Animals vomit for much the same reason as humans.  After all, we are mammals and not that much different than our four-legged friends. So why then do we vomit? Because we ate something that was bad or was unagreeable with our digestive systems, we have contracted a pathogen that is wrecking havoc in our bodies or we have an underlying medical condition that needs attention.

Our pets are not any different. If they feel the need to vomit, our animal companions will eat grass to induce vomiting instead of masking the problem – a system that actually makes more sense. In fact, they are simpler in that they cannot reach for a bottle of Tums or Pepto if they have an upset stomach.  But what do you do if they do vomit and what does it really mean? The answer is highly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the particular episode.

There are many types of pet vomiting.  Some are designed to make the animal feel better, some by allergies or food sensitivities, eating food that has gone bad, an unfriendly microbial infestation in the digestive tract, or a serious condition that requires immediate intervention.  Remember that if you have concerns, consult your local vet to see if treatment is necessary.

Vomiting describes the expulsion of food from the stomach. It may be related to disorders of the stomach but is a clinical symptom that can occur with many diseases and problems and is not a specific disease or diagnosis itself. Cats vomit quite readily and occasional vomiting in an otherwise healthy cat may not indicate anything abnormal. This is particularly true if the vomited material consists largely of hair. It is a normal process for cats to retain hair and vomit hairballs periodically.

Vomiting may begin with a stage of nausea; the animal appears restless, and possibly apprehensive. The cat may lick its lips, salivate and repeatedly swallow. Vomiting itself involves contractions of the abdominal muscles, which may be repeated, leading to return of fluid, froth or food. The severe effort associated with vomiting may be distressing to your pet.

We have all seen our pets munch on grass at some point or another but have you ever wondered why they do such a thing?  The reason behind this phenomenon is that the animal has too much acid-causing bile in their stomachs and they want it out of their system.  Your pet eats some grass to add bulk, vomit a few times and then they go on with their day.  Maybe we should take a page from their book.

An animal that is vomiting thats accompanied with mild pet diarrhea but otherwise seems perfectly happy and full of life is more than likely caused by eating something that does not agree with them. Maybe that liver treat was just too big and too rich for their system, just like if we eat a giant fast food burger with matching the super sized fries and milkshake. If their energy levels are good and their temperature is normal, give them water for the next eight hours or so and watch for anymore atypical behavior.  If they continue to vomit or they develop a temperature, they need medical attention. Acute vomiting is vomiting that has been present for no more than 2-3 days. Most cases will respond quickly to simple treatment. The cause of such cases is often never established and may be due to relatively trivial factors such as eating spoiled food, food allergies or sensitivities.

If the vomiting is severe or the veterinarian suspects a serious underlying problem, other treatment and diagnostic tests may be required.  Some of those tests may include:

Blood tests – to check for infections, kidney and liver problems, and provide other clues to the diagnosis.

X-rays – may show abnormalities of the esophagus or stomach. It may be necessary to give barium to help identify any blockages, tumors, ulcers, foreign bodies, etc.

Endoscopy – in some cases a diagnosis can be made by viewing the inside of the stomach directly through an endoscope, a flexible viewing tube, which is passed through the mouth under a general anesthetic.

Laparotomy – in some cases an exploratory operation is necessary, particularly if some obstruction or blockage is suspected. This may also allow surgical treatment of the problem.

It may be necessary to hospitalize your pet so that intravenous fluids can be given to combat dehydration as well as correcting any imbalances in the levels of electrolytes. It will also be possible to administer drugs by injection as required to control the vomiting. In some less severe cases you may be asked to administer fluids and special solutions at home. You may be given a syringe to help you do this. You must be patient, giving only small quantities at frequent intervals.

In chronic cases, if the frequency of the vomiting increases or if it is accompanied with other symptoms, get your pet in to see the vet the same day. An emergency is a case of unproductive vomiting or projectile vomiting, vomiting accompanied by a fever, diarrhea and/or listlessness.  Severe or chronic vomiting is more serious. It can lead to secondary problems, particularly dehydration and disturbances in the levels of electrolytes, especially sodium.

Animals vomit sometimes, the same as humans do.  Sometimes it is a one-time occurrence and they go about their business as usual. Other times it is serious and requires intervention. Use common sense when deciding on whether your pet requires medical attention – put yourself or your child in your pet’s situation and would you hesitate to seek medical help. No? Then why would you delay for your pet?