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Vomiting in Pets: What Does It Mean?

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.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

16 Comments
  1. Reply
    Novella Childress

    My dog began to be sick withing four days of feeding him a new dog food. He was foaming at mouth and could not hold down food. Also, he could not go poop. I continue to attempt to feed him. He seemed to get better after force feeding him pumpkin in a syringe. He did at least go poo. He continued for about another week not holding much down. Upon noticeable weight loss I took him to my vet. He has now had the dog for a week continuously attempting to stop the vomiting. The dog who is named Buddy is now on IV’s in an attempt to save the dog. My vet does not know what is wrong. Can you offer any advice as to what could possible cause such a horrible illness? I saw Buddy yesterday. He has lost so much weight he looks like a starved dog. If you can offer any advice to help we would greatly appreciate this. Buddy you see, is my 10 year old grandsons best friend. I am not sure how he will endure the loss if Buddy should die.

    Thank you,

    Novella

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sorry to hear about Buddy. There are many things that can cause this and the change in food might be a “red-herring” that is just a coincidence. I would start with xrays of his abdomen to look for a foreign body like a rock or a sock that he ate. I would also run blood tests to see if he has pancreatitis or kidney disease. Finally, there is always toxin or worse yet, cancer. IV fluids and anti-nausea medications are a great idea, but you need to run more tests to see what is causing the vomiting and not eating. Are there any specialty clinics in your area that can do a good ultrasound? That might be another test that will yield good results. From a cost basis I would run the tests in this order: 1) xrays 2) blood tests (CBC, Chemistry) 3) ultrasound. I hope this helps!

  2. Reply
    zamira

    Hello, I wanted to know what is wrong with my dog and her two puppies they started vomiting chuncks of food and well the mom bella she started to vomit about 3days ago and the puppies ruso and mimosa started today? Im really scared for them to die can you please help me out and tell me something they could have thank please respond!

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Vomiting can be caused by many many things and a lot more information would be needed to help you, like: are they vaccinated, recently de-wormed, are there toxins in the house, do they look otherwise healthy, any diarrhea, are they eating normally, are they lethargic. Unfortunately I can not give vet advice without all of the information and without seeing the dogs. I can only give generalized advice. It sounds like you need to bring these dogs to a vet immediately, or to the SPCA to have them looked at. Vomiting in puppies and a mother dog can be very serious and is often life threatening. If they are unvaccinated and have not been recently de-wormed I would be concerned about viral infection or parasites. Good luck, get to a vet!

  3. Reply
    zamira

    Hello its me again i dont know if its their food forbthe puppies we soak it but for the mom iys a whole completely different kind of food that they it! Please awnser as soon as possible!

  4. Reply
    Rosita

    Help me, please!!!! It’s me again, but I’m with a serious problem: my Yorkshire terrier, Cleo, three years old, is vomiting a lot since last night, and she lost the appetite… The vomits don’t stop with nothing, and there’s not emergency animal this week (it’s a holiday on my country), I’m very nervous. What I do, please? PS: she’s vaccinated against all preventable diseases, she don’t walk on the street, we live at an apartment, but my other dog, Bali, a white female Kintamani, two years old, is not sick (thank God!)… I’m with serious articular problems, I’m only 14 years old, and I’m with a sick dog, and I cannot bring her to the vet without an adult! I’m very nervous. My mom gave vomiting medicine to Cleo, but don’t resolved the problem, and the vet isn’t working at this week, because it’s holiday… Now, what I do?!

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Rosita you need to see a vet for this. No food for 6 hours, then small bland meals until you can see a vet. See our blog on vomiting. Beware of the medicine you are giving her if it is not dog specific.

  5. Reply
    Rosita

    Thanks, dr. Stewart. My mom picked up Cleo to the vet urgently, because these vomits don’t stopped, and the vet talked us it was because she ate some food who is not for dogs. But now is better (thank God!).

  6. Reply
    Rosita

    The medicament who my mother gave to Cleo was Previn (I don’t know if have it in USA), but we have this medicament in my country. Weh, she don’t recovered, and we picked her up to the vet, and he given some her injections, now, she is better, and is not vomiting anymore (thank God!).

  7. Reply
    santosh

    My male labrodor was off feed since 24 hrs,no vomition,no diarrhoea,no change in food.When I called Vet,temp was 104.He gave IV DNS + OTC+ PAN+Novalgin+Comciplex. At evening ate little food but vomit all. Morning again I call as he doesn’t take noting. Vet.Temp normal 101,urine was dark yellow Dr.. Repeated all previous treatment.plz advice .

    • Reply
      santosh

      Is this treatment is in proper way.

      • Reply
        Dr. Stewart

        I’m not familiar with any of those medications.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      sorry without seeing the dog and doing doing diagnostics I really do not have any ideas. Xrays? poison? I’m not sure.

  8. Reply
    Misty

    Please help! My dog is a 12 year old chihuahua. He has always had a very sensitive stomach. Recently he’s gotten very sick. Vomiting and diarhea but I had never seen it bloody before. He was vomiting up clear slime and dark red bloody slime. Bright red bloody mucus in his diarhea. I took him to the vet. His blood work was normal. He stopped throwing up when he got there but still had diarhea. They gave him medicine to stop nausea and a prescription called metronidazole. He was ok yesterday after the vet visit. He even had an appetite which I gave him plain boiled chicken. He kept it down. This morning I gave him Freshpet refrigerated dogfood. After he ate all of it I noticed the bag of dogfood smelled funny. It didn’t smell fresh anymore. It had a slight sour smell to it. I noticed on the bag it says to finish contents of bag in 7 days. It is possible I’ve had this bag for close to two weeks. I’m afraid this is what caused all the bloody vomit and diarhea in the first place and now I’ve just given it to him again! I tried to induce vomiting with 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide but he won’t vomit and now I’ve just made him miserable because he is salivating and acting like he wants to vomit but can’t, probably because of the anti nausea medicine the vet gave him. My question is will he get terribly sick again with bloody vomit and diarhea from this bad food if this is what caused it in the first place even if he is taking the antibiotic now or will the antibiotic fight the spoiled food?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Hard to know, but it sounds like the bad food might be the cause. Try a few days of very bland food in multiple small meals and continue the other medication. Call you vet and update them so they have a record of everything and see how hie does. There is not much else to do at this point except wait and see. Good luck.

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