Ask Dr. Richards
Mind of Your Cat
The Causes of Vomiting
Veterinary attention is needed if it happens regularly.
By Deborah Nason
Dr. Kadar, a veterinarian with the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital of the University of California, Davis, at the School of Veterinary Medicine, advises that, in most cases, cats that vomit should be taken to the veterinarian. This especially applies to older and very young cats because their health can deteriorate more rapidly.
If a healthy cat vomits only occasionally, the causes may be minor, such as eating something out of the ordinary, bringing up hairballs or reacting to a medication. These instances may not require veterinary attention, she says.
However, she cautions that vomiting can be caused by a “variety of disorders.
Older cats commonly vomit due to kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or cancer, but very rarely vomit due to parasites. On the other hand, young cats are more prone to eat toys or ribbons and very young kittens sometimes vomit due to worms. If in doubt, seek the attention of your veterinarian.”
In general, the causes of vomiting can be divided into those occurring inside the gastrointestinal system and those occurring outside the gastrointestinal system.
Vomiting Versus Regurgitation
“Regurgitation differs from vomiting in that no signs of nausea are noticed prior. [Specifically, no salivation, pacing or discomfort.] The action is passive, meaning the abdomen does not actively pump in and out as in vomiting. Regurgitation may occur right after eating or drinking and may contain undigested food or mucus. Sometimes the food may be shaped into a tubular form rather than a pool, as in vomiting. No bile or yellow staining is seen with regurgitation — if bile is present the cat is vomiting.”
Dr. Kadar says regurgitation is generally caused by disorders of the esophagus such as inflammation, megaesophagus (a condition in which the esophagus becomes nonfunctional and distended), constrictions, or masses which cause obstructions.
Other disorders such as myasthenia gravis, or certain nervous system diseases can also result in regurgitation.
Once your veterinarian has determined that your cat is indeed vomiting, he or she will perform an examination and may either recommend tests to determine the cause or initiate symptomatic therapy.
Tests That Can Help Diagnosis
Therapy and Prevention
If your cat continues to vomit, however, seek veterinary advice, she says. “It is never safe to give human medications to cats unless under the guidance of your veterinarian, so never give in to the temptation.” Other therapeutic options for vomiting cats depend on the cause of vomiting and your cat’s physical condition, says Dr. Kadar.
“Your veterinarian may decide to send your cat home while waiting for blood test results, and recommend a change in diet or deworming if the problem has been going on for a while and your cat is otherwise stable. If the problem stems from a reaction to a medication, your veterinarian may adjust the dosage or prescribe an alternative medication. If your cat is dehydrated, he may require intravenous fluid therapy and other treatments while waiting for test results. If a cause outside the gastrointestinal tract is identified, specific therapy for the relevant disease will be recommended.”
In terms of prevention, “remember to keep strings and ribbons out of your cat’s reach,” warns Dr. Kadar, “because these can lodge under the tongue and then pass into the bowel, causing it to fold up like a concertina as the top of the string is anchored in the mouth. Provide safe toys that cannot be broken into pieces and ingested.”
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