Pet first aid: why is my dog or cat vomiting
Each dog or cat vomits sometimes. Often this is not really something to worry about and is due to eating spoiled food, for example. We are happy to tell you all about why your dog or cat vomits and how to best deal with it.
Why is my dog or cat vomiting?
Vomiting is a symptom, not a disease in itself. This can be caused by many different underlying factors such as diseases, infections, food intolerances, diet or medication and even stress.
If your pet is vomiting, it's important to determine the cause in order to provide appropriate treatment. The treatment for vomiting depends on the cause. This can range from a change in diet to medication and sometimes even surgery.
If your dog or cat vomits once and seems otherwise healthy, it's usually not something to worry about. This is usually a result of the wrong food, too much food or even motion sickness and therefore not to be taken seriously. It happens to every pet sometimes!
If your pet does vomit frequently and also shows other symptoms such as diarrhoea, lethargy and fever, or if you think something serious is going on, it's best to consult your vet immediately. In most cases, something worse is then going on.
As a precautionary measure, you can try to give your pet no food for 12 to 24 hours to give the stomach a chance to settle down. After that, you can offer small amounts of water or ice cubes again and gradually introduce easily digestible food, such as boiled chicken and rice. But if your pet vomits severely or refuses to eat, contact your vet for further instructions.
There can be several reasons why a dog or cat vomits, including:
- spoiled food,
- eating too much food, eating too fast,
- a stomach infection or inflammation,
- an intestinal blockage,
- parasites or worms,
- an allergy or intolerance to certain foods,
- a stomach ulcer,
- a serious illness.
What exactly is vomiting?
Vomiting is the forceful ejection of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. It's a natural defence response of the body to remove unwanted substances or irritants from the gastrointestinal tract, just like in humans. Vomiting is usually accompanied by contractions of the gastrointestinal muscles and can sometimes be caused by nausea. Or simply put, it's your stomach letting you know that there is something in your body that does not belong there.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of vomiting in dogs and cats can vary, depending on the underlying cause. Here are some of the most common symptoms that can occur with vomiting:
- Repeated vomiting or gagging
- Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- Listlessness or weakness
- Abdominal pain, cramps or tenderness
- Salivating or drooling
- Loss of balance or coordination (in severe cases)
- Blood in vomit (in severe cases)
The vomiting process itself consists of several steps:
- Nausea and additional behavioural changes. Your dog or cat will salivate and withdraw, feel uncomfortable, sometimes even start eating grass and whine or shiver.
- Gagging combined with active abdominal contraction.
- Vomiting in which stomach contents are pushed out of the mouth.
If your dog or cat is vomiting, it's important to reassure your pet and not punish it. We must not forget that vomiting is a very natural reaction, of both humans and animals, so it can happen to your pet too.
The treatment depends on the cause of vomiting. To determine the right cause, it's best to contact your vet to have your pet examined. After that the appropriate treatment can be started.
We have listed some of the most common treatments:
- Moisture therapy: to prevent dehydration, your vet may administer a drip or subcutaneous fluids.
- Dietary change: a temporary change in diet can help calm your dog or cat's digestive system.
- Medication: Anti-emetics (drugs against nausea and vomiting) may be prescribed to prevent or reduce the risk of vomiting.
- Surgery: If vomiting is caused by constipation or other physical problems, surgery may be necessary.
Note: always consult a vet before considering treatment for your pet.
When should I contact the vet?
You should consult a vet if your dog or cat vomits persistently or if there are other symptoms besides vomiting. It's important to keep a close eye on your pet when it has vomited and take appropriate action in time.
Here are some situations in which you really have to take your pet to the vet:
- If your pet keeps vomiting repeatedly, especially if there is blood in the vomit.
- If, in addition to vomiting, your pet has symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite or dehydration symptoms.
- If your pet has vomited after ingesting a toxic substance, such as chocolate, medication or household chemicals.
- If your pet vomits after a recent surgery or a change in medication.
- If your pet, whether young or old, has an underlying disease, e.g. kidney or liver disease.
The golden rule is: if you are concerned about your pet's health, consulting a vet is always a good idea. A vet can determine the cause of vomiting and prescribe appropriate treatment to help your pet feel better. And that, of course, is what we want!
What can the vet do?
If your dog or cat vomits, the vet can take several steps to determine the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment, such as:
- Physical examination: the vet will examine your pet to look for signs of dehydration, abdominal pain or other symptoms.
- Blood tests: if the vet suspects an underlying medical condition, blood tests can be done to assess your pet's health.
- Medical imaging: if the vet suspects a blockage or other problem in the gastrointestinal tract, X-rays or an ultrasound may be taken.
- Medication: depending on the cause of vomiting, the vet may prescribe medication to stop the vomiting or treat the underlying cause.
- Dietary changes: sometimes changing your pet's diet can help reduce the risk vomiting. The vet may recommend temporary solid food or long-term changes to your pet's diet.
- Intravenous fluids: if your pet is dehydrated due to vomiting, the vet can administer fluids directly into the vein to hydrate your pet.
It's important to follow your vet's instructions and contact him quickly if the vomiting persists or worsens.
What to do if your pet is vomiting?
If your dog or cat vomits, there are some things you can do to help:
- Give your pet no food: do not feed your dog for 12 to 24 hours, but let him drink water to prevent dehydration.
