vomiting in cats

Vomiting in Cats

Overview of Feline Vomiting

Vomiting in cats is the most common symptom for which cats present to veterinarians and veterinary emergency clinics. At one time or another, your cat may have a bout of vomiting. Usually, he’ll have eaten something disagreeable, eaten too much or too fast, played too soon after eating or any number of non-serious conditions. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem. Or it may be a sign of something very serious.

This article will provide an overview of vomiting in cats followed by in-depth information including the many possible causes of vomiting and detailed information about diagnostic tests and possible medical therapies.

Vomiting (emesis) is the act of expelling contents from the stomach through the mouth. It’s a reflex act, involving a triggering stimulus (such as inflammation of the stomach), the central nervous system, and abdominal muscles that work together to expel the contents from the stomach. There are multiple causes of vomiting. An occasional, infrequent isolated episode of vomiting is usually normal.

Vomiting is a symptom that can be caused by disorders of the gastrointestinal system (stomach and/or intestines) or it can be secondary to a disease from a different system (such as from cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, or infectious diseases.) This can make the diagnosis of the cause of the vomiting a challenge.

Vomiting can be defined as acute (sudden onset) or chronic (longer duration of one to two weeks). The severity or concurrence of other signs will determine the recommendation of specific diagnostic tests. Important considerations include monitoring the duration and frequency of the vomiting. If your cat vomits once and then eats normally with no further vomiting, has a normal bowel movement, and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own. If the vomiting continues after your cat eats or if your cat acts lethargic, or doesn’t want to eat, then medical attention is warranted.

Learn more about what you can do at home with this article – Home Care for the Vomiting Cat. It is important to know what you can NOT give a cat just as it is what is safe to give.

This is a good article about home care of cats with both vomiting and diarrhea.

What To Watch For with Vomiting in Cats

Besides the vomiting, it is important to look for associated signs that should lead you to seek professional help from your veterinarian. Signs may include:

NOTE: Please note that vomiting differs from regurgitation. Regurgitation comes from the esophagus and often looks like undigested food. This is NOT vomiting. Vomiting comes from the stomach and is most often accompanied by nausea and involves forceful abdominal contractions. Regurgitation requires less effort and contains fluid, mucus, or undigested food from the esophagus (often tubular in shape). Unlike vomiting, regurgitation is not accompanied by nausea and does not involve forceful abdominal contractions. It is a symptom of an esophageal disease. Learn more about Regurgitation in Cats.

Diagnosis of Vomiting in Cats

Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of vomiting in cats and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Initial therapy should be aimed at the underlying cause. Tests may include:

Treatment of Vomiting in Cats

Treatments for vomiting may include one or more of the following:

Home Care and Prevention

Home care recommendations include following up with your veterinarian for re-examinations of your cat as recommended and administer any veterinary prescribed medications. If your cat experiences an inadequate response to prior measures, a further workup may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the vomiting.

Treatments for vomiting are dependent on the cause. Symptomatic therapy of an episode of vomiting includes withholding food and water for three to four hours. If your cat has not vomited by the end of this time, offer small amounts of water (a few tablespoons at a time). Continue to offer small amounts of water ever 20 minutes or so.

After the small increments of water are offered, gradually offer a bland diet. Small frequent feedings of a bland digestible diet such as Hill’s prescription diet feline i/d, Iams Recovery Diet, Purina EN or Waltham Low Fat, are usually recommended. Homemade diets can be made from small pieces of cooked chicken breast, chicken baby food, and/or tuna. If your cat eats with no vomiting, gradually return to regular cat food over one to two days.

If vomiting continues at any time or the onset of other symptoms are noted, call your veterinarian promptly.

If your cat is not eating, acts lethargic, the vomiting continues or any other physical abnormalities mentioned above begins, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your cat needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your cat is having the clinical signs mentioned above expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations.

Prevention is aimed at minimizing your cat’s exposure to foreign material (strings, ribbons, thread, yarn, plastic, toys, earpieces from stethoscopes, baby bottle nipples, etc.) or toxins. Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to foreign material that may be located outside.

In-Depth Information on Vomiting in Cats

Below is information for the possible causes of acute vomiting followed by causes of chronic vomiting.

There are many causes of acute vomiting in cats that may include:

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders

Non-gastrointestinal disorders

Causes of chronic vomiting may include:

Gastrointestinal disorders

Non-gastrointestinal disorders

As noted above, vomiting in cats may be caused by a number of disorders. A single episode of vomiting is rarely a cause for concern but prolonged or excessive vomiting may be a sign of a serious underlying problem. If your cat is vomiting, have her examined by a veterinarian before she becomes dehydrated or debilitated.

Different diseases will be considered as potential causes of vomiting by your veterinarian depending on your cat’s medical history and physical examination. If the vomiting has been occurring for three months in an 8-year-old cat with a history of weight loss, then laboratory work and radiographs (X-rays) may be the diagnostic tests of choice. Since vomiting can be a symptom of many different diseases, numerous diagnostic tests may be needed to determine the cause of your cat’s problem. The extent of the workup should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of vomiting and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Therapy should be focused on the underlying cause.

Diagnosis In-depth

Certain diagnostic tests must be performed to confirm the causes of vomiting. Your veterinarian may recommend a number of laboratory tests for your cat.

Treatment In-depth

There are numerous potential causes of vomiting in cats; therefore, before any treatment can be recommended it is important to identify the underlying cause. The intensity of the treatment will be determined by your cat’s condition. Treatment often includes withholding food and water while giving fluids and electrolytes intravenously and administering drugs for control of vomiting and/or gastrointestinal protectants.

Potential symptomatic treatments may include:

Prognosis for Vomiting in Cats

The prognosis for vomiting largely depends on the underlying cause of the vomiting. Cats with vomiting due to viral infections and food changes respond well to therapy. Cats with chronic vomiting with underlying problems such as kidney failure or cancer may carry a poor prognosis.