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It is not uncommon for dogs and cats to vomit from time to time. They might have eaten something that upset their stomachs, or just have sensitive digestive systems. However, it becomes acute when the vomiting does not stop and when there is nothing left in the stomach to throw up except bile (a yellow fluid). It is important you take your pet to a veterinarian in these types of cases.
While vomiting may have a simple, straightforward cause, it may be an indicator of something far more serious. It is also problematic because it can have a wide range of causes, and determining the correct one may be quite complicated.
- Vomiting that will not stop
- Pain and distress
- Bright blood in the vomit or stool (hematemesis)
- Evidence of dark blood in the vomit or stool (melena)
- Dietary indiscretion
- Change in diet
- Gobbling food/eating too fast
- Intolerance to a particular food (i.e., be careful feeding pets food intended for humans)
- Allergic reaction to a particular food
- Obstructing objects
- Acute inflammation of stomach (gastroenteritis)
- Parasites (e.g., whipworms, roundworms, giardia)
- Dislocation of the stomach (prone in deep-chested dogs; very critical)
- Metabolic disorders (e.g., kidney disease)
- Liver disease
- Heat stroke
- Adrenal gland disease
Bring a sample of the vomit to the veterinarian. If there is a lot of mucus, an inflamed intestine may be the cause. Undigested food in the vomit can be due to food poisoning, anxiety, or simply overeating. Bile, on the other hand, indicates an inflammatory bowel disease or inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). If bright red blood is found, the stomach could be ulcerated. However, if the blood is brown and looks like coffee grounds, the problem may be in the intestine. Finally, strong digestive odors are usually observed when there is an intestinal obstruction.
The veterinarian will generally look in your pet’s mouth for foreign objects that may be wedged inside, such as a bone. Enlarged tonsils are another good indicator for this. The pet’s temperature will be taken and an examination of the abdomen will be done. If it turns out to be no more than a passing incident, the veterinarian may ask you to limit the diet to clear fluids and to collect stool samples over that period as the underlying cause may be passed along in the stool. Occasionally, the animal's body may use vomiting to clear the intestines of toxins.
Treatment will be recommended according to the underlying cause behind the vomiting; some possibilities include:
- Dietary changes
- Dog medications to control the vomiting (e.g., cimetidine, anti-emetic)
- Dog antibiotics, in the case of bacterial ulcers
- Corticosteroids to treat inflammatory bowel disease
- Surgery, in the case of tumor-caused vomiting
- Special medications for treating chemotherapy induced vomiting
Living and Management
Always follow the recommended treatment plan from your veterinarian. Do not experiment with medications or food. Pay close attention to your pet and if it does not improve, return to your veterinarian for a follow-up evaluation.