- Offer small amounts of food: if your pet stops vomiting after not eating for a while, you can offer small amounts of easily digestible food such as cooked chicken or cooked rice.
- Keep your pet hydrated: Make sure your pet drinks enough water to prevent dehydration. If your pet doesn't drink, you can try giving ice cubes or heating the water to make it more appealing.
- Consult your vet: if your pet keeps vomiting, if there's blood in the vomit or if your pet acts lethargic, consult your vet immediately.
Note: Vomiting can be a symptom of an underlying condition or disease, so if your pet vomits frequently or shows other symptoms, always consult a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Vomiting in cats
There are many possible causes of vomiting in cats, ranging from relatively harmless to serious. Here are some of the most common causes of vomiting in cats:
- Hairballs: cats often swallow hair while grooming and can develop hairballs that cause vomiting. This is quite normal and therefore not something to worry about.
- Food intolerance: some cats can be intolerant to certain ingredients in their food, which can cause vomiting. Again, this is not something to worry about.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): This is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Your vet can investigate whether your dog suffers from this.
- Infections: cats can vomit due to viral or bacterial infections such as feline panleukopenia or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). You can also get this treated by your vet.
- Parasites: cats can vomit due to a parasitic infection, such as worms. For this, they are given medication at the vet.
- Chronic kidney disease: cats with kidney disease may vomit due to the build-up of toxins in their blood. The vet will provide appropriate treatment for this.
- Hyperthyroidism: This is a condition in which the cat's thyroid gland produces too many hormones, which can lead to vomiting and weight loss. Your cat will also be given the necessary medication for this.
- Diabetes: cats with diabetes may vomit due to high blood sugar levels, but this is not something to worry about.
- Liver disease: cats with liver disease may vomit due to the build-up of toxins in their blood. Again, the vet will provide the appropriate treatment.
These are just some of the most common causes of vomiting in cats. If your cat is vomiting and you are concerned, it's always a good idea to consult a vet to determine the underlying cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Vomiting in dogs
As in cats, there are many possible causes of vomiting in dogs. Here are some common causes of vomiting in dogs:
- Food intolerance/allergy: some dogs can be intolerant to certain ingredients in their food, which can cause vomiting. This is not something to worry about.
- Changes in diet: switching food too quickly or giving snacks between meals can cause vomiting in some dogs. Again, this is not something to worry about.
- Constipation: dogs may vomit due to a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract, e.g. if they have swallowed a foreign body. This usually requires surgery.
- Infections: dogs can vomit due to viral or bacterial infections, such as parvovirus or kennel cough. You can also get this treated by your vet.
- Parasites: dogs can vomit due to a parasitic infection, such as worms or giardia. For this, they are given medication at the vet.
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis): This is an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. The vet will provide appropriate treatment for this.
- Medication: some medication may cause vomiting as a side effect. This is not something to worry about.
- Heat exhaustion: dogs may vomit as a result of heat exhaustion, especially if they have been in the sun too much or drank too little water. So make sure your dog drinks enough.
- Liver disease: dogs with liver disease may vomit due to the build-up of toxins in their blood. Again, the vet will provide the appropriate treatment.
These are just some of the most common causes of vomiting in dogs. If your dog is vomiting, it's always a good idea to consult a vet to determine the underlying cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Be careful with toxic substances!
There are many toxic substances for dogs and cats that can cause vomiting, so you should definitely be careful. They can be found in the smallest things!
Here are some common toxic substances that can cause vomiting:
- Toxic plants: many plants are toxic to dogs and cats, including lilies, azaleas, oleanders and crocuses. So keep them well out of paw's reach.
- Toxic foods: many foods that are safe for humans are toxic for dogs and cats such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic. Therefore, never give these to your dog or cat.
- Cleaning products: many detergents and household chemicals are toxic to dogs and cats as well as humans. They can therefore cause vomiting. Make sure your pet cannot touch it!
- Medication: some medications are toxic to dogs and cats, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and certain antidepressants. So put these in a safe place, far away from your faithful friend.
- Toxic outdoor substances: dogs and cats can also be poisoned by toxic outdoor substances such as pesticides, fertilisers and antifreeze. So be vigilant even during a walk and check your pet when it returns home after being away for a while.
If you think your pet has come into contact with a toxic substance and is vomiting, contact your vet immediately. It's important to know what substance your pet has ingested in order to provide the right treatment.
To the vet in time
Clearly, vomiting can be a common problem in dogs and cats. Although it can sometimes be caused by a mild cause, vomiting can also indicate an underlying disease or condition that requires medical attention.
If your pet is showing symptoms of vomiting or other health problems, it's advisable to consult your vet.
Taking preventive measures, such as avoiding eating toxic substances, can reduce your pet's risk of vomiting and other health problems. As a pet parent, it's important to stay alert to your pet's health and take quick action when symptoms of vomiting appear. Remember that early diagnosis and treatment of health problems is the best way to ensure that your pet lives a long and healthy life. That's of course what we all want!
In a nutshell
Vomiting can be caused by many different underlying factors such as diseases, infections, food intolerances, diet or medication and even stress.
The treatment depends on the cause of vomiting. To determine the right cause, it's best to contact your vet to have your pet examined.
The golden rule is: if you are concerned about your pet's health, consulting a vet is always a good idea.
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