Vomiting dog or cat: acute or chronic condition?

Vomiting may be classified as chronic or acute

One of the more common digestive complaints we are presented with in veterinary medicine is vomiting. When presented with this complaint in the medical history, veterinarians usually first classify the problem as either acute vomiting of short term duration, or chronic, longer term vomiting.

There are many causes of acute vomiting ranging from simple viral or bacterial digestive upset, intestinal parasites, and even heartworms, dietary allergies and/or indiscretion or ingestion of foreign or toxic material, metabolic problems such as inflammation of the liver, kidneys or pancreas, an under active adrenal gland (known as Addison’s disease) and even cancer of the bowels. Although these latter categories we’re usually thinking more in terms of possible causes of chronic vomiting in dogs or cats.

With cats, hairballs can contribute to vomiting, but many pet guardians and even veterinarians often over diagnose hairballs as causes of particularly chronic vomiting in cats. Products such as Laxatone and Petromalt hairball remedy can often help with lessening hairball formation; however, I don’t like to overuse these products as they also have a lot of sugar and carbohydrates in them which stress a cat’s pancreas and liver.

Depending upon the severity of your pet’s acute vomiting problem would determine whether or not you would want to try and manage the issue at home, or consider a veterinary exam and diagnostics. If in doubt, it is always best to have a veterinary exam if needed. In my opinion the most important part of treatment of chronic vomiting in dogs or cats is to withhold solid food for 24 to 36 hours (unless a pet is suffering from a hormonal disorder such as diabetes or a tumor known as an insulinoma of the pancreas, or it’s a toy breed puppy under the age of 6 months, as these puppies are prone to low blood sugars).

While many clients will start a bland diet right away in vomiting pets, it is best to rest the digestive tract for this brief period of time to allow acute inflammation to subside.  Small amounts of water/ice cubes and/or vegetable or chicken broth can be offered during the fast. A wonderful over the counter supplement that I have found helpful in digestive tract disorders of all kinds is using the herb slippery elm, which is available from most health food stores, and can be given during the brief fast, and is very soothing for an irritated digestive tract. Over the counter Pepcid AC at a dose of one half mg per pound once or twice daily is often safe to use in most situations and pets.

Two excellent products to consider are Fast Balance, which restores digestive tract flora quite quickly in most pets, as well as NaturVet Enzymes and Probiotics. The Fast Balance, slippery elm, and Pepcid AC can be used during the acute fasting phase of vomiting.  If this settles the stomach down, a bland diet consisting of chicken or turkey and rice or even baby food in smaller pets (without onion powder in it) can then be introduced after the brief fast along with the NaturVet Enzymes and Probiotics, while the Fast Balance, slippery elm and Pepcid AC can be continued for the following few days.

Obviously, if symptoms worsen and intensify and/or your pet appears to be getting weaker, then an immediate veterinary exam is needed, especially important in ruling out acute obstructions of the digestive tract as well as in dogs making sure acute organ failure or an acute presentation of Addison’s disease is not present. Sometimes IV or subcutaneous fluids are needed to be administered by the veterinarian to prevent or treat dehydration, as well as even prescription medications like Metoclopramide or Cerenia are often needed to help stop the vomiting in severe acute cases. .

With chronic vomiting in our dogs or cats a full veterinary workup is certainly recommended including physical exam, blood work, urine analysis, fecal checks for parasites, as well as x-rays and possibly an ultrasound or scoping of the digestive tract to get to underlying causes and best treatment plans for such cases, depending upon the individual details and history. Low allergy novel protein diets can be tried for 4-8 weeks for pets with chronic vomiting that have been worked up to rule out dietary sensitivity or allergy as a cause of chronic vomiting.  However, it is important to have a full medical evaluation at the veterinarian first to rule out some of the chronic disorders mentioned above.

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45 Comments

  1. Pingback: PetMeds®: Chronic Coughing or Gagging in Dogs and Cats | 1800PetMeds Blog

  2. my cat is 15 years old………she has periodic episodes of vomiting……so i have found only (one) type of cat food (wet) that does not upset her…when she has bouts of vomiting I take away her food for 24 hours and then start her back on her food with baby food(chicken/gravy……..she loves it and gets back on the right track…….i know the vet wants me to have her teeth cleaned and do a through exam but she is old and gets traumatized by vet visits…………..

  3. my baby gets car sick and tends to vomit and not feel well afterwards, what can we do for her to help her more enjoy her traveling?

  4. This blog is very informative.There’s so much you will going to learn in this blog.

  5. Thanks for the informative blog.I enjoyed reading it.

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 20, 2010 at 11:00 am

    you are very welcome. Please share this information with your friends.

  7. I give my dog who gets car sick 25 mg of benedryl. I give it to her an hour before we leave any where. She gets calms and it settles her tummy down.
    It really works. My vet told me to give it to her. I use it when I take her to get groomed she doesn’t like her nails cuts and the benedryl calms her down and the groomers can do her nails and gland with no more problems.

