There are many causes of vomiting in dogs and cats. Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are due to bacterial infections and diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit.
· Pancreatitis or the consumption of fatty table scraps or gravy. The condition is sudden and often severe in dogs.
· Toxins like lead, insecticides, antifreeze and other chemicals
· Consuming garbage (acute gastritis) or other types of dietary indiscretions or the ingestion of large amounts of hair during grooming
· Foreign bodies like toys and treats stuck in the stomach or upper intestine
· Intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms
· Motion sickness
· Infectious agents from poorly administered vaccinations and medications like canine distemper, canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia virus
· Kidney failure
· Liver failure as well as types of liver disease.
· Stomach ulcers (often caused by over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen)
· Intussusception or telescoping of one part of the intestine into another piece of the intestine
Food allergies; heatstroke; stomach and upper intestinal cancer; pyometra, a uterine infection in middle-aged, non-spayed female dogs; bladder obstructions; hyperthyroidism and heartworm in cats; ketoacidosis; deficiency of hormones from the adrenal gland (Addison's disease); and twisting and dilation of the stomach are other causes of vomiting in pets. Though, these causes are less common.
If the pet is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home, although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is advised. Dogs and cats who vomit for longer than a few days or are depressed or dehydrated should see a veterinarian. If vomit contains blood it may be fresh, red blood or look like coffee grounds if the blood is digested. Pets vomiting blood should also see a veterinarian.
The physical examination of a vomiting pet can provide information to narrow the list of possible causes. The presence of fever, abdominal pain, jaundice, anemia or abnormal masses in
the abdomen will help the veterinarian make a more specific diagnosis. The mouth should also be carefully examined for foreign objects.
Tests to differentiate primary causes of vomiting include x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen and endoscopy. Endoscopy is the technique of passing a flexible scope into the stomach and upper intestine. It may be possible to remove a foreign body with endoscopy and small biopsies of the lining of the stomach and intestine can be taken for microscopic evaluation.
If the pet vomits sporadically, the results of all tests may be normal. Many healthy dogs and cats vomit occasionally without identifying a cause. If your pet vomits just occasionally and has a specific series of actions associated with vomiting, videotaping an episode of vomiting may help the veterinarian.
Treatment for vomiting depends upon the cause. Nonspecific treatment includes fasting, and fluids to correct or prevent dehydration. In episodes of sudden onset vomiting, food is withheld for 24 to 48 hours and water for 24 hours. If vomiting stops, small amounts of low-fat food are recommended three to six times daily for a few days, with a gradual increase in the amount fed and a gradual transition to the pet's normal diet. Water is also reintroduced in small amounts on the second day. You may start with ice cubes and then gradually increase the amount of water over the day if vomiting does not reoccur.
Vomiting is the ejection of contents of the stomach and upper intestine; regurgitation is the ejection of contents of the esophagus. It’s important the veterinarian know whether a pet is vomiting or regurgitating. Vomiting is an active process. The pet is apprehensive and heaves and retches to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is partially digested and a yellow fluid, bile may be present. Regurgitation is passive. The animal lowers its head and food is expelled without effort. The food brought up by regurgitation is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with a slimy mucus.
Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.