What is vomiting?


Vomiting is not a disease but a symptom of many different diseases. It can be caused by a range of stimuli, from direct irritations in the stomach, to other causes such as travel sickness and severe pain. Many cases are self limiting, but some will last long enough to cause secondary illness. If not treated this can lead to the death of the affected pet.

Recognising vomiting

Vomiting may begin with a stage of nausea, the pet appearing restless, and possibly apprehensive. The pet may lick its lips, salivate and swallow repeatedly. Vomiting itself involves contractions of the abdominal muscles which may be repeated, leading to return of fluid, froth or food. The severe effort associated with vomiting may be distressing to the pet.

It is important to differentiate this from the abdominal contractions associated with coughing. Pets may cough up some froth which they subsequently swallow creating more confusion with vomiting. Dogs will often vomit after a coughing fit. Cats usually crouch down on all four legs when coughing with the neck stretched out.

It is also helpful to differentiate vomiting from regurgitation which is usually associated with problems affecting the oesophagus. Features which help to differentiate vomiting from regurgitation are:-

• whether return of food involves abdominal contractions and effort
• whether the returned food is in the shape of a sausage
• whether the returned food is re-eaten
• the relation to feeding (regurgitation is common soon after eating(15minutes)

So how do i know if it is serious?

In dogs, when other signs a present you can assume that the vomiting is more than just a transient case.
The presence of 1 or more of the following with vomiting:

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Dehydration - pet looks sunken in the eyes. and eyes are not shiny
  3. Loss of Appetite
  4. Pain in the abdomen(belly)
  5. High Fever
  6. Lethargy

What can you do in minor or mild cases?

Firstly what is minor?

If your dog vomits once or twice, and appears happy and excited and exhibits none of the other signs listed above.
What is Mild?
Your dog has vomited once or twice and is a little quiet.

In both these scenarios it may be possible to make some changes at home and see how things go, but if there is any concern a simple phone call to us on 07 33571588 can help you decide.

So you have decided to try and see how things go…


  • Remove all food and water.
  • Check for signs of dehydration. If you believe your pet to be dehydrated they need immediate medical attention - dehydration alone can kill, and can make a pet vomit. (This is a vicious circle that can lead to death)
  • If the diarrhea and/or vomiting continues or the pet acts ill, seek veterinary attention. Diarrhea and vomiting can quickly lead to serious fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance, especially in very young and very old animals.
  • If no vomiting occurs for 1 to 2 hours, begin to frequently give small amounts of clear liquids (water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte solution). A rule of thumb is to give 1 teaspoon per pound of body weight every 2 or 3 hours throughout the day and night. If your pet does not vomit the fluid, the following day offer small frequent meals of boiled chicken and rice. If your pet does not want to eat, starts to vomit, or continues to have diarrhea, go to the veterinarian for medical care.
  • Isolate the sick pet from other pets. 
  • Please do not administer over the counter medications to your pet, unless they have been prescribed or discussed with your vet.
  •  If you pet continues to vomit fluid, you will need to come down and see us for an examination.

What types of tests are performed to find the cause?

If vomiting is associated with several of the above signs and the animal is very sick, we perform a series of tests to clarify the situation. When this can be done, more specific treatment may be initiated. Diagnostic tests may include radiography (x-rays), ultrasound scans, blood tests,and possibly surgery. Once the diagnosis is known, treatment may include special medications, diets, and/or surgery.

If your dog does not appear systemically ill from the vomiting, the cause may be less serious. Some of the minor causes of vomiting include stomach or intestinal bacteria viruses, stomach or intestinal parasites, and dietary indiscretions (such as eating garbage or other offensive or irritating materials). A minimum number of tests are performed to rule out certain parasites and infections. These cases may be treated with drugs to control the motility of the intestinal tract, drugs that relieve inflammation in the intestinal tract, and, often, a special diet for a few days. This approach allows the body's healing mechanisms to correct the problem. We expect improvement within 2-4 days; if this does not occur, we will make a change in medication or perform further tests to better understand the problem. Please keep us informed of lack of expected improvement so that we may assess the situation.