It’s a topic we’d all probably prefer to avoid, but one that is also incredibly important for pet health: vomiting. While it’s normal for dogs and cats to throw up on occasion, vomiting can also be a sign of a health problem.
We’ve compiled a list of basic facts about pet vomit to help you decide whether or not it’s time to call the vet or just let Fido’s stomach sort things out for itself.
When it’s Normal
For dogs, vomiting is often a natural mechanism for dealing with a mildly upset stomach. This can be caused by eating something the dog doesn’t normally eat or which is irritating, but not dangerous, to the dog’s stomach.
This is a natural response, as dogs have evolved to become omnivores. Their stomachs do some damage control as dogs test out what is or is not good for them to eat.
In cats, vomiting is often related to hairballs—particularly if you have multiple cats and the vomiting cat is everybody else’s main groomer.You can minimize future hairball-related vomiting risks by brushing your cats regularly, so there isn’t so much hair building up in their gastrointestinal tracts.
What to do when it’s Normal
Throwing up once in a while can be totally normal for both species. When it happens, hold off on feeding your cat or dog a normal diet for 12 to 24 hours. Instead, give your pet water as normal and wait to gradually begin reintroducing bland foods back into your pet’s diet the next day.Cats and dogs that are fed on a regular schedule may vomit if they are not fed at the exact time they expect to be fed each day. The same goes for cats and dogs that are fed only one kind of food for long periods of time.
In both cases, switching up the feeding schedule and diet may cause pets to vomit. In order to avoid this, try feeding your pet a varied diet and not having set feeding times each day.
Pets that eat too quickly may also vomit shortly after eating. This is often a problem in households with more than one pet, and might be the result of food-related competition during feeding time.
You can alleviate competition-based speed eating by feeding your pets in separate rooms, giving them at least 20 minutes to eat their food slowly and in solitude.
When it’s a Minor Problem
If your cat or dog throws up regularly, diet may be the culprit. Particularly if the vomiting occurs after eating, both cats and dogs react to an incompatible diet by throwing up.
This could be because of a food allergy they developed before or after being introduced to their current diet, or because an ingredient in the food is poor quality or causes a reaction.
What to do when it’s a Minor Problem
Consult your veterinarian if your pet vomits regularly. The doctor can help you narrow down the causes of your pet’s vomiting and help you find a way to adapt your pet’s lifestyle so that he or she no longer vomits on a regular basis.
When it’s Not Normal
Frequent vomiting may signal a problem, especially if it is accompanied by diarrhea, if you pet is lethargic or seems depressed, if there is blood in your pet’s stool or vomit, if your pet has watery diarrhea, or if your pet vomits bile or wretches in order to vomit, even if nothing comes up.
What to do when it’s Not Normal
If your pet suddenly begins vomiting a lot, give your pet a small amount of water (not too much, or else your pet will just drink lots of water and throw it up) and do not feed him or her. Call your veterinarian and ask for advice. He or she will probably ask you to bring your pet in for a visit.In order to diagnose the problem, your veterinarian may use bloodwork, a fecal examination, a radiograph or ultrasound, an endoscopy, or even a biopsy. The treatment depends on the dog or cat’s age, medical history, symptoms, and anything the veterinarian notices during the initial examination.
Serious vomiting might reveal a bacterial or viral infection, intestinal parasites, kidney or liver failure, gall bladder inflammation, heatstroke, bloat, car sickness, or another significant health problem. Pets can also vomit after eating garbage, inedible things they found and tried to eat, as a result of taking certain medications, or after anesthesia.
So if your cat or dog starts throwing up, keep an eye on him or her and the type of vomit that comes out. Paying attention to this and other potential symptoms can help you make sure your pet doesn’t have an illness that goes undiagnosed—or it can keep you better attuned to your pet’s regular gastrointestinal habits.