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for sharing. Benadryl is often a good starting point for dogs with motion sickness problem. Dramamine or meclizine are others that can help as well.

  9. What is a good canned food for a kitten with acid reflux? I read that a low-fat diet is helpful.

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I prefer actually high protein/high fat foods. Try canned halo from 1800petmeds. Also consider using pepcid AC at dose of 2.5 mg once daily which may help and add naturevet enzymes to meals and give fast balance probiotic from 1800petmeds. See vet if signs persistl.

  11. I have a 5lb puppy with motion sickness and can not tolerate the shortest of car trips. Is 25mg of benedryl too much for her. Are there other options in lighter doses. She is almost 5 months old.

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    You could try 1/4 teaspoon of liquid childrens benadryl, as 25 mg too high. Also consider homeopathic remedy cocculus which you can give in 30c potency. Give 1 pellot by mouth right before car trip.

  13. I have a 14 year old male cat that vomit 3 to 4 time a week alway early in the morning . I can’t take him to the vet because it traumatizes him . And he pulls his hair out . Any ideas ?

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 6, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Vomiting like this can have many causes in a cat this age from metabolic diseases of liver, pancreas, kidney or thyroid disease, to primary intestinal inflammation known as IBD, food allergies, etc Pulling hair out can be due to inhalent/contact allergies, food allergies, flea bite allergies, etc.You could try novel protein diet like rabbit or venson. Check out availability from 1800petmeds. Also consider pepcid AC at dose of 2.5 mg twice daily a well as chlorphenirimine at dose of 2 mg twice daily to see if can help vomiting and/or hair problem. Best to see vet though for proper workup

  15. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 6, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    See answer to prior posting.

  16. My dog keeps puking up yellowish bile, once to twice a day. He seems to have a healthy appetite despite this and no diarrhea. Any thoughts on what it could be?

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Many possibilities from dietary allergy/sensitivity to metabolic diseases such as inflammation of the pancreas, liver,etc Try pepcid AC at dose of one half mg per pound once to twice daily and bland hamburger and rice diet. If symptoms persist or worsen,see your veterinarian for full GI workup

  18. Thank you, I’ll try that.

  19. I have a 10 yr old Schipperke, who has been a very healthy, hearty little dog ever since I first got him…However, last Monday morning (its been about a week now) he began vomiting and has continued to vomit when ever he eats anything..I had given him a pouch of Pedigree Lamb and Rice for dinner on Sunday evening last weekend before he started to vomit..he normally does not get the Lamb and Rice that often..

    I have withheld his food for a 24 hr period and gave him only water…also, gave him cooked white meat chicken strips..he will not eat rice…he kept the chicken down for about 2 hours and then vomited it up..it came up looking like vanilla pudding? Same thing happened last night though he kept the chicken down for almost 5-6 hours…I have not seen any blood in his vomit or coffee ground looking stuff..this is the first time he has ever thrown up this much..I am scared that he has an obstruction in his tummy or his digestive tract is blocked..what can I do to get him some relief..I am reading about giving pepto bismol, pepsid ac/ even benadryl..or slippery elm..if I do dose him with slippery elm how much would I give him? he weighs around 20lbs..

  20. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

    You can try two capsules of slippery elm every 8-12 hours, as well as pepcid AC at dose of one half mg per pound once to twice daily.

  21. My daughter’s 8mo old pup just began vomiting this evening after playing with my pup (his littermate) all afternoon. As I do not have any Reglan available but do have Zofran for nausea accompanying migraines, I am wondering if we can give the pup Zofran and at how many mg/kg.

  22. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I would check with 1800petmeds pharmacist. I dont use zofran in practice and so I would not know what dose to suggest.

  23. We have a dachshund who will be seventeen years old
    in January. I realize he is an old dog and the Vet has restricted
    his diet to kd dog food because of high Bun levels. He has always been a picky eater and all but refuses to eat this food.
    Is there any low protein dog food that dogs seem to eat
    better than others?

  24. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I would try home made kidney diet in book Dr PItcairns guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn, DVM, phd which you can find on line or at book stoes.

  25. my feline hula lu is 23 yrs old, (yes 23). her blood work looks good for her age, was just done 2/12. eats kd,and drinks water during the day. she just started vomiting bile,( smell is strong) every morning after her bowel movement. PLEASE HELP thank you

  26. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    try pepcid AC at dose of 2.5 mg twice daily to see if can help. If no change, see vet for GI workup.

  27. I have an 8 pound cat that becomes very aggressive when I try to brush her to remove matting in her hair. Because of this , she now has severe matting between her legs. I would like to know how much liquid benadryl I could use to calm her so that I might remedy this problem?

  28. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    You could try up to 7.5 mg benadryl.

  29. would that be childrens liquid benadryl?

  30. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Childrens liquid benadryl or one half childrens benadryl pill would be fine.

  31. my 6 year old black lab, has started vomiting yellow/gold bile & phlem at least once a week..never does any food come up…he get plenty of fresh water..we feed him Beneful & never gets table food. he does have a milk bone bisquit almost every day..he eats & is still active & playful…what would cause this?

