Petriage Clinical Insights

IMPORTANT: This article, which is provided for educational purposes only, is based on published veterinary data and decades of work with pets and pet parents. The information provided here is not designed to be comprehensive but to help you avoid the pitfalls of online misinformation and most importantly, to frame the conversation you should have with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian’s perspective may differ from what is expressed here. Always consult with your veterinarian.


Vomiting is one of the most common medical issues pet parents have to deal with. While vomiting is not often a medical emergency, it can be a sign of a serious condition, and should always be evaluated promptly. Even a moderate case without a serious underlying condition can cause significant harm if unchecked, due to dehydration and other complications. In this discussion, we’ll look at how to assess your pet, and give you some practical advice for managing this condition.


  • There are numerous causes for vomiting. In general, they are classified as chronic (recurring) or acute (short duration) cases.
  • Vomiting can be caused by a great many different conditions. Don’t assume that vomiting is due to something your pet ate, or is even necessarily a primary gastrointestinal problem at all.
  • When your pet has a bout of acute vomiting, pay close attention to your pet's behavior, demeanor and especially appetite. This will help you assess the urgency of the issue, and to decide if you need to get your veterinary team involved.
  • If any of these signs are present, your pet’s vomiting should be addressed more aggressively. Contact your veterinarian to find out when your pet should be seen. Do not delay making contact, hoping that your pet will improve. If you are unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
    • Vomiting that has lasted more than 24hrs.
    • Obvious lethargy (low energy).
    • Significant reduction or loss of appetite.
    • Blood in the vomit.
    • Black-colored vomit.
    • Your pet seems to be in pain, especially around the abdomen.
  • Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog is one of the breeds which are at a high risk for bloat/gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) especially if you notice any of these symptoms:
    • Restlessness or pacing
    • Signs of distress
    • Excessive drooling
    • Inability to stand
    • Distended or swollen abdomen
    • Painful abdomen
    • Repeated retching (attempting to vomit without success)
    • Increased breathing rate
  • Chronic vomiting is loosely defined as vomiting that is persistent despite initial treatment, or is recurrent on a frequent basis. These cases can be very frustrating to deal with from both a diagnosis and management standpoint. Chronic vomiting is a medical puzzle that your veterinarian will need to solve. A step-wise, logical, and rational approach to diagnosing and treating these cases must be developed. This can take time and resources, and you as the pet parent must prepare yourself for this process. Some of these puzzles are more or less straightforward to solve, but some will require multiple diagnostic tests and might even involve veterinary specialists.


  • If you are not sure that you see blood in the vomit, take photos of the vomit and share them with your veterinarian.
  • Significant vomiting in a puppy or kitten can be dangerous due to the risk of dehydration. Pets which are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated may be at additional risk. Always contact your veterinarian for advice when a young pet has significant vomiting, even if your pet seems fine otherwise.  
  • When dealing with a bout of vomiting, do not feed your pet for 8-12 hours.
  • When withholding food from pets weighing less than 15 lbs, watch for indicators of low blood sugar. If you see signs of disorientation, tremors, convulsions, or seizures, offer a little bland food and consult with your vet right away.
  • Provide plenty of water.
  • Do not use anti-vomiting or antacid medications, unless instructed by your vet. Discontinue anti-inflammatory and pain medicines, until your pet is no longer vomiting. Consult with your vet about the need to stop other oral medications.
  • If vomiting improves, offer very small, frequent feedings of bland food.
    • Your vet can recommend prescription diets.
    • You may give your pet baby food, but avoid types containing onion or garlic.
  • For chronic cases of vomiting it is recommended that you keep a log of every episode plus weekly pet weights. Your veterinarian can use this information to develop a diagnostic plan and monitor treatment efficacy.