or tea.
- Dough containing yeast.
- Fruit seeds/pits.
- Grapes and raisins.
- Macadamia nuts.
If you have any questions about vomiting in pets, please contact our office.