If your pet is experiencing persistent, non-productive retching, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
If your pet is experiencing persistent/severe vomiting or vomiting paired with diarrhea or loss of appetite, these are considered “ORANGE” – or urgent cases – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet see your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within the next 12 hours. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
If your pet experiences two or fewer episodes of vomiting, this is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.
If you’re a pet parent, then you are probably familiar with that gagging sound that always gets you to jump to your feet and find your pet. We’ve all been there! It probably comes as no surprise then that vomiting is a very common reason for dogs and cats to wind up at the vet. Whenever your pet vomits, it’s important to understand why a pet may vomit, as well as knowing the differences between when at-home care and monitoring is reasonable, when you need to set up an appointment with your family vet, and when to head to the emergency vet!
There are many reasons why a pet may vomit. In general, two categories of problems are considered:
- Primary Gastrointestinal (GI) Diseases
- Diseases or problems that affect the GI tract (stomach, small intestines, & colon) directly
- Secondary GI Diseases
- Diseases in which other organ systems affect the GI tract
- Liver or kidney disease
- Endocrine diseases
- Certain toxins
When to Monitor Pet at Home
A single episode of vomiting is often not a cause for concern and is usually okay to monitor closely at home – especially if your dog or cat is otherwise behaving normally.
When to See Your Family Veterinarian
Make an appointment with your family veterinarian if the vomiting becomes more consistent and chronic (several episodes per week). You may also notice:
- Normal to slightly decreased appetite
- Normal to slightly decreased energy levels
- Possible start of soft stool or mild diarrhea
When to Seek Emergency Care
You should seek immediate emergency veterinary care if the vomiting is persistent or severe. You may also notice:
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in vomit
- Diarrhea becomes severe or bloody
If you know your pet has ingested something it shouldn’t have and there is any concern for obstruction or toxicity, emergency care is also warranted.
When your pet is receiving treatment for vomiting, the veterinary team will most likely perform the following:
- X-rays help to look at the size/shape of the pet’s stomach, small intestines, colon, and other abdominal organs.
- X-rays are also helpful to discover foreign material ingested that may be causing an obstruction
- Bloodwork is helpful in ruling out many secondary GI diseases.
- Also used to check electrolytes and if they have been negatively impacted by the loss of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea
- Note: More specialized diagnostics such as abdominal ultrasound, urinalysis, and endocrine testing may be recommended.
What happens next depends on the severity of the pet’s condition; however, care is typically targeted towards symptomatic and supportive care.
Outpatient care usually involves subcutaneous fluids (fluids infused under the skin to aid in re-hydration), anti-vomiting medications, anti-diarrheal medications, and a bland diet. More targeted care would depend upon the specific diagnosis.
In more serious cases, such as pets who also have severe bloody diarrhea, severe dehydration, or even shock associated with vomiting/diarrhea, hospitalization may be recommended. This will most likely include IV fluids and IV medications (anti-vomiting, anti-nausea, and pain medications).
As always, if there is ever a question on whether veterinary care should be sought out for your sick pet, it is worth contacting your family veterinarian or your local animal emergency hospital for guidance.
- Chronic Vomiting In Cats
- When Your Pet Just Can’t Go: Constipation in Pets
- Unproductive Retching in Pets
- Understanding GI Upset in Pets & When to Go to the ER
- Cat Gagging: Causes & When to Go to the ER