One of the more common problems we see in pets is vomiting. There are numerous possible causes, but often your pet can initially be treated safely at home.

The Signs:

Your pet is throwing up his/her food or water. S/he may be throwing up bile on an empty stomach. You may not witness vomiting, but find the evidence on the floor. Vomiting can be confused with regurgitation. Vomiting is the ejection of contents of the stomach and upper intestine; it is an active process. The pet is apprehensive, and heaves and retches to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is partially digested and bile, a yellow fluid, may be present.

Regurgitation is the ejection of contents of the esophagus, a narrow, muscular tube that food passes through on its way to the stomach. Regurgitation is fairly passive. The animal lowers its head and food is expelled without effort.  The food brought up by regurgitation is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with slimy mucus. The pet will often try to eat the regurgitated material.

The Causes:

There are many causes of vomiting, although most common is dietary indiscretion; i.e. your pet consumes something s/he shouldn't resulting in vomiting. Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are those that are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit. Other causes include medications (e. g. aspirin), parasites, food allergies, liver or kidney disease, pancreatitis, cancer, infectious causes (e.g. parvovirus), metabolic disorders (thyroid disease, diabetes), physical obstructions (e.g. a ball) and primary motility disorders (the stomach doesn't contract normally). Vomiting occurs a variable time after eating or may occur in a pet that is off food. Animals with a twisted stomach, gastric dilation-torsion, may make frequent attempts to vomit without producing anything. Pets with a hacking cough may retch and sometimes vomit at the end of an episode of forceful coughing.  An accurate description in this case would lead to an investigation of the causes of coughing, rather than vomiting.

Regurgitation occurs when the muscle of the esophagus looses tone, the esophagus dilates, a condition called megaesophagus. A dilated esophagus does not effectively move food to the stomach and the animal will regurgitate food usually shortly after eating. The food may also be inhaled into the airways causing pneumonia and cough.  Regurgitation often, but not always, happens right after eating and the pet will try to eat the regurgitated food. 

Your ability to answer questions about your pet's diet, habits, environment, and specific details about the vomiting can help the veterinarian narrow the list of possible causes, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of vomiting.


ASSESS SEVERITY - If the pet is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home; although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is advised. If your pet is vomiting persistently and unable to retain even water, then wait no longer than 24 hours before seeing your veterinarian. This indicates a severe problem such as an obstruction that needs to be treated with IV fluids and possibly surgery. If your pet is still drinking and only intermittently vomiting, then you can try some of the home remedies.

FASTING TIME & PEPTO BISMOL - A 24-hour fast is the most important thing you can do to allow your pet’s inflamed stomach to heal. Allow access to controlled amounts of water, but no food. Water should never be withheld from an animal with known or suspected kidney disease without replacing fluids intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin). Additionally, we recommend giving your pet Pepto Bismol (liquid or tablet). The dosage is determined by weight: 1 to 10 pounds = 1/8 teaspoon; 10 to 30 pounds = ¼ teaspoon; 30 to 60 pounds = ½ teaspoon; 60+ pounds = 1 teaspoon. Give the appropriate dosage every ½ hour for 6 doses. One teaspoon of liquid is equal to 1 tablet. After 24 hours offer bland food such as plain white cooked rice, or boiled unsalted chicken and rice. Give equivalent amounts of the bland diet as you do dog or cat food. After 48 hours mix their regular food with bland food and don't fully go to regular food until after 72 hours.

FOOD ALLERGENS - For dogs and cats with problems of chronic vomiting related to food allergy, we strongly recommend a diet change. Preferably switch to a hypoallergenic food or homemade allergy diet. At the very least, change to a premium quality food.

HAIRBALLS - A common cause of vomiting in cats is due to all the hair they groom from themselves. If hairballs are causing the vomiting, then you should be regularly finding hair in the vomit! The most effective remedy is to add a laxative (Vaseline) to your cat's diet. We have laxative medications for pets at the clinic. Give him/her 1 teaspoon per day for 3-5 days, then give it once weekly for the regular hairball vomiters.


Lakeside Veterinary clinic assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.