Vomiting can occur for a number of reasons; by far, the most common cause is eating something that is disagreeable. It is a protective mechanism that repels the foreign material from the body. However, there can be more serious causes of vomiting that require more involved medical attention.
Some of the main causes of acute (sudden onset) vomiting are:
- Sudden dietary change (dietary indiscretion), food intolerance or ingestion of trash
- Bacterial infection
- Toys, bones and other foreign bodies stuck in the gastrointestinal tract
- Intestinal parasites
- Acute kidney disease
- Inflammation of the gallbladder
- Acute liver failure
- Ingestion of toxins
- Viral infection
- Bloat (although technically, this is regurgitation)
- Heat stroke
- Motion / car sickness
- Pyometra (infected uterus)
- Endocrine diseases (such as diabetes)
Some medications may also cause nausea and vomiting.
Some of the main causes of chronic (long-term) vomiting are:
- Inflammation of the stomach or intestine
- Severe constipation
- Kidney disease
- Neurological disorders
- Diaphragmatic hernia
- Liver disease
- Systemic illness
How To Diagnose the Cause
A one-off episode of vomiting in an otherwise normally healthy pet might not be too concerning. However, acute, severe, frequent or chronic vomiting needs veterinary attention.
Key Point: The general rule is that if your pet vomits more than once in a 24-hour period, or vomiting occurs for more than one day, you should visit your veterinarian. If in any doubt, please give your veterinarian a call to seek their advice on the best course of action.
As you can see, the causes of vomiting are numerous, so it is important to give your veterinarian as much information as possible to help in their diagnosis of the problem. Questions your vet may ask:
- How often does vomiting occur?
- How long has it been occurring?
- Is there any diarrhea?
- Is your pet lethargic?
- Has your pet lost any weight?
- Is there any blood in the vomit?
- Have there been any changes in your pet’s appetite?
- Has your pet shown any increase in thirst or urination?
Depending on the age of your pet, their medical history and any findings from a physical examination, your veterinarian will decide on which diagnostic tests to run. The list may include radiographs, blood tests, ultrasounds, endoscopies, fecal examinations, exploratory surgery or biopsies.
What Are The Treatment Options?
Treatment really depends on the underlying cause, as well as providing symptomatic / supportive treatment, such as anti-vomiting medication and intravenous fluids.
In cases of mild vomiting due to dietary indiscretion (a sudden change in diet), you can approach it in a similar way as you would treat yourself. There are variations of this suggestion, but generally twelve hours of no food (water is allowed) followed by small meals of potatoes or rice and well-cooked chicken should settle things down.
We hope that your pet’s vomiting resolves itself quickly, and please be sure to contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.