Vomiting - Is it Normal?
Generally speaking, vomiting is a mechanism for the body to protect itself against things that can cause harm. For example, if your pet eats something toxic or indigestible, vomiting can help to eliminate it from the body before it causes further damage. However, not all vomiting is created equally.
Watch and Observe
How do you know when you can monitor your pet’s vomiting versus when your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian? If you’re concerned, call your veterinary clinic for advice. In general, you can monitor your pet at home if:
- The vomiting is associated with eating grass or other nontoxic plant material, and your pet is eating, drinking, and acting normally.
- The vomiting is preceded by retching or gagging and produces a hairball. After the hairball is produced, the vomiting should cease, especially in cats. Some animals will vomit up a hairball incidentally during vomiting episodes, so vomiting that continues after a hairball is produced may not be normal.
- The vomiting is associated with a known dietary issue—such as a sudden food change or eating food scraps—and ceases rapidly. As long as your pet is acting normally otherwise, it may be OK to simply monitor this situation. Remember, if you’re in doubt, contact your veterinarian.
- The vomiting occurs sporadically (less than once every three or four weeks) and is not accompanied by any of the following signs or situations.
Take immediate action
Sometimes vomiting points to a serious issue and can be potentially dangerous. Your pet needs to be assessed by a veterinarian if any one of the following conditions is met:
- Your pet vomits regularly (more than once every three to four weeks) or the frequency of vomiting is increasing. It is not normal for a pet to vomit every day or nearly every day despite maintaining a normal appetite and activity level. Your veterinarian needs to identify the cause of frequent vomiting, which is often an underlying illness, before serious damage occurs.
- The vomiting is associated with weight loss.
- The vomiting is associated with a lack of appetite, a lack of thirst, lethargy, or other signs of illness.
- Blood is present in the vomit. This can be a sign of stomach ulceration. Stomach ulcers can cause vomiting or be the result of chronic vomiting.
- The vomiting is associated with diarrhea, especially if your pet is not drinking or eating well. It is possible for pets with excessive fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea to become dehydrated.
- The vomiting is associated with abdominal pain, difficulty lying down, pacing, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, or moaning, groaning, or other abnormal vocalizations.
- The vomiting is associated with abdominal distension, or if your pet continually tries to vomit but no vomit is produced (retching or dry heaving).
- The vomiting produces a foreign object or starts after an indigestible object is consumed. Pets will commonly consume objects that can become stuck in the gastrointestinal tract, such as rocks, sticks, fabric, toys, strings, and so on.
The most common causes of vomiting include:
- Eating foreign objects or plant material, especially grass
- Infection with parasites, viruses, or bacteria
- Eating new food items, especially rich, greasy foods
- A food allergy
- Eating certain toxins or toxic items
- A food aversion
- A food intolerance
- Kidney failure
- Liver disease
- Gall bladder disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Altered gastrointestinal motility
- Side effects of routinely administered medications
- Several types of cancer
Some of these situations are more serious than others.