Vomiting in Cats and Dogs

Vomiting in Cats and Dogs

Vomiting is very common in both cats and dogs. Mild, isolated incidents of vomiting usually does not represent a major concern. Protracted, severe, or chronic vomiting may be caused by serious illness. As well, severe vomiting can be dangerous in its own right.

Common Causes

More common causes are listed first. Less common causes are listed later. There are thousands of causes for vomiting, but they can be loosely grouped as follows.

  • Dietary indiscretion is by far the most common cause of vomiting in pets. Dietary indiscretion occurs when animals consume garbage or spoiled food, resulting in a situation that is similar to food poisoning.
  • Sudden diet changes will cause some animals to vomit, even if the new diet is high-quality.
  • Severe parasite infestations frequently cause vomiting in kittens and puppies.
  • Exposure to toxic compounds or plants can cause vomiting.
  • Vomiting is a side effect of many medicines, especially antibiotics.
  • Food intolerance may trigger vomiting when affected animals are exposed to certain types of food.
  • Ingestion of foreign objects, such as bones, toys, thread, rocks, or balls, can lead to intestinal obstruction and vomiting. Intestinal obstruction is potentially life-threatening.
  • Diseases of the intestines and pancreas can cause vomiting. These include, among others, IBD (short for infiltrative or inflammatory bowel disease) and pancreatitis.
  • Metabolic diseases, such as kidney disease or liver disease, can lead to vomiting.
  • Endocrine (glandular) diseases, such as hyperthyroidism, may cause vomiting.
  • In older animals, cancers of the intestines, pancreas, or liver may lead to vomiting.
  • Viral infections of the intestines may trigger vomiting. Some, such as parvovirus, can be very serious.

Recommended Course of Action

A pet that is active and alert, appears to feel well, and has experienced only an isolated bout of vomiting often will recover with monitoring only. After an animal has vomited, water should be offered frequently but in small quantities. In general, it is best to withhold food for several hours after a pet has vomited.

Any animal that suffers protracted or repeated vomiting, or that appears sick or lethargic after vomiting, should receive veterinary attention.

Animals who experience vomiting in combination with diarrhea are at risk of dehydration and should receive veterinary care as soon as possible.

Chronic vomiting, in which an animal vomits once or twice daily over long periods of time, may be indicative of an underlying health problem. Pets suffering from chronic vomiting should see a veterinarian.

When in doubt, consultation with a veterinarian is the safest course of action for any vomiting pet.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.