  32. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMay 1, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Many possibilities from dietary sensitivity/allergy, virus, intestinal parasite, metabolic issue of liver or pancreas, etc Try oral pepcid AC at dose of one half mg per pound once to twice daily with food. Also try bland hamburger and rice diet for a few days.

  33. My 11 year old cat with 26 different allergies began vomitting occasionally a few months ago. We took him to the vet and he has been on pepcid for the past few months. It did help for a while but he has started vomitting again. Twice in the past 24 hours. He seems healthy otherwise and I would prefer not to put him thru all kinds of tests if there is anything additional I could give him at home! He is on a limited ingredient diet & takes 2 allergy shots a month.

  34. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMay 16, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Talk to vets about possible steroid trial as cat like has inflammatory bowel disease. Put on good probiotic like fast balance and add enzymes like naturevet enzymes to meals.

  35. Hello- do you happen to know what type of dog is pictured with this article? It looks exactly like our dog, who is a rescue. We have never known what kind of dog he is and then I saw this photo and the resemblance is uncanny! Please help if you can. 🙂

  36. Hi Rachel, The pictured dog looks exactly like my Leaner when she was a pup. She is an Australian Cattle Dog they are in the blue header family I believe. She is a wonderful smart dog. We have been lucky to have her. So loyal. Very protective. I swear she can communicate with us.So smart. She really has us “trained”. LOL :>)
    June-Ella

  37. I have a small dog,he has been scratching,licking anal,hard to swallow, running fever, trys to vomit but can,t all I see is white stuff in his mouth and he swallows it.have had him to vet 3 times for this he gave him allergie shots and antiboties for this but nothing has helped he is getting worse.he also breathes hard sometimes when just laying around.he is inside and outside dog.two years old.

  38. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 9, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    I would ask your vet for a referral to vet specialist or internist in internal medicine who can review case history and possibly do more thorough medical workup for accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

  39. Now I have another problem. My 11 1/2 yr dog, has separation anxiety REALLY bad when my husband leaves. (Just retired 3 yrs ago) She follows him everytime he moves, even when he goes to the restroom she lays outside the door. We left for about 10 min to go downstairs and when we came back she chewed a lace tablecloth, chewed one of my husband shirts, my bed skirt, ate a sock. The next she barfed up the sock, a strap of a tool bag, and a couple of dryer sheets.(already used). She did this in three piles. I am amazed at what she did and how much she got into. There was also some plastic wrap from a package. She has had anixiety since she was a pup. Vet said she does have anixiety. Plus allergies, running eyes sometimes and itchy. The benedryl really helps when my husband leaves for racing for the day. Morning and night I give it to her. But….in the middle of the night she looks for things. So I solved that I put her lampshade on during the night. I dont trust her. I can’t afford to keep taking her to the Vet for all these weird things she has just start. We are on one fixed income. I walk another dog for extra money just so I can get her bathe and groomed. I feed her what the Vet suggested she does well with eating habits. No table scraps, no treats. Watch her weight. Its just this anxiety thing stresses me out. She has been a wonderful dog in a condo. Doesnt bark, never peed in condo. Great animal until lately. I am frustrated. I do alot of research on your blogs, give her joint supplements for her joints, vitamins, benedryl.
    Any suggestion on the anxiety?
    Frustrated in Signal Hill, CA Sorry this was so long. But at wits end with my Aust. Cattle Dog.

  40. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I would ask your vet about inexpensive drug called amitryptlline which can help with allergies, as well as possibly anxiety. Also consider be serene from 1800petmeds.

  41. My 13 month old Havanese (Marko) loves to romp and play in my fenced-in yard along with my Yorkie. But Marko likes to eat small pebbles. While the pebbles do pass thru his system in his feces, should I be concerned about this behavior? Both pets also like to eat dirt. Both dogs are healthy and have good appetites.

  42. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Try to prevent from eating large rocks. Make sure on good natural diet like wysong epigen diet from 1800petmeds, as well as add digestive enzymes such as naturevet enzymes.

  43. I have a 10 1/2 year old lab mix that has been anxious for her entire life. She has been on Prozac for the last 3 years and it has helped tremendously. I also use pheromone collars and take her for acupuncture 1x per month. For her entire life she has gone through periods where she will blindly eat anything she can get as though she is in a panic. She will chew the curtains, eat clothing etc and if I put her out she will graze, eat trees, dead leaves etc. Now she is even licking the dirt from the sidewalk. I notice she gulps a lot after eating and drinking. We have used Pepcid and Prilosec and the vet thinks there is a low grade nausea. She has been vomiting about 1x per week immediately after a meal but she is a picky eater and will often turn her head away when offered food. She is due for bloodwork and titers soon and I am wondering if you can make any suggestions about what I should ask that they check. Her last urinalysis showed a ph of 9.
    Thanks for your help.

  44. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Probably a repeat of CBC/chemistry/complete thyroid blood profile and urine analysis would be recommended

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