Cat Vomiting, When To See A Vet
Your cat is vomiting a lot. You are panicking and don’t know what to do. You’ve tried all the remedies you can think of but nothing seems to work. With cats’ sensitive stomach, they are prone to vomiting which could be as a result of a number of things including:
1. Hairballs and intestinal problems
Hairballs which occur when a cat has built up excess fur in the digestive system are the most common cause for vomiting in cats. Brushing your cat daily and giving various foods or hairball remedies reduces this build up. Once your cat vomits up the tubular wad of hair, it is well and back to normal. Kitties also tend to be very mischievous and will tend to eat anything they find edible before they are caught. In this rush, the food will come back up un-chewed and undigested, right after the meal.
To remedy this, you will need to consult a veterinary. Vomiting may also be caused by blockage of the intestines due to consumption of a non-food object such as wool (pica), a cooked bone, twisting of the intestine, heavy tapeworm infection, telescoping of the intestines or severe constipation or an umbilical hernia resulting in the intestines protruding through the abdominal wall.
2. Sudden dietary changes
With cat’s delicate stomachs, any rapid food changes can lead to tummy upsets that trigger vomiting. Food changes should be slowly introduced over a period of five to seven days to allow the kitty to adjust accordingly. You should also avoid giving your kitty human food as most of it is too rich for cats and may result in digestive problems.
If you have to share food with your kitty, stick to lean, cooked meats or fish without any sauces or spices. Also, avoid feeding your cat with food that has stayed out for too long or is spoilt. Ensure that your cat’s food bowl is clean and far from the dustbin too as cats tend to pick edibles in there which may result in vomiting.
3. Toxins and Allergies
Chronic vomiting is caused by allergies or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and associated with diarrhea, flatulence, and weight loss. Seek to find out the list of foods which your cat is allergic to as well as those which are generally toxic to cats. Toxins can include certain plants, medications, metals, household cleaners, insecticide, chocolate or antifreeze.
Once you suspect your cat has ingested something toxic, call your veterinarian immediately. Poison administered on purpose or any medications such as antibiotics and painkillers or supplements you give that aren’t suitable for them will also lead to poisoning which triggers vomiting. In this case, consult a veterinary for the appropriate treatment.
Apart from the usual dietary indiscretion, cats can get infections and parasites which cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines (gastroenteritis). This includes feline panleukopenia (a severe and highly infectious viral infection leading to the destruction of white blood cells), coccidiosis (a protozoan infection caused by a single-celled parasite.
This infection is commonly found in kittens below 6 months and cats whose immune system is compromised and occurs in adult cats without signs of illness), roundworms (heavy infestations found in kittens), salmonella and giardia. Cats are vulnerable to a number of diseases which are indicated by vomiting too. This includes kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, pancreatitis, urinary system blockage, and diabetes or gallbladder disease.
If your cat vomits only once, then you can wait and see whether it’s acute or chronic before reaching out to the veterinary. Acute vomiting is sudden and may occur once only or continue until the contents of the stomach are completely emptied.
On the other hand, chronic vomiting goes on and on for weeks or months and will need urgent treatment by the veterinary. Cats that vomit frequently are likely to be not only at the risk of whatever is resulting to their vomiting but are likely be dehydrated.
With the long list of possible causes of vomiting, not all need you to rush to a veterinary. However, take your cat to the veterinary as soon as possible when either of the following happens:
- Your cat has black tarry stools.
- If your cat’s abdomen is swollen or painful.
- If your cat is hunched over, in pain or has a fever.
- Vomiting persists for several hours over 24 hours.
- If you suspect your cat may have ingested something poisonous or medications that they shouldn’t have.
- Dehydration (signs include lethargy, sunken eyes, dry gums and increased skin tenting)
- Your cat’s vomit is bloody or accompanied by lethargy, diarrhea or loss of appetite.
- Vomiting is chronic, meaning that it continues off and on for more than 1-2 weeks.
- Your cat is vomiting persistently and is either very young under 6 months of age or very old, or in otherwise frail health.
Apart from the cat itself, make sure you have the cat’s medical history to aid the veterinarian during an examination. Your vet would like to know the period of vomiting, if the vomit is accompanied by anything else, what are the contents of the vomit, how is your cat’s appetite and mood, any changes in your cat’s diet or if it’s possible your cat may have swallowed any non-food object or consumed any toxins. Inform your veterinarian of any symptoms your cat may be exhibiting.
You can also carry your cat’s vomit if possible. Your vet will then do a complete physical examination and determine the necessity for further tests. A complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemical profile are done to assess the organs and check for signs of infection or inflammation, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Depending on the outcome of the physical examination or how conclusive the tests are, the vet runs further tests.
These tests include a faecal examination to look for parasites, an X-ray or ultrasound to evaluate the organs, check for inflammation, signs of blockage or retained placenta in female cats who have recently given birth and other abnormalities and an endoscopy which entails the insertion of a long tube through the mouth and passed down the esophagus to assess the esophagus and stomach. Biopsies may also be taken during this examination.
Depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian may administer the following cause of treatment:
- Oxygen therapy and cortisone injections to reduce swelling in the throat and close monitoring of the kidneys and liver to bring the body temperature for a heat stroke.
- Anti-parasitic medication to kill intestinal worms and antibiotics for bacterial infections.
- Medications to reduce stomach acid for stomach ulcers, forming a protective coating over the stomach wall and preventing further damage to the ulcer are given. Feed your cat a bland diet to your cat until the ulcer has healed.
- Surgery for blockages or obstruction.
- For poisoning, gastric decontamination and activated charcoal to bind to remaining toxins.
- For pancreatitis, the underlying cause is treated alongside supportive care.
- Intensive nutritional support and supportive care recommended for hepatic lipidosis.
Treatment is determined by the severity of signs and diagnostic findings. Cats that present normal results and look lively are treated as outpatients. Supportive care entailing fluids to treat dehydration and correct electrolyte imbalances, nutritional support, and anti-emetic medications is administered. For mild vomiting, the veterinary will recommend fasting for half to an entire day, giving a bland diet and water to allow the cat’s stomach to recover. Those indicating severe symptoms or with abnormal test results may need hospitalization and further intervention.
In some cases, you may not need to consult a veterinary and can take care of your cat from home. Here are some home care tips and remedies if your cat has only vomited once or twice and seems to be otherwise well:
- Remove all food and water for 3-4 hours.
- Offer little amounts of water, if no vomiting occurs.
- If this reduces, after 1-2 hours, offer a very small amount of bland food such as low-fat deli turkey, chicken or beef baby food (make sure that there are no onions or garlic added to it).
- If this reduces further, continue giving the small amounts frequently over the next 24 hours.
- You can then reintroduce normal diet and feeding schedule.
- If you have determined the cause of vomiting such as food poisoning or certain allergies, eliminate it.
- Never give any medications such as antibiotics, laxatives or pain remedies to your cat when vomiting unless specifically prescribed by your veterinarian. This could be hazardous or even fatal.
If vomiting persists despite taking these measures, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian.
Vomiting, especially the acute and chronic type can be prevented. Watch your cat’s diet closely to ensure your cat doesn’t consume anything that may trigger vomiting. Keeping trash bins tightly closed. Store household cleaners and other toxic or harmful objects safely out of reach from your cat. Every once in a while, take your cat for a checkup at the vets to nab any medical complications before they escalate and get more tips to keep your cat in tip-top shape.Last Updated: