Vomiting in Pets: Here’s When to Call the Vet

Published: July 19, 2020

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood

It’s a bit gross to talk about, but it’s a fact of pet ownership: dogs and cats throw up. And it can be difficult to decide when vomiting is serious enough to call the vet.

Cats get hairballs. Dogs chew grass and regurgitate it. These behaviors don’t seem too worrisome. But what about vomiting that happens several times in a row? What if your pet also seems sluggish?

Let’s take a closer look at when you might need to make a visit to the vet.

4 Normal Types of Vomiting

Generally speaking, it’s normal for cats and dogs to vomit occasionally. Here are the 4 types of vomiting that are usually not something to worry about.

1-Hairballs

For cats, vomiting can be a way to clear their throats of excess hair buildup from cleaning themselves. This is the behavior we see when cats hack up a hairball, which sometimes also causes them to vomit their stomach contents.

2-Eating grass

Many dogs and cats are fond of eating grass out of curiosity or as a natural reaction to anxiety or having an upset stomach. Eating grass isn’t usually a problem unless they’re also drawn to other types of toxic plants.

3- Gorging

Some cats and dogs experience frequent gorging, or eating too fast and throwing up undigested food. This isn’t usually a cause for concern unless your animal is failing to absorb enough nutrients from their food and is losing weight as a result.

4- Icky taste

Both cats and dogs also vomit from tasting something that’s just icky. For example, your cat might lick a bug they found on the floor and you don’t even realize it. Next thing you know, they’re vomiting from the taste.

Although the situations described above are a normal part of having a household pet, contact your vet if the vomiting seems more than occasional or your pet seems to be in distress.

Pay Attention to Frequency and Duration

The frequency and duration of your pet’s vomiting are important factors to consider. If your dog vomits 3 times in 10 minutes then seems to be fine, it’s far less concerning than if he vomits 3 times over a period of 8 hours.

Call the vet if it happens over a long period of time, extending into hours of vomiting. Your pet might have a bacterial infection, virus, intestinal blockage, or disease that needs a vet’s diagnosis. They could also become severely dehydrated if they can’t keep water down.

Blood or Bile in Vomit

If there is red or black blood in your pet’s vomit, make an immediate call to the vet. Vomiting blood is not normal and could be related to something more serious.

Dogs sometimes vomit a sticky, foul-smelling green or yellow substance. It’s a combination of saliva, stomach contents, and bile from the liver and gallbladder. This is definitely something that requires a visit to the vet.

Both blood and bile in vomit can be signs of an array of health issues, some more serious than others. These include:

  • Gastritis from eating garbage
  • Ingestion of toxic plants
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV
  • Obstruction from a foreign body
  • Kidney, liver, or pancreatic disease
When is it Happening?

It’s important to take note of the circumstances surrounding your pet’s vomiting. Is the vomiting only happening in certain places? After certain activities? When eating certain things?

For example, some dogs tend to vomit immediately after exercise. They’re fine when they’re running around in the back yard, then come inside, take a drink, and start to vomit. This is usually not a concern unless the vomiting is persistent and affects their ability to breathe or rest. Still, mention it to your vet as a part of understanding your pet’s total health picture.

If your pet is vomiting only after eating certain things - like table scraps - they may be foods things that are too rich and fatty for them to digest. Sure, your pup loves hamburger, but it might be too much for her tummy to handle.

Vomiting Paired With Other Symptoms

Finally, it’s vital to notice whether the vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms. Contact the vet right away if your pet shows any of the following symptoms in addition to vomiting:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme change in thirst
  • Change in frequency of urination
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • More lethargy than usual
  • Diarrhea
  • Pale gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Sudden changes in behavior

Worried about your pet’s vomiting? Contact Academy Animal Hospital for an appointment. We’ll help you find solutions for settling your pet’s stomach and settling your worries about their health.