NAUSEOUS PETS: Causes and CuresJul 30, 2012 02:14PM ● By Dr. Matthew J. Heller
It is rare to find a pet owner that has not suffered through bouts of vomiting by their furry friend. We’ve all cleaned the floor or furniture, shaking our head and wondering what caused the mess.
The leading pet medical insurer, Veterinary Pet Insurance (Pet Insurance.com), ranks vomiting among the five leading causes of claims for dogs. It’s a common symptom caused by various conditions or illnesses, some simple and others more complex.
Dietary Indiscretions – One of the more common causes of vomiting in dogs is careless eating. Fluffy may knock over the trash can and eat some rancid leftovers; be a little too enthusiastic in gobbling meals; or like to snack on grass or landscape mulch. Generally, dogs that commit any of these acts tend to heave it back up in a relatively short period of time. Pharmaceuticals can aid in controlling such vomiting, while herbal medicines such as Happy Earth Formula (a combination of Chinese herbal remedies) work to gently soothe an upset stomach. As a general guideline, if a dog is retching due to a suspected dietary indiscretion, it is advisable to withhold food and water for 12 to 24 hours, and then gradually resume normal feeding over the next 24 to 36 hours. If there is no noticeable improvement within the first 24 hours or toxic plants, flowers or other poisonous culprits caused the vomiting, call or take the pet to a vet immediately.
Possible Food Sensitivity – If a cat or dog begins to vomit after being introduced to a new diet, it may be sensitive to one of the new ingredients. If the new diet contains more fillers or byproducts, the pet may be having problems properly digesting the food. Reading a pet food label identifies ingredients.
Some veterinarians theorize that dogs vomit more readily than cats in order to protect themselves from eating spoiled or contaminated foods.
Motion Sickness – While we enjoy seeing a happy dog inhaling the fresh air with its head or nose outside a car window, some canines succumb to motion sickness, nausea and even vomiting. Pharmaceuticals (such as sedatives) and herbal medications are available to treat such discomforts.
Intestinal Parasites – Many kittens and puppies are born with intestinal parasites. If a young animal is infested with roundworms or microscopic hookworms, it may begin to vomit them up. Most veterinarians recommend routine de-worming throughout the fi rst few months of life.
Adverse Reaction to Medications – Dogs, like humans, can sometimes suffer nausea and vomiting as an anticipated side effect of a prescribed medication. If a pet vomits after receiving antibiotics, contact a veterinarian for advice. Some anti-inflammatory pain relief medications also may cause vomiting. Many holistic medicine proponents attest that one benefit of non-pharmaceutical options—including therapeutic laser treatment or designated herbal medicines—is their lack of negative side effects. If puking is a pet’s only symptom, the chances are good that the cause is relatively simple, inviting a straightforward treatment plan. However, if the pet is also experiencing other symptoms, such as a fever, constipation or diarrhea, if other signs of systemic distress appear, such as shallow breathing or neurological abnormalities, then it is vital to immediately consult a vet.
Prior to the domestication of small feline companions, cats consumed rodents and similar prey as their main food source, so contamination was not a concern. Cats will eject hairballs as a result of excessive grooming or some food sensitivity.
More Serious Issues
Sometimes, vomiting may be a symptom of a more serious illness. The following are several usual causes.
Liver and Kidney Disease – When chronic (or acute) kidney or liver disease is present, the pet’s body is not able to break down toxins and process them properly, so it becomes nauseous and vomits. A compromised kidney or liver function may result from consuming poisonous products or a viral or bacterial infection.
Pancreatitis – Dogs can suffer from acute pancreatitis as a result of consuming overly rich and fatty foods, like hot dogs or sausages (sometimes acquired via trash bin raids). In addition to vomiting, a dog’s belly often will be tender to the touch and the animal will appear lethargic. Some breeds may be more genetically disposed to pancreatitis, such as schnauzers and Yorkies. Pancreatitis is serious and hospitalization may be required for successful treatment. Laboratory blood work will diagnose it.
Foreign Object Obstruction – Sometimes dogs chew up and swallow non-food items like a plastic toy or a stone. If the dog is lucky, the object passes out of the digestive track in the stool. Other times, the foreign object may become lodged in either the stomach or the intestines, and surgery may be required to remove it. If you witness your dog consuming a questionable object, immediately call a veterinarian. Generally, because a pet’s vomiting may range from the straightforward to the unusual, particularly in dogs, providing context and details of its behavior is a huge help for a vet in determining the level of seriousness.
Dr. Matthew J. Heller is a holistic veterinarian and owner of All About PetCare, in Middletown, OH.