Vomiting can have numerous causes
Here at Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital, vomiting is one of our most commonly presented complaints. “Doc, my pet is vomiting. What’s causing it, and what can we do about it?” are questions we hear on an almost nightly basis. Unfortunately, the answers are not always simple. Just like in people, vomiting can be caused by a variety of problems.
Sometimes, vomiting is caused by nothing more than inflammation of the stomach or intestines, resulting when your pet ingests something upsetting to the stomach. This kind of case can be treated supportively with subcutaneous fluids (injected under the skin), anti-nausea medication and antacid medication.
Other causes of vomiting include parasitic, bacterial and viral infections; congenital abnormalities (abnormalities patients are born with) and structural abnormalities, including structures in the gastrointestinal tract or masses that prevent food from passing through appropriately; ulcers; and food allergies.
Sometimes, vomiting is directly related to something your pet has eaten — and this kind of situation can be very serious! Some of the most common vomit-inducing toxins we see here at Greenbrier include antifreeze; rat poison (if it can kill rats, it can kill your pet!); drugs (including over-the-counter medications, herbal medications, medications prescribed to the owner, medications prescribed to the dog, and illicit drugs); household plants; cleaning supplies; grapes; raisins; onions; chocolate; and moldy food, which can also produce tremors, seizures and even death.
Occasionally, something your pet has eaten will create an obstruction, which in turn causes vomiting. Some common items that produce obstructions when eaten by pets include underwear; socks; towels; hair ties; string (which may be attached to buttons or a needle); ribbon, including balloon ribbon; tampons and other feminine hygiene products; baby bottle nipples; pacifiers; baby toys; fishing line; dental floss; holiday ornaments and tinsel; rocks; and dog or cat chew toys.
Vomiting can be caused by systemic problems as well, including fever, kidney and liver disease; inflammation of the pancreas (commonly called pancreatitis); vestibular disease; inner ear infections; and seizures. Uncontrolled diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and Addison’s disease can also cause vomiting. In older patients, cancer can cause vomiting. Even medications like antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs and anti-inflammatories can cause vomiting in some patients.
So my pet is vomiting — what should I do now?
First, stop feeding your pet. Second, make an appointment with your veterinarian or bring your pet into Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital right away. As the cause of the vomiting can be almost anything and a diagnosis usually cannot be made over the phone, you’ll need to seek medical treatment for your pet quickly. Discuss with your veterinarian what the vomit looks like, how much there is, how many times your pet has vomited, your pet’s energy level, and whether the vomit is associated with anything specific (e.g., right after your pet eats, right after running, after a seizure, etc.).
After a physical examination, your veterinarian or the doctors here at Greenbrier will make recommendations for diagnostics and treatment. Diagnostics often include fecal examination, blood work and radiographs. Sometimes patients will need gastroscopy (during which a camera is used to look inside the stomach).
Treatment for vomiting can include withholding food for a specific time period, keeping the pet on a bland diet, administering fluid therapy (subcutaneous or, in more serious cases, IV fluid therapy), antibiotics, oral medications, anti-nausea medications, antacids, and plasma transfusions. Occasionally — especially when a foreign object is involved — patients will require surgery.
If you see your pet eat something he/she is not supposed to, be sure to bring your pet to a veterinarian or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital IMMEDIATELY. Quick treatment can often reduce or completely eliminate the problems caused by some of the most commonly ingested items.
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