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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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

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

    You could try up to 7.5 mg benadryl.

  5. would that be childrens liquid benadryl?

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

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

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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. 🙂

  12. 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 :>)

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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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