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
- 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
- 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.
- Your pet seems to be in pain, especially around the
- 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:
- Distended or swollen abdomen
- Repeated retching (attempting to vomit without success)
- 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