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Chronic Vomiting in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Vomiting is the forceful ejection through the mouth of the contents of the stomach. Occasionally material from the duodenum of the small intestine also accompanies the stomach (gastric) contents. Chronic vomiting is characterized by persistent or recurrent vomiting for more than two weeks.

An occasional bout of vomiting is common in dogs; however, persistent, chronic vomiting is usually indicative of an underlying disease. Chronic vomiting often leads to decreased absorption of nutrients and subsequent weight loss. Diarrhea may also accompany the vomiting.

General Causes

  • Dietary indiscretion (eating inappropriate food/material)
  • Dietary intolerance
  • Infectious agents, such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites
  • Drugs and certain toxins
  • Obstruction/blockage of the stomach or intestinal tract
  • Metabolic diseases such as liver and kidney disease, or hypoadrenocorticism
  • Abdominal disorders such as pancreatitis, abdominal tumors and adhesions, etc.
  • Motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract that prevent the posterior movement of food
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Miscellaneous conditions such as gastric/duodenal ulcers, hiatal hernia, constipation, etc.
  • Cancer of the gastrointestinal tract

    What to Watch For

  • Intermittent vomiting
  • Variable appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Presence of blood in the vomitus or stool

    Diagnosis

    Obtaining a thorough medical history with details on the timing and material vomited is very important. A thorough physical examination is performed, including careful palpation (examining by hand) of the abdomen. Additional diagnostic tests may include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Urinalysis
  • Biochemical profile
  • Chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Multiple fecal examinations

    Treatment

    Chronic vomiting is difficult to treat symptomatically, because effective treatment usually depends on the underlying cause. There are several steps your veterinarian might recommend, however, while diagnostic testing is underway. The goals of symptomatic therapy are to initially rest the gastrointestinal tract and then introduce easily digested materials. Symptomatic treatments include:

  • Withhold all food for 12 – 24 hours, then gradually introduce a bland diet.

  • A trial of a hypoallergenic diet may be started, for a minimum of six weeks, if dietary hypersensitivity is suspected.

  • Antiemetic drugs that symptomatically decrease the frequency of vomiting may be tried.

  • Antacids (drugs that block acid production by the stomach) may also be administered.

  • Gastric protectants, which are drugs that coat and sooth the GI tract, may also be considered.

    Home Care

    Administer only the prescribed medications and diet recommended by your veterinarian. Observe your pet very closely. If clinical signs are not improving, and/or your pet is getting worse, have your pet evaluated at once.

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